African Union (AU) Celebrates Woman Leadership

The African Union Decade for Women 2010 to 2020. Great achievement has been made with a woman taking the helm of AU. This is indeed a great decade for Africa

Story by Millicent Agutu

Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma the South African Home Affairs minister became the first African woman to head the African Union Commission after beating Gabon’s Jean Ping in the closely fought contest where she gannered 60 per cent of the votes. Dlamini-Zuma also becomes the first person from South African Development Community (SADC) region to occupy the African Union (AU) head seat. West Africa had held it seven times, Central Africa three times and East Africa two times. Dlazuma had to set the record straight after rumours started doing the rounds that her candidature divided member state Anglophone and Francophone lines, and between the week and the powerful nations.

The election of Dlamini-Zuma has disapproved the common notion about African Union’s unwritten rule that those seeking an executive position should not come from key member states (Egypt, Nigeria, South Africa and Libya), which pay about 75 per cent of continental body’s annual budget and have been viewed as big economies.  Speculation was rife ahead of the poll that South African Government might use its influence to bully smaller and weak states after the country offered soft loan to Malawi and a jet to South Sudan President Salva Kiir.

Dr Dlamini-Zuma has held several governmental positions of responsibility in the past. She has served in the South African Ministries of  Health, Foreign Affairs and Home Affairs. She is also a member of the ruling ANC party national executive committee and has served on several boards and led several organizations in South Africa and internationally. She is therefore armed with skills and competencies needed to transform the AU organization into an efficient and effective vehicle for addressing the woes faced in the continent. Dlamini-Zuma is in a better position to create conditions under which the participation of all African women in the continent’s socio-economic development can be guaranteed

It is indeed the time for the African Woman to Shine

It is a season for African women at last. The win of Dlamini-Zuma as the first Africa woman leader of the African Union of Commission is a cause for women’s celebration. African Union has at last sent a strong continental signal by electing a woman of an exceptional caliber to the helm. Dr Dlamini-Zuma could commit to using her position to improve the lives of women across the continent. She comes in at a time when the  African Union has already adopted the policy on Gender Parity and actually inaugurated  the African Union Decade for Women (2010-2020).

By the coming in of Dlamini-Zuma in the Leadership position of the African Union kindles new hope and challenge on  women of Africa and encourages gender activists  to press on. The dawning of this new era might signify that it is no longer business as usual in the continental politics. People want fresh breed of leaders and Dr Dlamini-Zuma will be an inspiration to other African women with potential to take on leadership positions. It is a fact that times have changed for the better with more and more movement towards gender equity. The election of the first woman to take the position of a continental body comes in as a systemic revolution that is slowly sweeping over the continent. Women are grabbing the limelight within the continent on a much faster rate. This change began to be experienced in 2005 when the Nobel laureate Sirleaf Johnson became the 24th President of Liberia; Joyce Banda became the fourth president of Malawi. In 2004 Professor Wangari Maathai of Kenya be first African woman to get the Nobel Peace Prize. In 20011 president Sirleaf Johnson and Leymah Gbowee both of Liberia too earned the nobel prize  for their work in the promotion of peace and encouragement of women.

Great hope for the women of Kenya

In deed the decade for the African woman is just in its second year. The Kenyan woman is also slowly rising up and taking her position. Women are taking positions of responsibility in the public, market and other sectors. Of significance however is the involvement of women in politics. Much victory has been gained and continues to be gained in many areas. Women should therefore offer themselves in great numbers during this year’s electioneering activities; Kenyan women can make it to presidency and the other executive positions if they choose to. More women should therefore take the courage to rise up and take positions of responsibility in Kenya.

Kenyan women must realise that it was not easy for Ms Zuma to make it to the helm. There was so much tension which she withstood. Let us not look at the difficulties but the end result which is to get to the leadership and help change our societies for the better. The struggle to get the Kenyan and African society for that matter to accept the capabilities of women is not just another exercise in activism but its about changing and transforming our culture.

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