The urgent need for more women representation in Africa: Why we do what we do

Mary-IzoboAuthor: Mary Izobo
International Human Rights Lawyer

Maria-Mulenga-Kasoma Author: Maria Mulenga Kasoma
Final-year law student

In December 2022, United States President Joe Biden hosted the US-Africa Leaders’ Summit in Washington, D.C. The Summit emphasised the importance of engagement with Africa on the world’s most pressing challenges and possibilities. The Summit also sought to demonstrate the United States enduring commitment to Africa, underscored the importance of U.S.-Africa relations and increased cooperation on shared global priorities. “Women and Youth: Peace and Security” was one of the key themes of the Summit. Nobel Peace Prize winner and former President of Liberia Ellen Johnson Sirleaf addressed the gathering on the role of women’s inclusion in African leadership. Under the theme, she highlighted the social and economic factors that push the exclusion of women. She further stressed the need to revise laws to ensure full gender equality.


However, beyond all the rhetoric, we observed a serious issue that needs urgent addressing.  They say a picture paints a thousand words, and in the picture above, we see more than 40 African Leaders are men, while only one of them is a woman, Tanzanian President Samia Suluhu Hassan.

It is sad that a conference addressing critical concerns relating to the discrepancy in women’s representation did not have parity in its representation. Despite these conscious efforts to pay lip service to women’s involvement in leadership, the image above shows that much work needs to be done to challenge the ingrained practices and legislation that limit women’s participation in politics and governance. If a picture really paints a thousand words, it is a clear indicator that a lot needs to be done to ensure that women are included in all matters.

According to a recent report, gender parity may not be achieved for a further 132 years. This is not something we must merely accept, as urgent actions taken can change this trajectory. More organisations need to centre women’s and girls’ empowerment to ensure real equality is achieved. All states must ensure that inclusivity in leadership roles is at the fore of their developmental agendas. This is why The Amazon Leadership Initiative strives to provide support networks, mentorship, career guidance, education, and capacity development to alleviate gender inequality and address gender gaps in line with aspiration 6 of the African Union (AU) Agenda 2063 and goal 5 of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 2030.

In order to truly change the image of gender inequality in our present and future, we must all play a role in ensuring that women have a seat at the table and not just on the menu.

About the Authors:

Ms Mary Izobo is an International Human Rights Lawyer, Gender Equality Advocate and Governance Expert. She is the Founder and Executive Director of the Amazon Leadership Initiative (TheALI) and currently studying for her PhD in International Law and Governance. Before that, she was the Legal Advisor of the African Peer Review Mechanism, an organ of the African Union. She has worked for the United Nations, the Initiative for Strategic Litigation in Africa, and the Electoral Institute for Sustainable Development in Africa. Ms Izobo is the recipient of various academic and professional awards notably Africa’s Top Legal Millennial – The Amazon of Women’s Rights, Futurist Activist, SPE Top Pathfinders and the Kaduna State Honours Award for public service in Nigeria.

Maria is a final-year law student who is deeply committed to gender equality. She believes that gender equality should be incorporated into the law and that gender bias in the legal system should be eliminated. Being a voracious reader and an advocate for free access to the law, she contributes her time to her school’s law journal. She serves on her school’s judicial council and enjoys seeing the law in action. She is currently working as a Research Associate at TheALI, where she hopes to gain a better understanding of the various laws and how they affect gender issues on the African continent. With her background and experience in the legal field, Maria is committed to making a difference for women in Africa.

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