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Last Updated: Friday, 30 July, 2004, 18:44 GMT 19:44 UK
Does Africa care about its women?
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The African Union (AU) adopted a Protocol on Women's Rights last July but it has still not been ratified.

The protocol is designed to guarantee women's rights to health, education and justice, to protection against violence and harmful traditional practices and against all forms of discrimination.

For it to become binding, 15 of the AU's 53 members need to ratify it, but so far only three countries - the Comoros, Libya and Rwanda - have done so.

This week a campaign was launched by human rights organisations to petition African leaders to ratify the protocol.

Why do you think African leaders have been dragging their feet? Does this show that the men who rule Africa do not really respect women's rights? What does this say about their commitment to the continent's development, considering half of the population are women?

This debate is now closed. Thank you for your comments.


The following comments reflect the balance of opinion we have received so far:

Women in many African countries still suffer a lot of discrimination and much still has to be done. If it were possible I would say educate all the men and teach them that whilst men and women are physiologically distinct, mentally and otherwise women are just as capable as men and should be entitled to the same privileges .I am happy at least that in my country girls have equal access to education, health and many other aspects of life. Things are not perfect yet but life could be far worse.
Bonnie Sebele, Gaborone, Botswana

Most African leaders are not gender sensitive and treat women as sex objects. Some talk a lot about women's emancipation but put nothing into practice. Some use the pretext of religion and culture. Women should not kneel before men with a cup in hand begging for favours. They should come out and stand for highest political positions in their countries. Even patrilineal families in Africa should be changed to matrilineal since mothers play the most prominent role in raising up of children.
Ahmed Kateregga Musaazi, Kampala Uganda

African women can't equate themselves to their male counterparts as they rely wholly and solely on us
Mohamed Sheku Turay
I believe that many of Africa's leaders are making extremely large efforts in reform of not only their countries, but the continent as a whole. There are much larger problems in Africa that desperately need attention from the entire world and women's rights are just one of those problems. We easily forget that these are very immature countries when compared to the rest of the world's nations. We in America too had major problems when we were only a half century old. Please inspire peace!
Warren Ellis, Albuquerque, USA

I'm not sure if it's a question of Africa not caring about its women. Africans are generally known to have great respect and love for their mothers (there is a saying among the Yoruba people as I understand that there is no deity like mother). For wives and daughters, it is a different situation entirely. I think the question is now more of whether African leaders are willing to forego their greed and selfish interest and serve their people. Until such a time when they're thus educated the rights of women in general, children and minorities will always be trampled upon. Time was in Africa that tests of wisdom, courage and patriotism had to be passed by people aspiring to lead.
Adaiah, Canada

I think these leaders are stalling because they tend to prioritise on their self succession and the proliferation of war and other so-called signs of machismo! It isn't an exaggeration to say that women account for everything, including the men's very existence.
Ivie, Lagos ,Nigeria

Most African leaders do not care about anybody's rights, let alone the rights of women. Women's rights are human rights and with the deplorable human rights situation in most African countries, there is little doubt why women are still largely ignored.
David Tonghou Ngong, Texas, USA

Are African leaders fearful women could actually do a better job in leading the continent?
Makda Amare
As a little girl, I remember being in class with a girl from the northern part of Nigeria. After attending school for 2 months her parents removed her from school. They wanted her to get married. My school tried all it could to make her stay in school, but it was in vain. I do not think that African leaders are reluctant to educate women. I just think that it is a parent's decision to educate their daughters. The schools are available, the teachers are waiting, the pencils are on the table. All that remains are for the girls to show up in school. If they do, they will be educated.
Sade, Lagos, Nigeria

The concept of giving women rights is greatly misunderstood in Africa. Once has to remember that the new world economy that African people finds themselves in remains unfamiliar. To many men, granting women rights in their minds equals to increasing severe competition for the scarce employment opportunities now available. Women rights should begin with women having better access to economic resources and by extension, with more economic opportunities being created in Africa. If the economies of Africa were doing well, women rights would come automatically. Lack of these rights is a mirror of the sorry economic state of many African states.
Stephen Gitau, Kenyan in USA

If we only understood the value that women bring to our societies, we would give women more respect and prominence. Until then, Africa's societies will continue to lag behind the rest of the world.
Ray M, Fort Worth, USA

