What Can Be Done To Empower Women in Africa?

Posted by DipNote Bloggers
August 7, 2009
Sudanese Women at Abu Shouk Refugee Camp

On August 5 in Nairobi, Kenya, Secretary Clinton spoke at the 8th Forum of the African Growth and Opportunity Act to kick off her 11-day trip to seven different African nations. She underscored that the future of Africa's women is of economic and strategic importance to the continent as well as the United States.

The Secretary said, "The social, political and economic marginalization of women across Africa has left a void in this continent that undermines progress and prosperity every day. Yet we know across Africa women are doing the work of a whole continent – gathering firewood, hauling water, washing clothes, preparing meals, raising children, in the fields planting and harvesting, and when given the opportunity of economic empowerment, transforming communities and local economies ... It is not only a moral imperative; it is an economic one as well. Everywhere I go, I see the hard work and the progress that women can make if unleashed, if given just a chance.”

What can be done to empower women in Africa?



District Of Columbia, USA
October 14, 2009

Molly in Washington DC writes:

We have built an online space for anyone who has lived and worked in Africa to discuss this issue at http://www.AfricaRuralConnect.org.

Africans, development practitioners, Peace Corps Volunteers, and many others are collaborating to come up with the best ideas to improve the lives of women especially in rural agricultural communities in Sub-Saharan Africa.

New York, USA
August 7, 2009

Jill in New York writes:

The women should seek to expand their power by starting at the roots...first off, they already have in place a communal relationship with other women in their activities within the smaller villages and extended family units through their everyday activities of cooking, cleaning etc.

It would take a determined SPONSORSHIP of a few women out of these communities to work as liaisons to tie together these little pockets one by one so they can nationalize their interests and industry and seek to help aspirations of those who wish to educate themselves and assume leadership positions nationally. The first step therefore is COMMUNICATION.

What needs to happen is these must be AFRICAN WOMEN not women from other cultures coming in in a didactic aggressive way to condescend to very able peoples who need organization from within not from without.

Then there's TARGETING OF ISSUES that are common as a whole, then localizing them....communities need to recognize the value in basic education of their girls as well as the boys, and that education could also gear to interests of the community they're in perhaps in terms of animal husbandry, crops, light industry...to go beyond reading and writing and to address what can be beneficial to their communities and localities.

Women will not become empowered in a society that marginalizes them by waiting to be allowed into a fraternity, they must create their sororities themselves one village at a time and this involves not isolating themselves; it involves contacts and gatherings and organization by the few motivated who can lift the dark ages marginalization of women in this culture into the modern age. Only then will their voices be heard.

innocent u.
August 7, 2009

Innocent in Georgia writes:

Education,education and education. African women should be afforded the opportunity to free and quality education and unhindered access to start up capital

Michigan, USA
August 7, 2009

Marsha in Michigan writes:

Educate, educate and educate.

New Mexico, USA
August 7, 2009

Eric in New Mexico writes:

Give 'em a chance to live life free of fear, want, war, disease, and at least once a year her mate helps out around the house...

Not to much to ask, but it will improve the status of women, families, and the men folk too.

Maryland, USA
August 7, 2009

Karen in Maryland writes:

I don't presume to have all the answers but... Do something about the use of rape as weapon of war. Women can't do much for themselves or their family if they risk rape and death each time they venture out to gather firewood or get water. If we stop arming the rapists and killers, they might be able to attend school or help their family get ahead in life. These wars are fought over natural resources - oil, presious metals, diamonds. Address this problem in some parts of Africa and it'll be a good start.

Illinois, USA
August 8, 2009

Christopher in Illinois writes:

Women should be encouraged to go to school for the education of their childeren, unleash them to learn the world. Allow them to initiate a dream come true or atleast give them the opportunity that they can't bring to realization.

