By Betty Iyamuremye
In the last three decades or so, African women leaders have continued to loop in innumerable women alliances as means to ensure that the issues of gender equity remain top priority.
This of course is a resultant voluntarily workable strategy from dissatisfaction from most leaders that employ the rhetoric and language of gender politics to create an impression that the issues of women are top agenda of national concern.
It is evident that many countries have even developed national gender machinery as nominal institutional mechanisms through which these states commit to the plight of women worldwide.
Such gender structures are usually created in the pretext that said states are committed to promoting gender equity, however by many accounts, results have been trifling.
Several African states have on paper signed protocols and international agreements/settlements which are often gulped with patriarchal interpretations of development and ‘reconstruction’ where ‘woman hoods’ are in invisiblised as part of the seemingly gender neutral standards.
In fact, this could help to explain why the women in sub-Saharan Africa still constitute 60% of persons living with HIV/Aids; make up the greater portion of vulnerable and unemployed workers; and are less likely than men to inherit, have access to capital, and own land.
Women also head the majority of poor households even when various countries have committed on paper to end these profound forms discrimination.
The above examples of women suffrage show that women’s lack of decision making power over their lives and bodies, across public and private spheres, amounts to a violation of the principles on which the fight to end patriarchy and male chauvinism relies.
However, through coalitions like, African Women Alliance, African Charter, Africa Global Women in Business Forum (AGWBF), African Alliance for Women Empowerment (AFRAWE), The Forum for the Empowerment of Women (FEW), and many others, the women’s rights movement has publicised the issue of gender budgeting at the state and national levels; campaigned for increased participation of women in politics; created awareness about the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women [CEDAW] and other women’s international human rights instruments; and contributed to compiling periodic and alternative reports to the CEDAW committee on the status of women.
In similar alliances, the women leaders are geared towards skilling up women to understand their public political leadership spaces, building of self-esteem and perfecting public speaking, tackle gender based violence and lobby for transformative electoral quota’s for women and affirmative action, and a need to secure a critical mass of women in public political spaces such as CEDAW, Beijing platform for action and national policies
Latest in this strategy of alliance formulation is a Think Tank Group of African Women that was orchestrated by ISIS WICCE early this year; it consists of women from each of the selected countries of focus, namely; including Liberia, South Sudan, Kenya, Zambia, Nigeria, Uganda and Zimbabwe.
It is geared to recharge, rethink and re-strategise on how each woman leader in high profile positions of leadership can influence meaningful gender equality and practical deliverables, particularly for women and girls in their respectable countries.
This group brings along a new approach to tackle patriarchy and militarization tendencies that have deflated women’s efforts towards transformative development.
Indeed, women alliances have exercised remarkable capacity to lobby for economic, political and social transformation; however, in order to retain this advocacy role, these coalitions have to retain autonomy from the state, and to create the basis for sustainability independently of state patronage.
Without this self-sufficiency, they risk being leveraged by, rather than reshaping, the state.
The Author is the Advocacy and Communication Officer-Uganda Women Parliamentary Association-EUROPA