Historically, customs and traditional laws in Africa hindered women’s access to education and development, while promoting, to a varying degree, a culture of male dominance across the continent. However, there is now growing recognition of the crucial role women play in overcoming the social, economic and political challenges faced by the continent. Policy changes for this purpose are now being widely advocated, although there is significant scope to progress women’s rights and participation.
The democratization process has brought a timid but significant increase in the participation of women in politics across Africa. Women make up an average of 21.5% of representatives in national parliaments. While this figure clearly does not reflect equality in representation, it marginally outweighs the unimpressive 21.4% worldwide average. The number of women holding ministerial positions in Africa has also increased in recent years. In 2012 Africa welcomed Joyce Banda as its second female president, and the African Union voted Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma as its first female chair.