[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Great Lakes
Last Updated: Friday, 1 August, 2003, 17:14 GMT 18:14 UK
Can women solve Africa's problems?
By Vera Kwakofi
BBC Africa Live

Ellen Sirleaf Johnson
Could a woman solve Liberia's problems

With the current events in Liberia, some people have suggested that Mrs Ellen Johnson Sirleaf be made president of the country. After all she has previously run for the post and came second.

If this were to happen, she would become the first woman to lead an African country. At the very least it may prevent a power struggle between the two rebel factions in the country.

After what many would consider Charles Taylor's disastrous term at the helm of the country, many Liberians will surely be hoping that their new president will lift them out of conflict and despair, and focus on rebuilding the nation.

Is Mrs Sirleaf, as a woman, more likely to achieve this than her male predecessors?

In the past she has herself run a kind of kitchen for displaced people in Monrovia. Can you imagine her male counter-parts taking such a hands on approach?

Would she spend more money on education and healthcare and less on defence? Would corruption be reduced? Would there be better regional cooperation?

Or since she's been involved in Liberian politics for more than 30 years and even served under an earlier administration, would her tenure just be more of the same?

New era?

How different would Africa be if women held the reigns of power? That's the question we are asking on Africa Live this week.

Kenya's Health Minister, Charity Ngilu
Africa's female politicians are making increasing waves
For all the years that men have been responsible for running the continent, Africa's epithet remains the same: The land of poverty, wars and disease.

National women's groups are already fighting for laws to be changed for the greater good; laws on marriage, inheritance, traditional practices, education, healthcare, equal representation, the list goes on and on.

But African society remains a largely patriarchal one where male chauvinism is commonplace. Are men ready to part with their dominance? After all, it has been honed over centuries, and the habit has been passed down from one generation to the next.

In an Africa run by women what would be different? How would people's dreams be fulfilled and most importantly when Africa makes the news what would the headlines be?

Join the debate Wednesday, 06 August at 1630 and 1830 GMT.

Use the form to send us your comments, some of which will be published below.

If you would like to take part in the discussion, e-mail us with your telephone number, which will not be published.

Your comments:

I believe that women have as much potential as men, if not more! In the case of whether a good job will be done, we can only hope for the best. As Mrs Sirleaf has been in politics for so long, there should be no reason why she will not be able to lead Liberia out of its current state. I believe that this is what might be needed in order for Africa and Liberia to move into the 21st Century.
Jean Kwaasi, UK

With the economic and other general conditions in Africa now, it will not be advisable to put a woman as a president because of their archaic ideology.
Chukwudi Ajoku, Wake Forest, N.C, USA.

Yes, women could solve a lot of the world's problems given the chance. Women are less likely to use violence to solve their problems. Women are more compassionate and caring. Corruption knows no gender though and fighting the corruption that already exists could be daunting.
Sherry Beth, USA

Most Africans believe that a woman's role on earth is to assist a man and not to lead.
Chris Ajoku, US

In most African cultures, men do not have regard or high value for women, talk less of voting them in as national leaders. Most Africans believe that a woman's role on earth is to assist a man and not to lead.
Chris Ajoku, Nigerian in USA.

Women have always been thought of as weak and that they should be submissive to men in African culture, and it is shame that men get hold of it even today. I always feel secure under a woman's leadership. You know God could not be everywhere so He made women to spread His love. Mrs Sirleaf would make a great president, I think. African women are strong and capable of such delicate responsibilities as presidency.
Josephat M. Mwanzi, Tanzania

I have worked in (and visited) several African countries. I love the continent and the people but it is sad to say that, with a few exceptions, there is much corruption and ethnic mistrust. I believe that there would be likely to be much less violence with a woman president in Liberia and that this could possibly start a trend which might at least start to solve the problems of Africa.
Philip Ager, UK and Equatorial Guinea

Let us not confuse ourselves. If most African male Presidents cannot deliver, why not give women a chance? I will remain optimistic, for if Mrs Sirleaf is given the oportunity to run long suffering Liberia, and if she is able to change that country from a war zone into a nation of hope and prosperity, I will visit Liberia myself to offer her my support and admiration. After all I am still a student.
A. A. ABDUL, Ghanaian in New York

Yes a women can solve Africa's problems, because African women are hardworking, very patient and emotional. African men have been running the continent for years and they have done some good things and some bad things. Now let us give the women a chance to do something. I'm very sure they will succeed in a lot of things such as education, welfare and peace.
David Angong, Sudanese in US.

