To address the problem of underrepresentation of women in politics, there is the need to support more women to participate in the leadership and governance process in their countries.
The group unanimously observed that when women occupied leadership and political positions, they bring to bear issues affecting women and children and also seek the wellbeing of all especially the less privileged.
These suggestions came up during a discussion of the topic, “Women participation in African Politics- challenges and opportunities,” as part of the Pre-Summit engagement.
The pre-summit was under the European Union funded project dubbed, “Mobilising Civil Society Support for Implementation of the African Governance Architecture” (PANAF).
Dr Khabele Matlosa, Director of Political Affairs African Union Commission, who was contributing to the subject, said there was the urgent need to reshape the mindset of African politicians who were the primary actors of democratic governance on gender equity and empowerment.
“This is a big challenge that all governments are seeking to resolve. This problem cuts across the whole of Africa, from Algeria to Zimbabwe, and we need to change the mindset from self-centred to transformative and visionary leadership,” he added.
He stated that the root causes of the continent’s problems were dictatorship and the lack of internal democratic practice of political parties.
“Conventionally, a politician can only contest as a member of parliament or became a cabinet member by rising through the rank and file of the party. If there is weak internal democracy how would they ensure the effective practice of democracy when they come into power,’ he added.
Dr Matlosa stated that as part of the initial steps to address the challenges, the Political Affairs Department of the AU had initiated a number of initiatives to strengthen the practice of democracy by political parties.
Madam Margaret Brew-Ward, Advocacy and Campaigns Manager at ActionAid Ghana, who moderated the session, said the African Charter for Democracy, Elections and Governance (ACDEG) provision required that women are empowered to enable them play effective role in governance.
The ACDEG were provisions inspired by the Constitutive Act of the African Union (AU), sets out international standards for good governance and democracy.
They include ensuring human and people’s rights, consolidating democratic institutions and culture, as well ensuring good governance, the rule of law, free and fair elections, and condemning the unconstitutional changes of government.
She stated that women participation in governance especially in Ghana should begin from the local level elections to build their confidence.
Madam Brew-Ward urged women to look beyond challenges including intimidation, culture barriers, and make themselves available and contribute to nation building.
The CSOs in the PANAF project were the Media Foundation for West Africa, East and Southern African Development Community, East African Civil Society Organisations’ Forum, West Africa Civil Society Forum, Mass Public Opinion Institute and the ActionAid of Ghana, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Mozambique, Zambia, Uganda, Zimbabwe and Tanzania.