Essay on Sub-Saharan Africa
The case study about Sub-Saharan Africa investigates women’s political participation with a specific focus on Rwanda, which made history as the first country to have a legislature in which women outnumber men. The chapter notes that the position of women in African politics began to take shape in the early 1990s. Apart from in the national legislatures, women have contested in several African presidential elections. For instance, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf became the first elected women president in Africa. Other women have also successfully held high positions such as vice president, the prime minister, and the speaker of the house. Women have also progressed well in the judiciary and in local governments. The case study identifies several explanations for the transformation in political representation of women across Africa. The first reason is gender quotas. Second, it notes that armed conflicts have also contributed to the rise of women in politics. Other reasons include the effect of women’s movements at various levels such ad domestic, regional, and international. Additionally, regional organizations including the African Union have promoted the rise of women. While women have become increasingly empowered over the years, the case study identifies several continuing challenges. They include harassment and violence directed towards women voters and politicians. Other significant obstacles are discriminatory laws, whether statutory, religious, or customary and undemocratic regimes.
The chapter fits in with chapter 2 “Women Struggle for Votes” that was discussed during this semester. It was evident during the class that in most African nations, acquisition of political power is influenced by several factors. They include the distribution of favors such as money and jobs. Since most women did not have the necessary resources, they ended up being marginalized. The chapter notes that the small number of women that managed to be elected were closely connected to the patronage system. Most of these women led the women’s wings of the ruling political parties. Unfortunately, this worked to the disadvantaged of the rest of the women since it meant that they would now follow the party line instead of putting pressure on the government to enact policies that favored them. Additionally, women’s organizations played a great role in incorporating women in various patronage systems. Most of these groups had been formed and were being led by first ladies. The chapter notes that most of these African ladies did not benefit the majority of the women in their countries. Instead, they ended up amassing wealth and strengthening the masculine status quo. This was the case in countries such as Nigeria and Zambia. Moreover, the chapter highlights the changes in political institutions that took place in the 1990s across Africa. Before the decade the majority of African countries held their first democratic elections. It gave various women’s organizations to participate in politics given that previous restricts that been imposed on civil society and the media were removed. Essay on Sub-Saharan Africa
The chapter related to other sections in the book such as ethnicity and ethnic politics, colonialism, and armed conflict. The introduction of colonialism and authoritarianism both affected women negatively. In most African countries, women became poorly positioned and deprived of the opportunity to serve as ethnic patrons. The origin of modern African states dates back to the colonial period. The system that existed at that time denied women access to resources that they could have used to create their own patron-client networks. As it was noted throughout the class, colonialism has a negative impact on women. It weakened their status and power in the continent compared to the pre-colonial period. The colonial authorities gave men the right to own land. Moreover, they could access civil service and the markets. On the other hand, they denied women the right to own property and participate in political activities even though they had enjoyed them during the pre-colonial period. This put them at a disadvantage given that for a long time that stretched into independence; women were systematically excluded from opportunities that would generate patronage for them. During the post-colonial period, women were sidelined and their roles reduced to just supporting the ruling parties. They did not take part in the allocation of resources. The few women who were active in politics at that time had to rely on men to access patronage. Consequently, it became exceedingly difficult for them to form the appropriate clientele networks and as a result, lacked the required influence. Essay on Sub-Saharan Africa
The Sub-Saharan African case study fits into chapter three titled “Women Struggle for Representation”. Throughout the class, it was mentioned that in most cases, one party political rule makes it difficult for women in Sub-Saharan Africa to be strongly represented within the state. However, the chapter notes that most of the authoritarian countries in this region are the ones that have recorded the highest number of women participating in politics. Rwanda, for instance, has become increasingly authoritarian in the last two decades yet it serves as the best example of women’s political participation. The case study notes that only 12 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa have attained more than 30% of representation of women in their respective national legislatures. The fascinating thing, however, is that only 3 of them are fully democratic. The findings indicate that though democracy can provide several opportunities for women to take part in the politics of a nation, it does not guarantee their representation in political positions at high levels. Therefore, it can be concluded that one party-political rule impacts women representation if the state fails to implement positive discriminative policies such as quotas.
In the case study, the rise of women in politics is explained in terms of several other factors apart from quotas. They include the impact of women’s movements as discussed in Chapter 7 and the influence of education as studied in chapter 5. Taking the case of Rwanda, for instance, it becomes evident that women have exploited opportunities that have emerged during the transition of their countries to democracy. The wide representation of women in this nation, in particular, can be linked to the discourses of women during the period of armed conflict several decades ago. The violent and vicious ethnic conflict that rocked the nation during the 1990s was motivated by the desire to control the state by the two opposing sides. The war changed the society’s fabric and altered the ideas and beliefs that the people held.Essay on Sub-Saharan Africa
Although the event devastated the society, it provided women with the opportunity to gain political representation after the wars. While it was discussed in chapter five that the political representation of women can be explained in terms of their education, work, and economic power, the case study notes that wars in Sub-Saharan Africa has forced the affected women to overcome constraints imposed on them by traditional gender norms and access roles that they could not previously handle. In Rwanda, for instance, women provided support to the dying and wounded. In some cases, they served as combatants in the conflict.
After the war had subsided, more women were forced to become the heads of their households due to the killing of their husbands. In chapter five, the rise of women in political representation was explained with respect to education and economic power. This chapter fits into the Rwanda case where women exploited the available opportunities to go back to school in addition to taking over the societal responsibilities such as government administrator and entrepreneurship during the post-conflict period. In conclusion, the case study indicates that three women’s strategic options that influence their political representation are shaped by factors such as existing gender ideologies, prevailing gender relations that determine the access of women to political patronage, and presence of unified movements for women that can make political demands.