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Empowering African Women

  • Chedi 

Empowering African Women has become a pressing issue in today’s society because globally, there has been a transformation in the role of women in the society. More awareness is being created with regard to incorporating gender perspectives in policy-making and the adoption of gender-inclusive approaches in the implementation of development-related goals in order to empower women(although it is arguable if the remote and often neglected parts of developing countries receive these sensitizations). The achievement of this goal is seen as the attainment of peace, justice, and sustainable development.

Empowering Women in Africa

Although controversial, gender has come to be a very crucial instrument for shaping society; and based on this, the world’s governments adopted gender equality and women’s empowerment as the third Millennium Development Goal in 2000. The previous United Nations conferences such as the Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW, 1979), the World Conference on Human Rights, Vienna, (1993), the International Conference on Population and Development, Cairo (1994), the World Conference on Women, Beijing (1995), and the Security Council Resolution (2000), all focus on gender equality and women’s empowerment.

In Africa, women are politically underrepresented, with little or no decision-making power accorded them. Nigeria stands as one of the countries in the continent lagging behind on this issue. Nothing seems to have changed for women as a result of male dominance. Empowering African Women is now a societal priority because in most developing African countries, women still have little influence and control over economic resources in the somewhat questionable democratic republic; a situation that has wasted their potential in them and thus brought about a decline in economic development

Just like women in other patriarchal societies, the subordinate position which Nigerian women are subjected to predisposes them to various acts of gender-based discrimination. Being a patriarchal society, male dominance is reflected in the marriage institution, political and governing institutions, religious institutions, and other public and private institutions existing in the country. Very few women in the country occupy leadership positions and participate equitably with their male counterparts in decision-making. This in part is caused by the nonchalant attitude of women, inadequate credible women’s groups, discriminatory cultures, society, and the governing institutions. Empowering African Women to be more politically aware will go a long way to improve the condition four current African society.

This article focuses on the empowerment of African women, using both empirical and analytical methods. It examines the achievements and challenges in the implementation of gender equality and women’s empowerment; measures the gender gap using criteria such as: (a) Educational attainment, (b) Economic participation, (c) Political empowerment, and (d) Health and well-being. The factors which contribute to the disparities will be highlighted and strategies for advancement recommended, with a final conclusion.

WOMEN’S EMPOWERMENT: Empowering African women is an indispensable tool for advancing development and reducing poverty. There is no doubt that empowered women contribute to the health and productivity of whole families, communities and the nation. A critical aspect of gender equality is the equal participation of women and men in decision-making about societal priorities and development directions. Investment in women’s empowerment is rather, vital for securing sustainable economic growth and other development objectives.


Successful development depends on the involvement and commitment of members of society, especially women, men, and youths. Every group, regardless of creed, class, or sex, ought to have a role to play in the development of the nation. The degree of cooperation and the extent of participation of members depends upon the general level of the people’s awareness of their needs. For any society to survive, both men and women alike, have roles to play as members of the society. Men and women are created to live and work together for their betterment, and for the progress of society. Usually, the development of any society demands the effort and commitment of every member. Put differently, every member of the society, including women and girls, has to be equipped with the knowledge, skills, and habits to be able to make their contribution to the development of the society.

Different approaches and theoretical frameworks have been used to analyze the place and conditions of women in development over the past few decades. Approaches such as ‘Women in Development (WID), ‘Women and Development (WAD), and ‘Gender and Development (GAD) have been repeatedly used to illustrate the role of women in development. Whereas the WID approach calls for greater attention to women in development policy and practice and emphasizes the need to integrate them into development (Hazel, Reeves, and Sally Baden, 2000: 3), Gouws, Amanda (2005: 25) argues that this approach places women just as an ‘add on’ to development projects. She notes that women were only excluded from development projects, and therefore, had to be included on equal terms with men.

The discourse of WID shifted from equity to anti-poverty and efficiency in the mid- 1980s to support the WAD approach. Meanwhile, Bhavnani, Kurian, and Others (2003: 5) note that integrating women into development is not the only important action to take; but to ensure that mainstream projects are transformed to include women’s needs and issues right from the beginning of any development project. On the other hand, the GAD approach focuses on the socially constructed basis of differences between men and women and emphasizes the need to challenge existing gender roles and relations (Hazel and Baden, 2000: 3). This approach has become the most prominent one adopted since the late 1980s by policy planners, the World Bank, and the International Monetary Fund, because it not only focuses on the inclusion of women in development but also focuses on the relationships of power which generate women’s inequality – since unequal social and gender relations need to be transformed to empower African women.