In Africa women are still viewed as the lesser being, most views are due to deeply rooted traditions, we cannot blame the men but we as women should also fight for our rights and stand up for ourselves, more women should assume leadership roles and in doing so ensure that other women are treated accordingly, it will take long to change the mentality of people about women, but we need fighters, we need determination and what we African women need most is A VOICE.
Gloria Otieno, a Kenyan in Gent, Belgium

Africans do care about women. Compare the treatment of women in India, Pakistan, the Middle East or old Europe. Africa is doing the right things and should keep it up!
Zwelithani Khumalo

Before Africa as a continent was introduced to the western culture, there were no complaints of men mistreating women. There was division of labour between male and female, which balance African societies. I believe problems women in Africa are facing now are not caused by African men or leaders but by westerners. We should stop judging our morality based on western standards. Unless we see ourselves Africans independent from western culture we will never achieve equality of any kind in our respective societies.
Nyerere Leon, Peterborough Canada

Why are African leaders reluctant to allow their women the same rights afforded to men? Are they fearful women could actually do a better job in leading the continent out of its miseries and into a new global power? The so-called tradition and archaic cultures of Africa are paralyzing this continent of great resources. Men of Africa have been beating down on the spirits of their women for far too long. This has led the continent into colossal catastrophes that time will not easily repair. True progress for Africa lies within the mind body and soul of her daughters and sons. African leaders must wake up and move towards prosperity by quickly ratifying the protocol in question.
Makda Amare, an Ethiopian in USA

A wise person once said "Educate a man and you educate an individual, educate a woman and you educate a whole family". Women are often the unseen victims of poverty and discrimination. It can even been seen by the slums and ghetto's in France, USA and around the world. It's only that the AU contains far more impoverished people than in other areas of the world.
Mike, Brisbane, Australia

I have northing against the idea of women having equal rights with men, but it must be on the bases of 50-50, by which I mean they should be as economically productive as men. You can't expect me to cloth my wife, feed her, do everything for her and at the end of the day expect me to have the same rights as her. She does deserve certain rights but to be precise I am the boss and that must be recognised. Remember this old adage: "Two captains can't ride a plane at the same time." To conclude African women can't equate themselves to their male counterparts as they rely wholly and solely on us.
Mohamed Sheku Turay, Freetown, Sierra Leone

Women in Africa are held in esteem but in old-fashioned ways. However, men in Africa need to be conditioned in thinking women as human beings with sentiments, ideas, intellect and strength rather than view women as property. The most important thing of all is to teach boys from a young age to respect their mothers and sisters in everyday life and you will see them respect their wives when they are older. Political leaders have to set a good example by passing legislation that gives women status on basic things like education, employment and on property. These kind of issues will empower women and show men they need respected.
G Agbor, Scotland

The rights of women have always been an issue not only in Africa but the whole world. What African leaders have to do is to create an atmosphere where women can equally compete with men while at the same time eradicating the notion that women are factories for child bearing.
Hajir, Sweden

The African Union goals should be supported and they are in the right direction. Africans do care about women. Compare the treatment of women in India, Pakistan, the Middle East or old Europe. Africa is doing the right things and should keep it up!
Zwelithani Khumalo, South African /USA

Yes. Emphatically yes, Africa cares about its women. I will launch my argument from educational front. In my own part of the world in many primary and secondary schools the male-female enrolment ratio is outstandingly in favour of females. And where are the boys? In the streets or markets hawking wares and other low income earning jobs to support the families' training of their sisters. This action is highly instinctive and natural to us and we never complained about it. We uphold the uniqueness of womanhood.
Uka Onuoha, Aba, Enyimba City; Nigeria

To an extent Africa cares about its women. In most African countries women's rights are respected in terms of job opportunities. There are women in these countries who are ministers, directors, doctors etc. And these appointments are made by the government because they are qualified. On the other hand there some African countries due to religion, culture and tradition hinder women's emancipation to carry out certain functions like men. I think African leaders should do something to eradicate this because men are what they are because of women, and also for development's sake.
Aaron Anye, Johannesburg South Africa

If women were in power in Africa there would be no more blood running all over Africa. If women were in power in Africa we would not be the most infected with HIV. I strongly encourage our sisters to take action because our lives have been affected too much by our men. It is good to keep our culture to respect our men but if they don't want us in peace it is time for us to take our lives in our own hands. I am also an African woman but I believe in change for African women otherwise we will always be in poverty.
Sibe Thiam, Mali




SEE ALSO:
Debate rages over women and Sharia
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If women ruled the world
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