This is a heart throbbing prospect for Africa. By and large the male dominated decision makers in Africa have so far managed only to nose dive its economy, stunted its social development, shackled it with political injustice, drained its self respect and only managed to make its populace a high risk society that is always prone to serve as guinea pigs for new medicaments and social political theories. The African Women, with their track record of excellent motherhood might bring salvation to Africa if only they would not lose their mothering instincts on their rout to leading their people. I believe it is a timely and well thought alternative.
Debebe D, UK

Man or Woman, it should not make a difference.
Greg Amer, USA

Do you think Winnie Mandela would have been a better president than Nelson for South Africa?
Amoroso Gombe, Kenya

What a stupid question. It has got nothing to do with sex or gender and everything to do with the quality of government. Do you think Winnie Mandela would have been a better president than Nelson for South Africa? Totally absurd and sexist.
Amoroso Gombe, Kenya

I certainly believe that in women lies the solution to Africa's problems. It is no coincidence that the most sexist and chauvinistic society in the world is also the hotbed of corruption, wars, poverty and suffering. We need more females - especially new generation women who are fully aware of their rights - in politics to break the cycle of deprivation affecting us. A word to fellow Nigerian women - get involved in the next election, we will stand behind you!

Women cannot solve Africa's problems! There are women parliamentarians and ministers in many African countries. They have not made their presence to be positively felt in anyway. One gets the impression that they just swim along with their male counterparts. Why should one expect them to do better at the top? By the way, women else where in the world have not proved to be better leaders as men. What Africa needs is separation of powers with the necessary checks and balances in place. Every human being is capable of the worst atrocities, and only refrains from these for fear of punishment. But as long as African leaders feel they can get away with their atrocities, there is not much hope irrespective of whether a man or a woman is president.
Michael Epah, Germany

Personal integrity and exemplary show of statesmanship is not a gender issue.
Nuesiri Emmanuel, Cameroon

Leadership problems in Africa has little to do with gender. Instances abound where women leaders of local women's groups have exhibited dictatorial and financially corrupt behaviour. Personal integrity and exemplary show of statesmanship is not a gender issue. My preferred solution to Africa's leadership crisis is a call to interested persons and organisations to develop a leadership capacity building Marshall plan for Africa's youths. A new generation of visionary men and women are needed to solve Africa's intractable problems.
Nuesiri Emmanuel, Cameroon

Historically, the grand majority of wars, massacres and social disasters were created and stimulated by men. Blame it on the testosterone or simply call it a power trip, either way, none can deny, and history is our witness, that with women in leadership, the world would indeed be a safer place.
Khalil, Canada

I have observed men and women in some 80 countries. In the developing countries around the world it appears to me that women are much better organized and have by far more serious attitude towards the place where they live than corresponding men. If by any means more administrative, decision making power including entrepreneurial power can be given to women in Africa the better and faster the chances for obtaining true development in the circumstances. We men are too much driven by testosterone until we become old enough. Mikko Toivonen Finland
Mikko Toivonen, Finland

Wrong question to ask. We need PEOPLE of quality. Honest people who have integrity and are prepared to be accountable. Mrs Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has these qualities but I have met many other Liberians who do, both men and women. When will it finally dawn on you that power has a tendency to corrupt just about EVERYONE except for those who know how to handle it? Where would South Africa have been without Nelson Mandela? And where, indeed, the UK without Margaret Thatcher? This subject is too important to descend to gratuitous male-bashing, as demonstrated in your introduction. Wise up!
Bram, Netherlands

Empowering women is empowering the family and, therefore, positively impacting the future of the whole society.
Mohammed Hammid, US

Absolutely! Women can solve Africa's problems because women and children are always in the first line of all miseries. They are victims of rape, starvation, brutality, etc. They have more investment in the fabric of any society. They should be allowed to have a strong say and presence in the future of African countries. It would not be an exaggeration to characterize many African conflicts as wars of male ego. Africa's wars are partly crises of masculinity. Perhaps, women know better how to deal with that. Empowering women is empowering the family and, therefore, positively impacting the future of the whole society.
Mohammed Hamid, US

All candidates promise a rosy future, but when elected to office another story emerges. I will vote for a woman candidate anytime, anywhere and in any African country ...women and children in Africa are the bulk of the refugees. Women should lead for a change, and pinpoint the refugee crisis thus Africa's conflicts. Aluta-Continua.
Elias Abdi, US

