AfDB Financial Management Director, Kodeija Diallo, Calls on All Women to Aspire to Excellence in their Endeavours

05/03/2010
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Kodeija Diallo_ women day

As the Bank celebrates the International Women’s Day on Monday, 8 March 2010, AfDB’s web editorial team spoke with AfDB Financial Management Department (FFMA) Director, Kodeidja Diallo, to obtain her views on current conditions and perceptions of women in Africa and what the Bank is doing to help women take their rightful places in the African society. At the end of the interview, Mrs.Diallo gave a message of hope particularly to the majority of women who are not holding leadership positions, emphasizing that any of them can equally contribute to Africa’s future as long as they “aim at excellence in all their endeavors”.

Question:  What do you think of women’s current condition in Africa?

Answer: Women constitute the cornerstone of Africa’s economic development. According to recent estimates, women provide approximately 70% of agricultural labor and produce about 90% of all food. However, women are predominantly employed in the informal sector or occupy low-skill jobs.

Despite some progress made in advancing the cause and welfare of women, they still occupy a weak status in Africa’s formal economy.

The weak status of women in Africa’s formal economy is due to:  

  • Insufficient access to key resources such as education and health which are two important contributing factors. According to the OECD Development Centre, primary education of women is still at a strikingly low rate of 67% despite international endeavors such as the second Millennium Development Goal to achieve universal primary education by the year 2015 (men 72.6%).
  • Unsurprisingly, illiteracy remains a major challenge with only 51% of all women above the age of 15 being able to read and write (compared to 67.1 % of all men).
  • Maternal mortality also falls far short of international objectives. The African value of 866 deaths per 100.000 live births – partly due to dismal medical services which only guarantee 50.9% of all births being attended by skilled health personnel – is alarming and far worse than in any other region of the world.

The continent, as most of the rest of the world, still has a long way to go to make sure women’s conditions are satisfactory .However, the continent is vast and differences between countries are huge regarding this issue. More and more women intervene in key priority areas of development, in the political and governance arena and this can be perceived as a good sign of future improvement.

Question: Do you think the celebration of the International Women’s Day has made any difference to gender perceptions on the continent?

Answer: The International Women’s day has grown to become a global day of recognition and celebration across developed and developing countries. While it is undeniable that the celebration has raised collective awareness of gender perceptions on the continent which translated into greater equality in legislative rights and increased women visibility as role models in every aspect of life, the continent still lags behind regarding several key indicators and more needs to be done.

The International Women’s Day is also an opportunity to reflect on future changes and the need for continued efforts in representing the interests of women around the world.

Thus, further developments in relation to gender-based inequalities and positive change to women’s status will come, in part, by continuous acceptance of women as development agents. However, as long as the universal under-representation of women in government, business and policy-making bodies remains, those developments will be hampered.

Question:  How is the Bank helping women to take rightful positions in society?

Answer: The African Development Bank's gender policy is geared towards achieving gender balance and sustainable human and economic development by ensuring that gender is mainstreamed throughout all Bank Operations, including programming documents, especially in priority areas.

The Bank has made deliberate and sustained contributions to address gender issues through its mandate and by supporting efforts by its regional member countries towards gender mainstreaming

Specifically, the Bank’s Results Based Country Strategy Papers (RB-CSPs) requires concrete strategies and actionable plans for gender equality and women empowerment as identified in each country’s poverty reduction strategy paper (PRSP), gender policy and national strategies and plans. Initiatives such as loans given by microfinance institutions to empower poverty-stricken women in Africa or women entrepreneurship programs are greatly encouraged by the Bank.

The Bank also intervene in special events such as the “The African Women Economic Summit” scheduled to take place in March 2010 on the theme: Investing differently in Women. The AfDB President has recognized the need for more African women to be involved in the financial system as a prerequisite for the continent’s sustainable growth

Finally, although women are still under-represented in management, the Bank is endeavoring in its hiring practices to ensure that women are given a fair chance during the recruitment process.

Question: Can women play leadership roles in Africa’s current political landscape?

Answer: First of all, let me state that my personal philosophy is not to be or be a leader. In any position, one has to lead by example, be committed to achieving results and leave these achievements to talk by themselves. I am not interested in positions.

This notwithstanding, Africa has examples of women that play leadership roles in the political landscape.

  • In Africa, women leaders have a strong legacy. Female pharaohs ruled ancient Egypt, queens and queen mothers have reigned throughout contemporary Africa. These women were exemplary in playing their leadership roles. In contemporary Africa, women must first realize that God has given them comparable innate abilities, competencies and skills as men. It is a matter of having self-confidence and rising up to their potential.
  • Encouraging examples such as the election of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf as the first elected female president of an African nation and increasing representation of women in some African countries (3 African countries represented in the top 10 ranking of world classification (Rwanda, South Africa and Angola) should not hide the progress that still need to be made.
  • With one’s competencies and skills, a lot of so-called glass ceilings, including leadership in Africa’s contemporary political landscape can be achieved.

I would like to finish this interview by sending a message of hope to the majority of women not holding leadership positions. Any of you can play a role and bring your own contribution to Africa’s future as long as you aim at excellence in all your endeavors.