We recently celebrated International Women’s Day, but did we celebrate African women?
This year’s International Women’s Day theme was ‘Time is now’. The Time is now to be who you can be, who you must be, to fully manifest your potential. This is to be done not so that you can win any accolades but for yourself, for your family, for the continent. There is so much we can celebrate about the nature of a woman and her significance in society.
A woman is a well of life, of wealth, of love, of peace, of generosity and indeed of development. There is so much she can contribute given the opportunity and an enabling environment. Let’s take wealth creation and sustainability for instance. Ancient African history narrates to us that African women were in fact highly business inclined. They took their goods to the markets to barter or sell for money. From what was earned, a woman fed her entire household and any along the way that asked for help. She has been known to see a gap or need and fill it.
Modern African women is even more enterprising. Women make out more than half of Africa’s population, yet they are excluded from many opportunities. The Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) 2016/17 women’s report found women’s entrepreneurial activity globally has risen by 10 percent. Sub –Saharan Africa is leading the way, with its female entrepreneurship rates the highest globally. 25.9 percent of female adult population is engaged in early stage entrepreneurial activity in the region. Women are clearly opportunity seekers and risk takers.
But why should the African female entrepreneur matter? It cannot be contested that women entrepreneurs are the backbone of economic growth and are powerful engines of development and financial inclusion. When she succeeds, we all succeed. Another survey uncovered that female entrepreneurs are driven by resilience, determination and the desire to provide for their families and communities
Even though she may want to break through her ceiling and expand her enterprise to be among the tycoons, she faces many challenges:
Educational and cultural barriers.
These only give women a place in the home and not a place in the economy. We must be aware that women have the capacity to bring different skills to the workplace. Family and society are critical stakeholders to easing gender-related challenges. If a woman is fulfilling her obligations in the home, she must be encouraged to prosper in other areas as well. Women must be allowed to receive basic education. An educated girl has a “ripple effect” in many ways. A girl with an extra year of education can earn 20 percent more as an adult, or that a girl who completes basic education will invest 90 percent of her earnings back into her family. Likewise, she must be allowed to participate in training and mentorship in business, and those that are succeeding must be honoured and given the platform to inspire others.
Socialised to feel inferior
Self-Limiting Factors that testify that we as women are naturally not raised with encouragement to be strong, self-actualised and capacitated. The sad fact is that very few women get to realise and comprehend their own greatness, others only wonder what is special about the few who get close to this discovery. Many women are thus afraid to lead, afraid of taking risks, afraid of failure and afraid of what they have come to believe they lack. Further they are afraid to ask for what they want, to understand their value, or to understand the kind of impact they can make in their society and the world at large.
Lack of a support network
There aren’t many female mentors out there and so finding the right support is almost a closed door for female businesses. We all need the inspiration that if someone did it that looks, acts and is generally likely like me ,then I can also do it.
For a better homestead , for a better Africa , sisters, mothers and wives must get to know their rights, leadership skills and opportunities that are indeed all around. They must also run to grab finance, and any form of literacy that is within their reach. The world should not make women afraid to shine, to rise and be the best version of themselves, to break the cycle of poverty, raise healthier families and build for themselves, for the sake of their families and for the world.
Women can and must play a bigger role today. We can be agents of change as your time is now!!!
Featured image | Maliwomen pounding cereals | Ralph Steinberger : flickr
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Best of Africa.
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