In a series of talks organised by The Women’s University of Zimbabwe supported by the Embassy of the United States of America, Madelein Mkunu led an insightful discussion on the role of women in Africa achieving Agenda 2063.
Agenda 2063 is a vision and an action plan. It was compiled as a call for action to all segments of African society to work together to build a prosperous and united Africa based on shared values and a common destiny.As the founder of women’s organisation Leading Women of Africa, Mkunu’s understanding of women’s marginalisation from the development plan of the continent is part of the under-utilisation of Africa’s resources.
By outlining the main resources that the continent possesses, her main question which also guided the discussion was why Africa had remained poor over the years yet it was very rich in resources? “I believe that women have a role to play on this land and today we will be sharing what I believe women need to do for us to move the next level,” said Mkunu.
She stated that integration and inclusive participation were the two main aspects that were important in order to redeem Africa from under-development. According to Mkunu, the reason why countries from other continents are interested in Africa is because the continent has so much to offer. It’s only that our resources are under-utilised. “The people of Africa and the knowledge that they have are a resource for the continent and excluding women from the development agenda is under-utilising Africa’s resources,” she argued.
The three main objectives of the continent -according to Mkunu- are, being on a path to sustainable growth, participating in the world economy and eradicating poverty.In addition to these, she emphasised the need to work with the youth, citing that the younger generation will likely be alive in 2063 to account for the activities and developments that will occur in the 50-year plan. She explained that the youth are a key component in the implementation of the 50-year plan which she said would only be achieved by facilitating sustainable growth.
How many women are actively involved in Africa’s economy and governance?
As part of her presentation, Mkunu actively involved the audience by asking them to play a game which asked them to guess the number of African women involved in every sector. The sectors included government, corporate governance, civil society and public and private sectors. The audience guessed a total of 8.5 million out of an estimated population of 550 million women in Sub-Saharan Africa.
In as much as these are not the official figures, these responses show how aware the public is of the fact that women are marginalised and how only a few are actively involved in the economic and political activities in Africa. According to 2013 UN Women statistics, the male to population ratio of employment stood at 72.3 per cent whilst the female to population ration stood at 47.1 per cent all over the world.
What does Africa need to develop?
Inclusive participation, integration and visionary leadership are the three solutions needed for Africa to achieve all its goals, says Mkunu. To support her claim, she alluded to the chairperson to the African Union Commission (AUC), Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma when she said, “It can only take a woman to see and think of inclusiveness”. Mkunu explained that the AUC chairperson acknowledges the need to improve women’s position on the continent.
“She has a vision to see the Africa of tomorrow. We will not reach it without inclusiveness,” she added.
“No matter which way you look at it, visionary leaders are few and far apart”, stated Mkunu
Mkunu says the absence of these three factors is the reason why pupils are learning that Africa is rich in resources yet there is very little to show for it. She also said she also finds it difficult to account t to her 13 year-old son why there is so much poverty on the continent.
In her presentation Mkunu highlighted how women can become actively involved in the work to achieve Agenda 2063. The most important way was that women should become economic activists. She said, “We use the term ‘womenomics’ to explain the extent to which women should be in charge of economic activities”.
Mkunu’s said women could become more involved in economic activities with more institutional support, facilitation of women’s access to financial assistance, increased investment in gender and technological advancement. She also added that Africa needs to become a peaceful continent with a strong cultural identity. Mkunu founded LWA in 2008 and to date the organisation has a network of over 15 000 women. 90% of the subscribers are based in over 30 African Countries. These comprise 70% SMME’s, 10% Corporate, 10% Government & institutions and 10% individuals.
A registered organisation, LWA was launched with the endorsement of the South African Department of Trade & Industry (DTI) and in collaboration with the South African Women Entrepreneurs Network (SAWEN) .LWA is headquartered in Cape Town, South Africa. The Organisation has also been at the forefront of gender advocacy and is engaging with partners who are responsible for the development of policies relating to women issues as well providing policy recommendations to policy makers at National, Regional and international level.
All images by Daphne Jena