President Levy Mwanawasa has thrown down the
gauntlet to the women of Zambia.
By Penny Dale
He says when his time
in office is up, he wants a woman to take over.
boasts that his "new deal" government has made
significant strides in narrowing the gap between men
and women in politics.
Some say Mr Mwanawasa wants his wife, Maureen, to succeed him
Certainly he cannot be faulted
when it comes to giving out cabinet jobs.
ruling party MP holds some sort of ministerial
There is even a woman from the opposition in cabinet.
But is Zambia's political playing field really as level as it needs to be for the people of Zambia to vote in their first female president?
Chipo Lungu of the National Women's Lobby thinks not:
"When you look at the whole picture since he came into power, he hasn't really done anything which gives us hope that there'll be 50:50 any time soon.
"We don't see a systematic policy. One women appointed here and that's headline news. For us that's a drop in the ocean," she said.
"There are a lot of capable women who would do a commendable job as president of this country but they have not been given a chance by the system, by history, by culture."
Only two Zambian women, both in the 2001
elections, have ever stood for president.
Between them they managed to pick up only a handful of
I went out on the streets of Lusaka to see whether
people have changed their mind about a female
"Why not? If that female president is really somebody who can deliver and she is focussed to look at the needs of the Zambian people," said one man.
Several women are in Mwanawasa's cabinet
"I think we should give a chance to a woman because the men that we've had have not done anything, so maybe a woman would do something. We are ready for a woman," a woman told me.
"I would not like a woman to be president of this country because most ladies are not people to be leaders," another man said.
"It's very difficult for women to lead people, especially men."
"Maybe, because women are more honest than men."
Predictably, Mr Mwanawasa's statement has set
the political tongues wagging: the suspicion in
Lusaka's polite society is that he wants his
wife, Maureen, to follow in his presidential
Many people already believe that Maureen is
the power behind the throne. But what do ordinary
"After his term, he wants his wife to take over his position as president. He's not being straightforward," a man said.
"I hope it's not his wife," said one woman.
What do you think? Will a woman ever become president of Zambia, or any other African country?
This debate is now closed. Here is a selection of your comments.
African women have better and useful things to do than become presidents.
The whole of Africa's economy, education, health and families solely depend upon women. They have no time for such useless occupation which should be reserved to neer-do-well. A president or a minister never create wealth. They take it from hard-working entrepreneurs and squander it on salaries, luxurious cars, travels and embezzlement. What Africa needs is women or men who create jobs for the youths and train them for development.
No.because when a woman becomes a president she will be fair to women.
How many female presidents/Prime ministers have ruled USA, UK, France, Japan, German, Australia etc. Why then should it be a must for Zambia(a relatively very young nation) to have a female president?
If I woman has to be a president of Zambia It will have to be on merit and not out of gender equality on gender balancing. It will have to be someone with a proven record of good leadership.
Duma Matholoane, Zambia
Mwanawasa should be commended for giving the thought of having a woman president. As reported, it is highly perceived that his wife is in fact the de facto president. So if the changes we are seeing in the governance of Zambia are attributed to the woman behind the president, why not give it go?
Thandi Mwape, Zambian female in Kosovo
When we try to look at leadership from gender angles then we miss the point all together and start subordinating such important factors as competence, experience, foresight and good judgement, yet this are the factors african voters need to incalculate when voting if Africa is to move forward.
Peter Nyambane, Kenya
The problem we have as women we are jelousy of one another. The many reasons for not wanting a woman leader are trivial. The woman position to be a leader has been made even more difficult by people who think that a woman should be married. In my opinion any woman as long as she is intelligent and has integrity should be president. Most of the Zambian men shy away these intelligent women who sometimes are divorced or end up as single mothers, not that they choose to be so.
a female president is not a bad idea for my country, as long as she is capable. it is no use having a female president just for the sake of gender balance, who ever is president should be able to do the job and do it right! i really would love to see a female president in my lifetime, but i'm a bit doubtful it can happen because of our culture.
nkombo chibomba, Zambia
The proposition from the Zambian president, to me, sounds like an expensive and useless experimentation. We have a female president, and that should be a great achievement. What Zambia needs, in my view, is a leader with a vision, a mission, targets and clear goals, all of which were lost in 1991. If Mr. Mwanawasa's most cherished vision is to have the first Zambian woman president, then Zambia is damned. We need a great leader, and it is almost certain we would get what we are looking for in a woman, from the dismal records of the men we've had since KK.
Z. Simoko Mumba,
Zambian in Niger
Not in a hundred years, I think. If most, though not all, men feel threatened or intimidated by women who dare to stand their ground in the confines of the home, how can such men be expected to accept a woman president or leader any time soon?
There's a great difference different women: compare Winnie Mandela with Albertina Sisulu; Graca Machel-Mandela with Grace Mugabe ... let's avoid tokenism and look at the person rather than the gender. Social engineering doesn't work. There are too many forces of human nature to derail the most wonderful of ideals.