Ari C.
Pennsylvania, USA
August 8, 2009

Ari in Pennsylvania writes:

Dear Colleagues,


Several things come to mind to help empower women in Africa more:

1) Each country and even region within each country needs analysis of their needs, cultural norms, and traditions...After info gathering then co-equal planning for their and our desires within, should be invested in ASAP.

2) Good medicine, Health and good Public Health plans must be mixed into any empowerment plans as well...Good health and safe food and water empower all peoples, especially Women.

3) Having strong Houses of Worship involvement (Christian, Muslim, Hebrew, etc.) in each Community is key...We want to sustain all efforts and the Lord is eternally involved...Asking for His Divine assitance & guidance is key. AMEN.

But I could be wrong...Mazal Tov,

Dr. Ari C.
US State Department Blogger for better Diplomacy

Pennsylvania, USA
August 9, 2009

Helen in Pennsylvania writes:

I think that all women in Africa need is a chance.

Virginia, USA
August 9, 2009

A'ishah in Virginia writes:

Non-Africans must start working WITH African women and what African women are already doing, rather than assuming "African women" is some reductionist category with the same characteristics in every area and that they can just come in from the outside and fix everything with their one-on solutions for the ENTIRE CONTINENT.

It might also help if some the ridiculous amounts of money wealthy nations spend on bombs were used to purchase malaria nets or TB medication. Many people in Africa get malaria YEARLY...like a cold. Stop making medicine a business and start actually providing malaria medication to the majority of Africans, on a regular basis, and that might help. Just a thought.

August 9, 2009

Vered in the Netherlands writes:

The best solution I have found is education for girls. The best system and idea which is called Two-Generation Approach. An idea that was developed by Mwalimu Musheshe and who has created an amazing school and a full education system in the poorest region in Uganda.

You can have a look at their incredible organization and their results on http://www.urdt.net/girlsSchool.html.

I've been involved in the education field for the past 30 years. I'm involved in this specific project for the last 5 years and have been visiting the school a few times. The results are beyond words.

Those girls are the future of that country. Listening to them and watching them in action makes you understand that the future is bright,and you know that those girls will create the change that is so needed in Uganda and Africa.

With a little help from us (finance and education) those girls could change their world and the fate of Africa.

United States
August 9, 2009

Hazel in U.S.A. writes:

While I cannot speak to what should be done to help empower women on the entire continent, I can and will speak knowledgeably about how women in post-conflict Sierra Leone can be empowered. Having visited the country in May 2009, to research women in governance, I was dismayed by the very low starting point from which women begin, as the country undertakes reconstruction and reconciliation. In 2008, Sierra Leone ranked last at 179, as the poorest country in the world, according to the United Nations Development Program Human Development Index. This is in spite of abundant mineral resources, which are lost to corruption in the resource-cursed patrimonial country. Women are marginalized in all areas of life; illiteracy rates are high: eighty percent compared to sixty-one percent among men. High school drop-out rates result from pregnancies and early marriages, and a high demand for female labor at home. The maternal mortality rate of 1, 800 per 100,000 births are three times higher than the average for sub-Saharan Africa (Source: Abator Thomas, Minister of Health and Sanitation).

Women's rights and access to resources, social justice and well-being are largely neglected. Women bear the burden of cultural expectations, which limit their role to the private sphere of the home. All of these factors combine to make women's political participation and empowerment virtually impossible. Thus, despite making up over half the population, only a few of Sierra Leone's MPs are women and only eight percent of administrative and management positions are held by women. In the 2002 parliamentary elections only 18 women gained seats in the 112 member body. In the 2004 local rural council elections, women won 48 of the 474 local council seats, while faring better in urban areas. In 2007, the number of women parliamentarians fell to 17. In 2008, the number of women councilors in the urban areas almost doubled to 86 (18.9 percent.).

