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'Women hold key to Africa's development'

27 November 2015, 12:31 John Kioko

Kwale - Women hold the key to Africa's development from Agriculture to technology and entrepreneurship, former Zambia First Lady Maureen Mwanawasa has said.

However, she said women face massive hurdles in areas of development, noting that African women are still financially marginalized in accessing finance and cannot participate in democratic processes since money plays a big role in African politics.

Speaking at Swahili beach resort during the annual jurist’s conference themed “The Participation of Women in Democratic Processes - opportunities and Challenges,” Mwanawasa said there is need to find ways of empowering women economically.

“The issue of women participation in democratic processes in Africa remains a thorny topic,” she added.

She said women have all rights like men to engage and participate in democratic processes.

Read Also:  The rare condition that masculinises women

“We need to have a Zebra type of process where we can achieve a 50/50 representation in governance. For every 1st position given to one gender, the follow up position must go to the other gender,” she added.

Among the challenges facing women in Africa in their bid to participate in democratic process include; low social-economic status of women, frequent mid-career drop out, cultural and social boundaries, discriminatory practices to access education, inadequate support to strengthen women’s entrepreneurial skills, problems accessing land and gender inequality in accessing finance.

She said strengthening the economic status of women will be a solution to the challenges facing women as it will enable them to make important decisions affecting their welfare.

“Over 95% of all countries in the world have granted women the two fundamental democratic rights of voting and vying for elective posts but in reality the political playing field favors the men,” she noted.

She said that time has come for women to rise to the occasion and be seen to make a shift themselves and use the numbers to their advantage for the needed change.

“Increase representation of women in decision making positions and create deliberate quarters of women positions and this has been achieved in countries like Rwanda, Uganda and South Africa," she said.

Mwanawasa said politicians and governments should stop using women as objects of statistics for development which is never implemented.

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