*Published on Pambazuka and is also published here with permission of the author.
The results of the 2012 African Union’s Chairperson’s elections marked a significant victory for gender parity representation at AU ushering in a first woman Chairperson- H.E Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma This victory came after 49 years since Organisation of African Union (OAU)/African Union (AU) was formed in 1963. Dr Dlamini has demonstrated in her words and actions a strong commitment to gender equality and women’s human rights. In her acceptance speech Dr. Dlamini noted:
My election is not a personal victory but a victory for the African continent in general and for women in particular”. She further stated that “We are grateful as women that our leaders have understood that women have to participate and take their rightful place in society so they can reach their full potential because it is only if men and women reach their full potential, shall we as a continent reach our full potential
At the 27th AU Summit in Rwanda, a new AUC Chairperson will be elected by AU Member States as Dr. Dlamini steps down after her first term. It is apt to assess whether her time in office has actually been a victory for women. In assessing Dr Dlamini’s tenure it is important to remember that advancing gender Equality is just one component of the AU’s Vision of achieving “An Integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force in the global arena”. I will focus on the gender component looking at how she has fared in this area. My intention is not to reinforce the misperception that women must advance the gender agenda as I believe that every leader regardless of their gender has a responsibility to develop and implement policies that put human rights including women’s human rights and gender equality at the center. Although Africa has made remarkable improvements in the area of gender equality ranging from adopting progressive policies to having countries such as Rwanda leading the world with the highest number of women represented in Parliament and 22 countries with at least 30 percent of women in Parliament, while 14 countries have 30 percent of women ministers, with Cape Verde leading Africa with the highest representation of women ministers. Gender inequality remains the most flagrant threat to the realization of human rights in all African countries and beyond since no single country in the world can claim to have achieved gender equality. It is seen and experienced that gender inequality results in women being the majority of the poor, dispossessed, unemployed and those whose bodies are daily violated with little or no redress. Many women across Africa continue to lack control over land and assets, disproportionately shoulder the burden of unpaid care and labour, are more likely than men to have low wages and poor working conditions, experience unacceptably high levels of maternal mortality and face the prevalence of HIV and AIDS, FGM and early and forced marriage. This is a situation that must force every single leader accountable to improved wellbeing and status of women to put gender equality on the priority agenda.
Given the gender inequalities highlighted above, it is noteworthy that during her tenure the AU dedicated two consecutive years to women’s rights: 2015 was the year of Women’s Empowerment while 2016 was dedicated to Women’s Human Rights thereby putting gender on the agenda of the highest decision makers in Africa. In line with advancing accountability for gender equality she supported the development of a Gender Scorecard to track progress made in achieving gender equality. During the same year of 2015 she called on AU member states to banish the hand hoes to the museum and work towards mechanizing agriculture. This is beneficial to women who make up majority of small farmers currently using the hoes. She also continuously called on policy makers including members of the Pan-African Parliament to ensure that gender dimension is an integral part of the efforts to strengthen domestic resource mobilization by ensuring progressive taxation system that treats women fairly.
Read more here: Dinah Article on Mrs Zuma final