Question: Do you agree with the saying that women incarnate the face of poverty in Africa?
Answer: It is sometimes easy to jump to the conclusion that women incarnate the ugly face of poverty in Africa, especially when one sees them on city streets strung with children in worn-out clothes begging for alms to survive. However, most African women are portrayed as the picture of relience, determination and hardwork. They toil on a daily basis to improve the quality of live of their children and families. In most rural areas, one comes across women farmers, labourers and housewives struggling to survive on meager remuneration and social biases. In our urban areas, women’s efforts to improve their standard of living are better appreciated in the marketplaces, business enterprises, schools, hospitals, offices and in their homes. What we witness in rural and urban areas is not just the face of poverty, but a demonstration of effort to combat it, lift oneself from misery, improve the quality of human existence through better education of children and an iron will to survive dire social and economic conditions. This is particularly true in conflict and post-conflict fragile states.
In certain countries women represent a large segment of the labour force in the manufacturing and tertiary sectors, civil service, military, diplomatic missions, parliamentary positions as well as in the higher echelons of business organisations.
Question: Has women’s situation improved on the continent?
Answer: The African woman has come a long way. She is now heading toward complete emancipation. In Liberia, we have a government led by a woman who has made a major break-through in expunging the copuntry’s huge external debt, stabilising the economy and initiating the reconstruction of the war-torn country with zero tolerance for corruption as her mantra. The Gambia has a female vice president who discharges her functions creditably. Uganda and Senegal have had female vice presidents who were outstanding in the performance of their mandates alongside male heads of state. For me, therefore, the African woman incarnates the fight against and not the face of poverty. The challenges they face in this combat are enormous and they need every assistance to succced.