Op-Ed ContributorsLet World Cup empower African womenBy Graca Machel (China Daily)Updated: 2010-06-08 07:46Large Medium SmallAfrica is again high on the global agenda, and this time for all the right reasons. As the kick-off to the World Cup in South Africa approaches, people are seeing not just South Africa but our entire continent as equal partners in this extraordinary global celebration.So, as the worlds eyes turn to Africa, we should take the opportunity to showcase the key role that Africas women are increasingly playing in the continents success.Ellen Johnson-Sirleafs election as the president of Liberia, the first woman elected to run an African country, was symbolic of the progress of women across the continent. We are proud as well that women make up more than 50 percent of the members of parliament in Rwanda – the highest proportion in the world. South Africa and Lesotho are just two other African countries that sit near the top of the gender-equality league table.It is women again who are helping defuse tensions and heal Africas terrible wounds of conflict and violence. Women are in the lead in conflict resolution, in reconciliation, and in drafting the legal and constitutional framework to secure peace and prevent abuse.In the media, civil society, and in communities across the African continent, women are taking on major responsibilities. There is a huge amount more to do, but women are winning the fight to have their voices heard and help shape solutions and map priorities.The gender gap in schooling remains a concern. Africa still lags behind many parts of the world in educating its girls from primary school through to university. But many more girls are attending and completing school now than a decade ago.Education is the bedrock of progress and educated women will empower Africa, so the focus now must be on those countries that are failing to close the gap. Governments need to implement the right strategies and find the political will and resources to succeed. One of the major problems highlighted in the just published Africa Progress Report, prepared by the African Progress Panel, is the gap between plans and change on the ground.Harnessing of womens full talents and potential in the formal economy is another area in which we have seen little progress. Womens economic contribution is, of course, undervalued in many places around the world. Wherever they live, women face greater obstacles and frustrations than their male counterparts.But this is particularly true in Africa, a continent where the crucial role that women play in the economy cannot be missed by even the most casual visitor. Look in our fields. It is women who you will see planting and harvesting the crops. Look in our markets. It is women who you will see buying and selling goods. Women are setting up the small businesses, too, which are creating jobs and spreading prosperity.Women are truly the motors of Africas economies. Yet at every turn, their contribution is downplayed and their ambitions are obstructed. Women find themselves cut off from training and support. And they can face discrimination from the authorities and suppliers.  Previous Page1 2 Next Page    Previous Page1 2 Next Page  

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