Liberia is a strange phenomena that has been apart from both African and American governmental help since its conception. Africans who do not wish to accept that the condition of slavery and its inception was in fact their fault and a part of their punishment from the creator for their deviation from the maternal society which they destroyed. We as women can satisfy the needs of our children. No one can do this job better than us. Throughout history we have borne the burden and have changed the face of war to that of happiness, fulfilment and progress. I do not live in Africa but the concept of a society run by mothers seems to be ingrained in my being. Men have shown us what they can do, to destroy everything they touch.
Dhubeadah Diouf, US

African women have been in politics since day one, and yet look at Africa. In fact, it is rumoured that behind a lot of these insurgence in Africa are women, wives of these leaders and rebel leaders. Women may now be leaders in the limelight, but we do not expect them to be different from their men, as long as they remain Africans.
T Adams

African male leaders squander national resources on concubines without shame.
Musu Stewart, Liberia/US

I definitely believe women can solve Africa's problems. My theory is based upon the woman's role in the home. Women are known to put aside and sacrifice a lot just to ensure the welfare of their family. I strongly believe that if this practice were transferred to the national level - regarding the nation as a family - many African economies would be spared the suffering that they are faced with. Moreover, African male leaders squander national resources on concubines without shame. A woman in that role would hardly ever think about having so many lovers on whom to waste public funds. Notwithstanding and trying to be gender balanced, women would need the encouragement and moral support from men to help them accomplish this goal.
Musu Stewart, Liberia/US

No single gender, woman or man can solve Africa's problems. To solve Africa's problems, one needs to eliminate the single most important factor that has aggravated Africa's problems: Africa's military. We do not need armies in Africa. Most African armies were inherited from colonial masters who were looking for personnel to fight their wars such as first and second world wars. Without armies, Africa will develop very fast.
Wilson Emaanzi, Canada

Without changing the basic structure and attitude of society towards women, not much will be achieved by a woman leading an African country. However, any step towards equality and change for better status for women must be encouraged without reservations!
Srinivsan Toft, Denmark

I do not think women can solve all of Africa's problems but they can contribute significantly to reducing them. Women, in most African homes, are in charge of the day to day running of the home so are in touch with the reality of the suffering of their households and more broadly that of the nation. Therefore I feel, a touch of feminine sensitivity towards people's suffering is useful in turning around the plight of Africa.
Martha Banda, Zambia

It would depend on the women as individuals. Graca Machel - yes (known for educating her people of Mozambique, great leadership skills); Grace Mugabe - No.
Guy, SA

African countries have been in the hands of men for a LONG time and look at the disaster we live in and live by.
Banchi D, Ethiopia

It depends. Women might be able to solve the problems of Africa, but NOT because of their biological sex. They might have a deeper and more meaningful understanding of the problems of Africa and hence will be able to address those issues in their policies. African countries have been in the hands of men for a LONG time and look at the disaster we live in and live by. Let African women try, may they rule justly and wisely!
Banchi D, Ethiopia

This debate is unhelpful. The real issue is the lack of qualifications of rulers in Africa many of whom simply assumed power after colonisation by virtue of the fact that they were freedom fighters. The skills needed to fight and win a gorilla war are far removed from those needed to govern a nation, plan its economy and build its institutions. It is foolish to focus on criterion such as sex and ignore the real issues of qualification and suitability for leadership, not to mention democratic legitimacy. Those are the real issues at the heart of the quality of government in Africa.
Amoroso Gombe, Kenya

My experience, having worked under several women, leaves me with an understanding that they are more resolute, emotionally responsive and have better target drive than most male counterparts. If only a chance is given them, the African continent will have an agenda for economic growth, peace, love and relative calm which for now is not there. There is need to measure progress made in eliminating the discriminatory attitudes and practices arising from unequal power relationships between men and women. I know that my president understands this and that is why he has given the all important ministry of finance to a WOMAN to head.
Uche Oguike, Nigeria

I truly feel that a female president would be in the best interest of the country because; a woman will not lose track of tomorrow's future, the children. Women know the importance of education, family, protection of other women's rights. Men think only of power and control. It is time to stop controlling women, stop the violence and to let the country know that women are the backbone to their society.
Cynthia, Canada

The world has witnessed women indulging in criminal offences including robbery, murder and forging of academic qualifications to a great scale.