Duncan Guy, SA
He should be congratulated for seeing the truth at last: Women, who bring our children into this world, are far less likely to send them to war, or subject them to famine or poverty for the sake of personal glorification, as is the case with PRes. Mugabe.
But Africa is a deeply conservative place, mostly because of he men who cling to custom because it ensures them an exalted if undeserved place in our African societies.
The truth is that in zambia today we do not have woman with the qualities of a President.May be in the near future.
Sam Phiri, Zambia
We should encourage women for that. Tatcher, Megawati are all powerful and well respected women. Why not an African Woman!!! The first step will be to break customs that are obstacle to women's emancipation.
Zambian in U.S.A
I don't dream that one day a woman will become preisdent of an African country,after all Africa is the continent blessed with wars, famine, diseases, border conflicts, economic, political and ethnic crisis to mention a few.The fact that we Africans have witnessed efforts of some powerful Africans leaders like Mandel, Obsanjo, Museveni, Zenawi and Gaddafi yet they can't overcome African natural and man made disasters.It's to early to have an African women to be a president she will never face the endless military takes over in African countries.
James Lemor, Sudan
It is very dissapointing to notice, in this 21st century, that in Africa people still doubt about the ability for women to successfully lead their nations. We have great women such as Indira Ghandi of India, Benazir Bhutto of Pakistan,or Margaret Thatcher "The Iron Lady"of England,who have, by their examples, prove that managing the business of the state is not and should never be an exclusive privilege of men.
Myriam Abandja, USA
Things down here are too tough to start experiments now. Its possible later arround 2020s. I feel terrible when we raise irrelevant issues to the current economy for discussion.
I honestly do nsee that happening in this century. Until such a time when people are not power hungry,it will not happen. I think tradition is also one of the resons.A Male will not accept to be led by a female because tradition still plays a great role in African countries. The Male is deemed the head of the household and the provider.It's like giving a female a bow and arrow to go out in the wilderness to hunt to put food on the table for the family to feed.
Alinani Simumba, Zambia
Men,your time is up!! Its Mothers' time!!
The world is crying for good leadership, please do not take people for granted! Zambia was a good country but...its a sorry sight because of Men!!
I think a female president would do something in Zambia. They are the people who face real hardship, be it they come from the rich or poor. one thing I know is that a woman will never neglect her children no matter that happens. So a woman president would really address the needs of the people of Zambia for they understand better. Men have proved that they just want to make "names" at the expense of the people who voted for them.
Mwale Peter, Zambian in Russia
sorry to all women. I dont think a woman can ever rule an african country. The men will not give them the chance moreso women in power are so bossy that they create confusion when they have the leadership mantle. There is a wise and notable saying that "the fundamental fault of the female character is that it has no sense of justice" if this is true which I believe is, then woman can not rule a country.
In my view I think it is possible for a woman to be president in Africa sooner than latter.During the Liberia civil war an interim government was formed several times with men in charge ,Dr Amos Sawyer,profs Kpormakpor and Sankaworo yet it was Miss Ruth Perry who steered that country to peaceful election.
George Dacosta Mintah, Canada
Yes, in Zambia and elsewhere in Africa as well. Soon after the first one has succeeded it will become common.
Richard Armstrong, Zambia
I have lived in Zambia for more than Ten years and looking at the political scene it is posible to have a woman as a president of Zambia. I think this would be good for the country as the whole. Women in Zambia have been playing a leading role in leadership in the country as chiefs. I just give two examples of women chiefs: Chief Mukomesha in Chongwe and Chief Nyange in Sinda both of these leaders are women. If am not mistaken Chief Mwanjawanthu in Petauke is still a woman. So it not strange for a woman to be come a leader of the country. Please give them a chace. In this way Zambia will be a great a example for the rest of Africa. Please give the women a chance.
let the women them selfs prove they can win the support of the people not hand picking like the way mwanawasa was choosen by chiluba at night.
mwala silume, zambia
Naturally a man is a vision bearer and women are good helpers and for this reason I think only blind visionless men can look to women for leadership.
I think our president is tryying to win political mileage. There is nothing significant he has done for women for him to start bragging about having a woman president. Prove it to us Zambian first that you mean what you are saying by appointing women to posistions of capacity. I
Katuta wa Katuta, Canada
That is a great offense against African morality. What does this president think? Does he think that the feminism movement has any serious value? Even the modern countries in which feminism is high have not come to this level yet. He has gone very far. Neither his wife, nor any other woman cannot be qualified for such a place in an African country. It a blasphemy!!!!!!!
MAYOS, Beninese, writing from USA, Benin
its good so long its not his wife
Zambia certainly has no dirth of educated women who are capable of leading the country. One has only to look at the dynamic First Lady to understand this fact. Having lived in the country for several years I am entirely confident that the Zambian people possess the presence of mind to award leadership to those who deserve it, regardless of gender.
