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Taking Stock of Women’s Public Leadership in Africa: 2020 Year in Review

In its first report, the EJS Center highlighted the women leaders across Africa who have challenged stereotypes and paved the way for future generations of women and girls to assume roles in public leadership.

The report cited positive developments for women’s public leadership over the course of 2020, highlighting that two women had been appointed as Prime Ministers and there were record numbers of women serving in the cabinets of several governments.

However, the report describes 2020 as a “mixed success for the advancement of women’s leadership in Africa,” noting that across the continent there was “little progress in women’s parliamentary representation. Women running for office at the highest level found the hurdles insurmountable.”

At the end of 2020, women held 24% of positions across upper and lower legislative chambers in African countries. While this is just below the global average of 25%, it is short of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action goal of 30% and far below the African Union’s Agenda 2063 goal of equal representation for public offices.

Of the 12 women who declared their candidacy in presidential elections in 2020, none were successful. But, said the report:

“Their decision to contest elections knowing the difficult odds is a testament to the growing determination of African women to lead. By declaring their candidacy, they are shifting societal norms and ensuring that future generations of women and girls have a path to the highest levels of public leadership.”

This mixed picture of women’s representation in public leadership added greater urgency to the EJS Center’s mission “to champion women’s ascension to the highest levels of leadership and challenge systemic barriers to girls’ and women’s advancement.”

Reflecting on the EJS Center’s programming over the last year, the report highlighted the work of the inaugural cohort of Amujae Leaders for making headway towards increasing women’s representation in public leadership.

Through its flagship program, the Amujae Initiative, the EJS Center provided training, mentorship, and coaching to the inaugural cohort of 15 women leaders from 11 African countries. At the Amujae Leadership Forum held shortly before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the inaugural Amujae Leaders were taken through a set of activities that helped them to explore what it takes to be an effective leader, especially in times of crisis.

Throughout the year, the Amujae Leaders received support and advice from the Amujae Coaches, a group of established and formidable women leaders such as former President of Liberia Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and former President of the Republic of Malawi Joyce Banda, among many others. They also attended capacity-building sessions with campaign strategists and sessions with distinguished diplomats and leaders of international organizations.

The report, “Taking Stock of Women’s Public Leadership in Africa: 2020 Year in Review,” highlighted the importance of women’s leadership in their responses to the pandemic. The EJS Center launched the “Spotlight a COVID-19 Heroine” campaign in 2020 to recognize the many women “who have demonstrated exceptional leadership and dedication to their communities” in their responses to the pandemic.

Nominations from dozens of countries were received, underscoring how “women rose to respond to the COVID-19 crisis and worked to build more inclusive and resilient societies in its wake.”

The report concluded with a call to set “bold aspirations” for the work of the EJS Center and for women’s leadership in Africa.

“We are going up… Amujae!”

You can download the report here.

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