African women like most women world-wide, were unfit to lead because of their penchant for narrow mindedness. The world has witnessed women indulging in criminal offences including robbery, murder and forging of academic qualifications to a great scale.
Tanzania How ideologically backward to even frame the question as a gender issue rather than an individual issue. Does Africa need a Chiang Ching, another Winnie Mandela, an Evita, an Imelda Marcos, or even a Margaret Thatcher? Does it need a Golda Meir? I would suggest it needs the best person. That may well turn out to be a woman, but ethics has no genitalia.
Gary Pollard, Hong Kong

Women can solve Africa's problems.They represent the real experiences of the grassroots people hence the right people to address the problems.They shape the minds and the hearts of the young and are the most influential in the community. They shape the values, beliefs, spirituality, habits, and the practices of the entire community. What Africa needs to do is to strengthen the woman and make her realise the potential latent in her. In so doing, we would be strengthening the community and hence equipping her to resolve her problems.
Timothy Gachanga, Kenya

I think we are missing the point here. The question we should be asking ourselves is, "where are the good leaders?" It makes no difference whether they are male or female. What we need now are leaders that have a vision and can rise above corruption and ethnic divisions and steer the continent out of the mess we have created and move us forward, by creating an egalitarian society such that irrespective of what gender, religion or ethnic group you belong to, you can aspire to be anything.
Kelechi Ohiri, Boston, US

I am not sure if a woman president would be more effective than a male in confronting issues such as corruption and nepotism.
John Grobler, Namibia

Women, generally speaking from my experience as a former journalist in Africa, are far more inclined to seek a compromise rather than confrontation. Taken literally at this level, I expect a woman president to be far more inclined to avoid civil war - but I am not sure if a woman president would be more effective than a male in confronting issues such as corruption and nepotism. Still, we do not really know - so my vote would be for women presidents for ALL of Africa.
John Grobler, Namibia

It would be hard to do any worse than men.
Robert Arisz, Holland

First, just a small point of correction. Mrs Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, if chosen, will become the SECOND WOMAN to lead an African country. Considering that Ruth Perry of the same Liberia was head of state in Liberia, I wonder how it is that BBC's researchers could be so wrong? And yes, I think Africa should have half of its' leaders be women and the other half be men. Check the Sierra Leone presidential race around the year 2022 and you will surely see me running.
Dr. Sylvia O. Blyden, US

Women have been tasked with the great responsibility of raising children, who later become leaders. If one can raise a leader, can one not be a leader?
Zuwere Chakuamba, US

Zawditu, Empress of Ethiopia, was a strong and intelligent woman who ruled the country from 1917-1930. So your statement that Mrs Ellen Johnson "would become the first woman to lead an african country" is wrong.
Melaku Banteamlak,US

Man or woman it should not make a difference, but it does! There are only six female heads of state out of some 300 in the world. I find it hard to attribute this to coincidence. Some women are able to bring the ways of doing and being of women to their governments. Some are only able to acquire their station by mimicking their male counterparts. I hope that if Mrs Ellen Sirleaf rises to greater power in Liberia she will be able to maintain her hands-on approach. Africa, like much of the world, is in dire need of nurturing, healing and caring.
Ryan T. Mahon, Washington DC

I think women are as capable as men are. Women should be given more opportunities to become leaders. Charity Ngilu is a woman member of parliament in Kenya and played a key role in ushering in a new era of governance in Kenya. Women are more than capable and given the chance they can prove it.
Joyce Andrew, US

I believe and know that the woman's right is just to keep rest at home, look after the children and care for the family because the man must go to work.
Aweys Ahmed, Somalia

I believe and know that the woman's right is just to keep rest at home, look after the children and care for the family because the man must go to work. This is based on the Islamic religion.
Aweys Ahmed Mogadishu, Somalia

A woman is not in a special position to change the situation in Africa, given the fact that the fundamentals have not been changed. If we go by the past and present experiences in other parts of the world like in India, Sri Lanka, Britain, Israel, Indonesia and the Philipines, it is evident!
Srinivsan Toft, Denmark

Your E-mail address

Disclaimer: The BBC may edit your comments and cannot guarantee that all e-mails will be published.

A time to forgive?
25 Jul 03  |  Africa
Kenya split by wedding row
21 Jul 03  |  Africa


News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East | South Asia
UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology | Health
Have Your Say | In Pictures | Week at a Glance | Country Profiles | In Depth | Programmes
Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific