African women continue to make headway in public leadership, EJS Center report shows
As part of its ongoing effort to chart the progress of women’s public leadership across Africa, the Ellen Johnson Sirleaf Presidential Center for Women and Development (EJS Center) has published its second annual report, ‘Shifting the Landscape: The 2021 Year in Review.’
Highlighting the achievements of African women leaders and the many ways in which they have overcome gender barriers and inspired other women and girls to embark on their leadership journeys, the report offers a detailed picture of women’s representation in public leadership roles in Africa. It also sheds light on the crucial contributions women make to three key development areas that have profound implications for Africa’s future—climate change, technology for economic growth, and health.
Many positive developments were made over the last year as African women continued to push the boundaries to increase women’s political representation. The report provides statistical evidence of representation breakthroughs in all government branches.
Three countries—Chad, Cabo Verde, and South Sudan—saw a landmark shift in legislative representation, crossing the threshold of the Beijing Platform for Action goal of more than 30% women’s representation in parliament. 2021 also saw women appointed as heads of state in Uganda, Tunisia, and Tanzania, while eight African countries were amongst the top 40 countries globally for women’s representation in cabinets.
The report also highlights some women leaders playing significant roles in advancing three key development areas—climate change, technology for economic growth, and health. From civil servants to politicians, government officials, activists, business leaders, and more, the report showcases how African women have been critical drivers of positive change in 2021. Their achievements so far include influencing the adoption of climate policies, helping transform the continent’s tech sector, and contributing to improving healthcare systems with a particular focus on the needs of women and girls.
Despite these gains, significant challenges still impact women’s access to public leadership positions. Issues such as election violence, biased party structures, and unfavorable public perception stand in the way of women achieving equitable political representation.
By presenting a clear assessment of the achievements and yet-to-overcome obstacles, the report adds further impetus to the EJS Center’s work to advance women’s public leadership across the African continent.
In 2022, the EJS Center will welcome the third cohort of Amujae Leaders into a growing sisterhood with the collective goal of driving Africa’s development, supporting them along their leadership journeys, elevating their profiles, and helping them achieve their goals. This year the EJS Center will also begin the construction of the Presidential Center and Library, which will provide access to archives documenting the life, presidency, and legacy of former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf—Africa’s first democratically elected woman president. It will also offer a space for training and networking, and present exhibits and programs that advocate for women’s rights and democratic freedom—inspiring them to pursue leadership in all spheres.
In addition, the EJS Center recently launched its Data Hub for Women’s Leadership in Public Governance, a data dashboard of women’s leadership in Africa. It will also commence its baseline study to evaluate the social, political, and economic barriers women experience, providing tools and interventions that support their leadership ambitions.
Commenting on this year’s report and the EJS Center’s ongoing mission to champion women’s ascension to the highest levels of leadership, EJS Center Executive Director Dr. Ophelia I. Weeks said:
“Africa still has a long journey ahead; women’s representation in political life and positions of leadership must continue to improve despite the many challenges. We will continue with more determination than ever to advocate for women’s public leadership—and highlight the many benefits it can bring to our societies.”
The full report can be found here.