The belief that women will make good presidents or better ones than men in Africa is false in logic. What will the women do differently from the men? Money is the problem on the continent. Where will the women find it to fund their budgets? Moreover, behind every African dictator, there has been one of the same women we think will be good presidents.
Unless and until the "male dependent mentality" of most Zambian women is removed, we shall never have a female President.
Zambian based in Beer Sheva, Israel
The first lady President will most likely be
elected in Tanzania. The rest of Africa shall
It was Tanzania that taught the rest of Africa that political pruralism is a chance for Africa and that a president of a country should be less ambitious to become a life president.
Charles Edward Ng'hwaya,
Just to remind the readers that,Before Genocide,we had a Rwandese female Prime Minister,Agath Uwilingiyimana(who was assasinated by the genociders. Zambia could be better off if next time it will have the Female President. Hongera,President Mwanawasa for just mentioning that out!
Zitto Kabwe, United Republic of Tanzania
I am a Zambian working in Sierra Leone. Yes I think that one day we will have a female president. It is very clear that men have not suceeded in leading most african countries, you only need to look at the poverty levels, corruption and the violence in our continent. This shows that we need to try another style of leadership that can only be offered by a woman.
Theresa Kambobe, Sierra Leone
Surely, any African Country having a woman as it's President isn't just a dream but I believe it will come to pass.
The issue is not being a woman, but having someone who can deliver and develop a nation.
I found it very ridiculous for the BBC to initiate such a debate as having female President or not in Africa.
Letting idle ones (like myself) waste time on the internet to discuss on female President is unfair.
Let us discuss an acceptable democracy and everyone , male and female will have equal chance. After all, how many countries in the world are ruled by women?
Behind every successful man, there is a good woman, behind every prosperous nation, there are good women!
Chidi Nwamadi, Nigerian, writing from Jerusalem, Israel
Well you have done a recommandable Job to initiate this debate, i have been always dreaming of a female president in africa, Africa has many abble and charisimatic female leaders, Winnie Byanyima of Uganda, Winnie Mandela of southafrica, Specioza Kazibwe of Uganda to mention but a few, so it is high time africa had a female leader at the top post.
Lt.Dominique Munyawera, Rwanda
Female president what a dream! Africa is enbracing democracy at very slow pace. To think of female president in Zambia or Africa is along way to go. Male president can`t freely relinguish power to woman whom he considers inferior to him. Until,gender issues are settled,female president will remain a dream both in Zambia and Africa as awhole. James Mboriundo
I think that it will be a long time until a woman becomes President of an African Country, not because they are less able, but the men in power do not believe them to be as able to rule as the men are. Until women are viewed as equal to the men, then they will hold "powerful" positions
Sarah , USA
I guess people are ready for a leader. Not a woman or man. But I guess it will take some time to inculcate in the minds of Zambians the sense of seeing women in high political positions. Why don't we start with a woman vice President?
Grevazio Zulu, Zambia
The question is not who is most competent for the job - although i wish it were- the question is who will the Zambian people vote for. And I am sure it is VERY rare for the MOST competent person to be elected in any country. For starters the most competent person has to be standing for election in the first place.
Think of it. Women in the highest offices of state in the capitals of Africa. The idea makes more sense than continuing to vote for and support some of the horrendous leaders we have now. African women are strong and intelligent, but beyond that, are able to keep family and social units fuctioning well. Perhaps what the African family needs is a strong woman to lead it.
Senongo Akpem, Japan
I am very pleased to hear that Zambians are considering having a woman as president and to hear that women have run for the top political post. I just wish the USA would follow their lead and do the same.
Is any society ever ready for a female leader? A leader is a leader, period, be they female or male. It is suggestions such as this one that foster warped notions of a false sense of 'immaturity' or 'infancy' from which it is percieved countries like Zambia and Africa in general, must grow out of.
akalemwa ngenda, Zambia
African community is highly patrical and the economic and security system is therefore dominated by Men. Africa needs strong man with vision and courage, that most people can identify with and not some superfical spin doctoring imported from UK or USA.
I definitively think that women should seize any opportunity to show that they too are capable of great achievements at the presidential level. I am sincerely looking forward to seeing in Africa in the years to come, a strong, competent female president with great leadership.
Male or female is not the question. This question is who is competent, one person said they are many women who could do a commendable job! I disagree, there are few people - male or female who can actually do a commnedable job, just take a look at the whole world in general- mostly run by men!!!
I believe that many African nations are ready to have a female leader. There are many strong women who are very capable of running a nation. Many African nations are plagued by economic problems, corruption, ethnic conflicts, and many other problems. A leader needs to effectively attack these problems. Therefore, it should not matter if the leader is a man or a woman, but whether or not the person can lead their country and improve the conditions of their people.
Leila , United States