Gender-based violence is still rampant, as verified in a July 2009 report issued by the Rainbow Center of the International Rescue Committee. During the conflict the mantra of rapists was "We'll Kill You If You Cry." As a result of brutal and violent rapes, a high percentage of women today suffer from traumatic fistula, which is the result of rape with objects ranging from the penis (gang rape is still common), to rape with inanimate objects (guns, sticks, etc.) Rectal and vaginal fistula causes incontinence, and because the women cannot control bladder or bowel movements, they emit odors and, as a result, are ostracized. (A second fistula is obstetric, which occurs during child birth and excessively long labor, due to lack of proper medical care.)

While in country I visited a women's NGO in Freetown, Through Empowerment and Development for Women and Girls in Sierra Leone (TEDEWOSIL), which works in both urban and explosive rural areas, such as the diamond-producing town of Kono. The mission of the organization is multi-faceted, ranging from data collection on the myriad needs of women and girls, to literacy training, confidence-building of women and girls, expanding awareness about gender-based violence, and supporting women and girls who are recovering from sexual abuse and assault. Among the activities: training in international law on women, and hosting radio broadcasts in local languages about the Gender Acts passed in June 2007. The organization operates a 24-hour hotline and offers emergency counseling for survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, and sex trafficking. When I was in the country, the executive director of TEDEWOSIL, Martha P. Chigozie, regularly accompanied victims of gender-based violence to court to testify against their assailants, and otherwise provided moral support, not a small feat in a blatantly misogynist society. Her tireless efforts are made even more difficult by the wide-spread impunity with which gender-based violence is regarded in Sierra Leone. Finally, access to land-ownership is the ultimate key to improving the status, particularly of rural women, and will have a direct impact on empowerment and alleviating the feminization of poverty and the food insecurity of women and children. TEDEWOSIL is in dire need of funds to sustain its tireless work. This is one way in which women in post-conflict Sierra Leone can be empowered.

South Africa
August 9, 2009

Suleman in South Africa writes:

As President Obama rightly put it, the fundamental problem to Africa's problems is good governance, which can only be guranteed through democracy,democracy ensures equal perticipation, equal opportunity and equality in its entirelity. A democratic government is accountable to its citizens women and men, if their interests are not addressed they have many venues to persuade and force govt to act ,example being South Africa,where women are day and night improving their lot through participatory democracy.

In short, it is Democracy and good governance which will help expedite women empowerment and emancipation.

Dectatora are only using women for PR purposes.

Suleman -South Africa

South Korea
August 10, 2009

Palgye in South Korea writes:

Dear to ...

now, rainning, as ever.

in first, is education and set free from disease, job. but, it`s very big issue to me. to discuss.

my fist suggest is free from "woks of household affairs" it`s needing so many time and strain - in my think. like a wash, cooking, cleaning and etc.

how to free from this time killing work? Will substitute and when will do as a favor and will become the solution?

i think. NO. how to?

if, have enough electricity facility... Disuse the washing machine which is disposed (from advanced nation) the cooking utensils, to send to repair cleaner etc., will hang and? Is a proposal which makes laughter a little, but The single step the does to make a start scope have initial step is same in the women of Africa If is possible, the group of Department of State under the influence bears responsibility, the remainder the civil enterprise send does to make to attach the trademark of oneself to will be how?

Says again but takes off a subject and is the same difficulty thing.

Most the thing which gives the chance of the case department of pedagogy occupation which is important chance of thought but education
The school which in this chance becomes "Hillary" names some base person leads and makes in Africa to will be how?
-about the woman with the university inducing the obligatory entrance ratio of the same higher education agency
-When election the poll ratio of the women is below schedule level, with the direction which abates election oneself(Asks for a help in the various nations,
i think, it`s most heavy issue to Africa)

Flattery the idolization knows, says and about the women stand appear the thing the opposition to be being serious quite about education(Regret but, the building knows was enormous to kind of hut conceptual one efforts is same, initially)-Sends the people who has the ability will be able to form the sorority in each area also the fact that supports the women will not be one method?

