This week with most world leaders converging on New York for the 67th UN General Assembly, the news has been awash with various speeches made, awards given, and so forth. Of note, has been the attention given to three powerful African leaders – Presidents Joyce Banda and Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, and AU Commission Chair Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.
The three have been lauded in various fora for their rise to the top, and as such we’re hearing the requisite buzz that the winds of change are blowing across Africa, and this is indeed the century of the African woman. I’m much more familiar with President Banda’s story because I’ve followed her more keenly over the last few years, and her rise is quite admirable.
For young women such as I seeing women in positions of leadership that have been historically denied us, I’m filled with pride and even more resolve to break my own glass ceilings. With that said, I’m also cognizant of the fact that having a handful of women in high profile positions means little as long as the structures on the route up remain the same, built to promote and sustain male privilege.
Real winds of change will blow when the women who make up the majority of our nations’ populations and electorate start to realise their own upward mobility. When we finally start taking tangible steps towards equal pay for equal work, negligible rates of infant and maternal mortality, greater access to quality health care, equitable inheritance laws for men and women, women moving from being property to partners, and so forth, the story won’t be about a only handful of women who’ve risen up. That’s the critical mass we need.
There’s much work to be done, and we cannot afford to get stuck singing praise songs for the trailblazers and thinking that’s the pinnacle of our rise.