Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, also known as South Africa's ‘iron lady' was elected on Sunday to become the first woman president of the African Union (AU) Commission, sweeping away another gender barrier in African politics. Among those who were vigorously celebrating Nkosazana’s historical election were off-course, African women. Everyone from the ordinary to the elite women, from celebrities to young female Azonto dancers and so forth. But what does Nkosazana’s rise really mean to African women?
Women in general, both old and young have it rough all over the African continent. We live in cultures which emphasize on the importance of women, but do so little to empower them. This is why this victory is so important for it goes to show that the continent is full of unimaginable potential, bright and dedicated women with the same passion and visions as their male counterparts to provide necessary steps towards change for the African people and the continent.
African women are intimately connected with political and economic policy on a global scale. They have dramatic ideas and visions of independence for the growth of Africa. Their experiences give substance to their reflections on colonialism, capital buildup, technological change, environmental degradation, globalization, marriage, children, gender roles, and spirituality.
This victory also shows that Africa is pregnant with expectation. It is a place where all things are possible and you, whether residing in the continent or in the Diaspora, can make a difference in the lives of African women. As we all know, every individual in this world owe a great debt to the cradle of civilization, Africa. Even starting something that future African children can believe in will be an enormous progress. They can then take over what we started and further it. Off-course change is not easy, but it always starts with a step and a belief.
As I mentioned in one of my previous articles, if Africa is the cradle of civilization, the African woman is its bolts, its strong, sturdy foundation keeping the cradle together. Throughout the continent, history shows that the African woman gives meaning and purpose to her home, community, and country. She is the heartbeat, pumping vital blood into the family system by setting the spirit and tone of the home. In most cases, it is her — our African mother, wife, sister, and daughter who provides all that is required to put body and soul together within her community. She plays such incredible roles and soul-saving functions, mostly indiscreetly. It is for these many reasons and more that these victories, starting with the presidential election of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, are deeply crucial. Yes, they have been long time coming, but today because of what we as African women are doing during these significant moments, progress is slowly but surely making its way back home in Africa.
This victory is noteworthy especially to the Africans born and living in the Diaspora. When learning about this news, I, Omoy, a Congolese currently residing in the United States, was reminded once again of how my earlier stereotypical images (concerning for example the roles of African women) are challenged in Africa. Initially, I thought all African women overall were submissive and did not work outside the home. On the contrary, a woman’s life in Africa mostly emphasized the way some progressive, westernized women are. African women are more than able to lead Africa to its revolution.
Now as I am off to listen to one of Africa’s classics and one of my favorite oldies, “Sweet Mother” by Prince Nico Mbarga, I am aware and grateful for those who bought for us young ones these “possibilities” — our fore mothers — Queen Mother Ndlorukazi Nandi of the Zulu Kingdom, Miriam Makeba, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, and my own maternal Grandmother Regine Lundula, just to name a few. Their dreams may not have been possible 40 years ago, but it is today because of their sacrifice. Due to their faith, what we don’t have today, we could have tomorrow.
Viva women of Africa!