Women are hardly seen in leadership positions in Africa. Women are seen as second class citizens in their country. Women are treated as if they are weak. Women in leadership positions like the presidency are rare. Joyce Banda and Ellen Sirleaf are great examples of the women who have been able to break the glass ceiling in politics in Africa. Joyce Banda is the first female president of Malawi. Malawi is in South-eastern Africa. She is from a humble background. She comes from Malemia, a village in southern Malawi.
Joyce Banda was born on April 12, 1950, in Zomba, which is the capital of Malawi. Her father was a musician. She got a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Childhood Education at Columbus University. She got a bachelor of science in Gender Studies from Atlantic International University. She is has a diploma in Management of Nongovernmental Organizations from the International Labor Organization Center in Italy. She received an honorary degree in 2013 from Jeonju University. She was initially not endowed with impressive academic credentials, she only had a Cambridge School Certificate so she pursued higher education later in life. She later attained Bachelor of Arts Degree in Early Childhood Education and a Diploma in Management. Having courageously fought toe totoe with her detractors while also pursuing further education and helping her people, today she has many national and international honors under her belt.
She started her career as a secretary, and even at a young age, she was very well known even during an era of dictatorship. She got married at the age of 25 and she started her own family. She left to Nairobi, Kenya, to escape what she perceived was gender based discrimination in Malawi. She was in an abusive relationship with Roy Kachele, which ended in 1981, whom she had been married to. She then went back to Malawi. She remarried a man named Richard Banda who was a chief justice in Malawi. She worked very hard to make sure that sexism was reduced and she worked to fight gender discrimination in Malawi.
Ellen Sirleaf is another strong woman. She is the head of Liberia. Ellen Sirleaf Johnson was born on October 29, 1938, in Monrovia, Liberia. Her mother was a teacher and her father was a lawyer. Her father placed a high value on education and taught her to take her education seriously. She received her secondary education at the prestigious College of West Africa in Monrovia. She married at the young age of 17 years old. Her husband was James Sirleaf and he studied agronomy at the University of Wisconsin. She settled down as a full housewife when her friends went on to pursue their professional careers. She helped her husband by making a living as a bookkeeper for a repair shop. She and her husband went to pursue their careers in the United States. Her husband went back to the University of Wisconsin while she went to Madison College of Business.
She then went back to Liberia to work for the Ministry of Agriculture and later she went to work for the Ministry of Finance. The pressure of Ellen Sirleaf having her own professional career caused her husband to change towards her. He started to abuse her and got “get” instead of “got” violent. She filed for a divorce and then went back to the United States. She studied economics at the University of Coloroda and then went to Harvard University where she studied public administration.
Angela Merkel is the leader of Germany. She led her country out of recession and also she opened doors for over one millions migrants who have entered Germany. She has also used her power against ISIS, breaking the post-Nazi-era taboo of direct involvement in military actions by sending arms to Kurdish fighters. Women have proved over the years that they are strong leaders and can do whatever a male leader can do and even better. Even in the 21st century, some people still believe that men are the leaders in the society while women should do the family work and take care of the house. That is a traditional society and some people still live in that age where women are seen as second class citizens. I believe that women should not let anything stop them form their goals. One’s gender should not be an obstacle to goals rather it should be the reason why those goals are set since glass ceilings need to be broken.
“The problem with gender is that it prescribes how we should be rather than recognizing how we are. Imagine how much happier we would be, how much freer to be our true individual selves, if we didn’t have the weight of gender expectations.”
― Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie,
This quote explains a lot about the word gender. Gender is not to be a box that people are tied to and that limits them but rather it should be that we as people decide what we want for ourselves no matter what the box says we should be or not be. An example is if I want to be a construction worker and I apply for the job and the employer says “Oh, I thought you were a man from the name I saw on your resume?” and then continues by saying I cannot employ you because you are not a man and not strong enough for the job. This employer already came to the conclusion that I am not capable of the job but has not even put me to the test. I have not been given an opportunity to see if there is a way I can contribute to the company at all. This is how society judges us, our abilities and capabilities by our gender. The step to change is to give everyone an opportunity irrespective of their gender.
The lives of these three women made me think about the past when people in high school tried to define me and call me “weird”. They belittled my every move and bully me and make me feel inferior. I got distracted by these people and did not focus on my own goals. I was carried away by what people were saying and not what I felt and not what I thought. I then lost my direction and started doing poorly in life. The story is the same with those who want to make a decisions with their lives but other people are trying to interfere with that decision of legally having an abortion because they have a reason to not be ready to have that child. These people interfering have no background history of the woman in question, but they feel they can harass them and bully them to think they are evil to want to make a decision for their own futures. But the truth is that everybody has a reason for what they do and strangers do not have the right to meddle with that. It is not right in any sense and people who have priorities would not have the time to stand by a Planned Parenthood clinic to try and bully others. The best way to do well in life is to focus on what is important and not what the naysayers are saying because those people are only doing what they do best which is being judgmental. I also think that people should not threaten or terrorize these women because every individual has a story. Since they cannot understand why she is doing what she is doing, they have no right to judge her at all.
In Africa, people need to start viewing women differently. Women have a lot of potential and it is important to trust them and let them use their potential well in the workplace. Women are not just useful in the kitchen, they are also very useful in politics and leadership. I believe women should take more opportunities to be in leadership. I believe women should be at the tables contributing their own perspectives. It is a man’s world but women are the backbone as there is nothing without women.
I believe women should also have a voice in the community. I believe that women are the center of the society and they should be at the leadership positions. I want to advocate for women all over the world to stand up for themselves and for others. I want to create leadership program for women to be more engaged in politics. I want women to be bolder and take more leadership positions. There are a lot of resources for women to take leadership. I believe that women have a unique sense of leadership to the table. I believe that women should be given more opportunities to lead their communities and their countries. Women should be encouraged by other women. I believe that women are the most important voice in any conversation.