The recent High-Level Virtual Forum on Women in Governance and Political Participation (WGGP): Enhancing African Women’s Role in Leadership included a panel discussion on the implementation of an action plan to improve women’s political participation and leadership. Moderated by Hanna Tetteh, Special Representative of the Secretary-General to the African Union and Head of the UN Office to the African Union, the panel included Amujae Leader and Member of Parliament in Tanzania, Upendo Furaha Peneza, Perry Aritua, Executive Director at Women’s Democracy Network, Uganda Chapter, and Eunice Musiime, Executive Director of Akina Mama wa Afrika (AMWA).
During the discussion, Upendo noted that not only does space need to be made for women to participate through constitutional changes, but also that women need to empower themselves by making proactive moves to connect with political parties.
Additionally, she highlighted the need for women’s organisations to provide training for women in communities, preparing them for leadership at the local level and equipping them with the skills needed to advance in politics:
“As we train those women within the community, we prepare them for leadership. For instance, in my area we have…been training them at the local level to come into other positions… also helping them to understand how they can raise funds in order to help them stand for the various positions.”
The perception of women’s capabilities is often a barrier to them achieving success as leaders, and so Upendo also spoke about how increasing the visibility of women can help create a positive shift in the perception of their capabilities. Moreover, seeing women in positions of leadership can inspire others to pursue a similar path:
“I do believe that what I have done in parliament for my 5 years has actually helped, has planted a seed into the lives of other young women to feel like they are capable, they can run, they can compete, and that they can actually vie for various positions into office.”
You can watch the full proceedings from the Virtual Forum here. The panel discussion begins at 1:40:00, and Upendo speaks from 1:52:55. Former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf also spoke at the event. Read more about her participation here.
The event was organized by the African Union Commission through the Department of Political Affairs. In collaboration with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the AU Department of Political Affairs is leading the development and implementation of an action plan to promote women’s equal representation and participation in governance. The proposed initiative contributes to the governance pillar of the joint AU-UN African Women Leaders Network (AWLN), of which President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is a Patron.