Occupation, is considerable is a brain teaser
micro credit will enforce a same system and will form (some will form a small capital and with thing which enormous capital inside several years is thought)
Induces the obligatory provision about female staff employment of immature at the time of schedule ratio of the factory(&servant;)- When provides a benefit about tax and loan, is same a easier thing the thought holds.
When the bank will become is does to make the bank bankbook have even compulsorily obligatorily?
Detains the agriculture and fisheries width processing plant and the textile mill to will not separate in female employments?( The development is slow so far, The Africa person does not eat is not but export will be possible in the foreign nation and will hang and to raise the instance which succeeds, specially, used the surplus time of the women Large scale was not but, at large scale one many sides. Profit one effort of commonness is same.

Hospital problem in method of donation - nurse with volunteer worker of actual place. volunteer is not good but,to "reform of mind-set" is thought with the fact that will decrease the effect which is considerable.

Is a simplicity array. Is shy.and sorry.(Old days is from memory to erase and the support from is not)

watch out sunny place.

Who is sends a slander. Is not this place but under that impolite is thinking that. What kind of disposition will accept. The painter does not sink is not.Is a work which is personal. Says again, but what kind of disposition will accept. If to sacrifice gives the chance which will say,

Tennessee, USA
August 10, 2009

Joe in Tennessee writes:

1. Governmental Security.

2. Collective bargaining to be built into the governmental rights of all citizens. Women already supply most labor for Food, education and clothing needs. They have a prominent place in the society; it simply needs to be recognized as such.

3. Monetary fulfillment for labor and services. Once money comes into the pockets of any group within a society, it empowers them.

New Mexico, USA
August 11, 2009

Eric in New Mexico writes:

One can empower women via education and legistlation, but at the root of this, empowerment begins at home within the family unit.

All the things listed here in my last post on the subject are essential enablers to empowerment, but perhaps the last on this list is the most important of all.

"Give 'em a chance to live life free of fear, want, war, disease, and at least once a year her mate helps out around the house..."

See, the way I figure it within cultural norms of tribal society where tradition or religious practice has decreed that a woman is "Queen of her house", that once a year (at least) her mate should make her feel like royalty, and do her work for the day.

How would this empower women?

Two ways. One the man will come to appreciate just how hard a woman works to keep a house, raise a family, work the fields..etc.

And secondly through that appreciation of what she does on a daily basis, he will have greater respect for her as a person.

Without these two things, appreciation and respect, institutionalized and made tradition, as "Mother's day" is in America as example of this, I don't believe all the education and legistlation in the world will sucessfully empower women, whether that be in Africa, or anyplace else.

It won't cost a thing to implement, and in practice may have the most profound positive effects on a society and the treatment of women in general.

I don't know of a more cost effective way to change mindsets among men folk, if leaders of tribes and nations are willing to expend a little political capital and issue proclamation to make it so.

My point here is that to empower women in most cases, you have to target the men, and educate them on some real basic levels.

Why? Because in general men are dysfunctional and need to get over it.

I think one only needs to take a good look at the world we live in to understand that.

So who's going to educate the men, but the women?

Therin lies the path to empowerment I believe.

South Carolina, USA
August 14, 2009

Robin in South Carolina writes:

The book "Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide" by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn gives some good ideas about what can be done to help women: improve prenatal care, educate women, and support women's businesses with microloans. I would add to those--help women realize their value.

I heard somewhere that economic development programs designed to help women made a greater and faster impact because women used their resources to benefit the whole family. That makes good sense to me.

Tennessee, USA
August 14, 2009

Joe in Tennessee writes:

Oppression is a Control element which breeds apathy of those oppressed that will extend to the leadership within the viable elements of that community such as educators.

The first step is to provide realistic hope to those oppressed, followed by Governmental or Social Cultural changes which support that element of opportunity for change which will eliminate the false benifits of the oppression.

A productive society by all members is a benifit to all facits of that society.


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