Globally women make up about half the world’s population and yet they rarely come close to holding leadership positions of power in government. In the US, only six out of 50 states have a female governor. In Africa, there are only two female presidents, out of 54 African Union member states. But women like Joyce Banda and Dr. Mamphela Ramphele are overcoming social and cultural obstacles and are showing the world that there are opportunities for women in the political arena in Africa today.
President Joyce Banda of Malawi used to sell vegetables in the markets. Today, she is the first Southern African woman to lead a country. Time magazine has also named her one of the world’s most influential leaders. President Banda openly talks about overcoming abuse in her previous marriage and says the key to women having the courage to remove themselves and their children out of situations of domestic violence is financial dependence on their husbands. When women have opportunities to make money, they have options and aren’t forced to stay in abusive marriages.
President Banda has made some radical changes not only in her country but with her cabinet- selling the presidential jet, luxury cars, and reducing her salary by 30 percent. “When I took over, the economy had almost collapsed. I told Malawians we needed to pass through difficult times," Ms Banda said in an interview. “I cut my own salary by 30% to show we are making sacrifices."
Dr. Mamphela Ramphele, a woman raised in rural South Africa overcame the obstacles of living under a harsh apartheid system to become a doctor, activist and businesswoman. Today she is launching her own political platform in South Africa and planning to run against the mostly male political party started by Nelson Mandela, the African National Congress (ANC). Ramphele speaks about her new political platform Agang, and how her success is a result of her parents holding up a very high standard for her: "You can’t avoid it. In a way, as a woman, you have to go into leadership positions expecting that you will be undermined, and therefore you have to stand up and make sure that those who are trying to undermine you don’t get a chance. You don’t do that by playing the male game, but you do that by leveraging the strengths of women leadership."
90 percent of the literacy programs ProLiteracy supports around the world are made up of women. We believe that when we educate a woman, we educate an entire community.
Click here to learn more about ProLiteracy’s Women in Literacy Initiative.