Earlier this month, US President Joe Biden hosted the United States-Africa Leaders’ Summit in Washington, D.C. The Summit emphasizes the importance of engagement with Africa on the world’s most pressing challenges and possibilities. The Summit also seeks to demonstrate the United States enduring commitment to Africa and underscore 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. 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 must not be something we must merely just accept, as urgent actions taken can change this trajectory. More organizations 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 TheALI 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.

Authors: Maria Kasoma, TheALI Associate and Mary Izobo, Founder of TheALI

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