By M. Sajo Jallow
The coronavirus pandemic sets a tragic context, in which millions of lives and livelihoods are at risk across the globe. We are humbled by the helplessness in preventing this tragedy. However, we remain hopeful in rising above it, given our historic resilience and spirit of cooperation.
It is in search of a way forward that some concerned citizens wrote an open letter to Africa’s leadership and the public.It calls for a new wave of Pan-Africanism to address the challenges of democratic development on the continent. The eminent writers, among whom the renowned Nobel Laureate and playwright Wole Soyinka, the Elder,invoked the collective spirit and resolve that liberated the continent from the shackles of colonialism.
The brutality of colonialism and apartheid was defeated in that first, expanded wave leading to the mid-1990s. Democratic governance over-ran the continent, inspired by the same struggle for rule of law and justice on home soil and elsewhere. By the early 2000s, the continent was ready to transform its vehicle for political liberation, the Organization of African Unity (OAU), into one focusing on socio-economic liberation, the African Union (AU).
That is, moving from the letter and spirit of non-interference to non-indifference. It means, when deemed necessary under grave circumstances, to use force, or to threaten to use force, in order to defend Pan-African values of equality, justice, and inclusive, democratic governance.
But how has gender parity fared in this regard? It is an important question for the Africa we want, through the vehicle we must have, the AU, the proxy of a United States of Africa.
Africa has made gains in promoting equality between the sexes,due to achievements in education and affirmative action. However, much more remains to be done to achieve full gender parity.
At the African Union, employment of female staff is close to 40 percent, almost at par with the United Nations. For elected leadership, full gender parity at the level of the African Union Commission has been achieved. That achievement is commendable.
In this second wave of Pan-Africanism, we must do more to go beyond the symbolism. The other half, or the under-privileged, must speak for itself, as its own liberator. Therefore, reform of the electoral process should ensure gender parity, and equitable geographical rotation,consistent with the principle of self-determination. Female representatives should be on the ballot for all positions being contested, in line with the strategy of affirmative action for gender equality.
From the open letter, we are reminded that “it is imperative to put forth the value of every human being regardless of status, over and beyond any logic of profit-making, domination or power capture.” Powerful words that inspire. Let it be done. “Now is the time!”
The eminent, concerned persons also remind us that “Africa has sufficient material and human resources to build a shared prosperity on an egalitarian basis and in respect of the dignity of each and everyone.”
The African Union, or its fifty-five (55) member states organizing elections cannot afford to have only male candidates, without female ones, to compete for top executive or legislative positions. Not only is the Pan-African Women’s Organization (PAWO) older than OAU/AU, but the continent and its diaspora have women capable of speaking for themselves, and on behalf of humanity.
It will be a flawed election, if at any level,“male domination or power capture”is allowed, at the exclusion of direct female representation. The female voice should be heard on its own account, by contesting leadership positions across the board.
Professional female contributions were instrumental in defeating the Ebolavirus pandemic in West Africa, and are proving indispensable to the current battle against the global Coronavirus pandemic. African women are also top contenders for running Global Organizations.They should equally be top contenders for running one of its regional pillars, mother Africa, or any member state. That is the Africa we want, and should have, for the benefit of humanity.
Most noteworthy, the principle of promoting gender equality is enshrined in the Union’s Constitutive Act.Let us walk the talk, together. Young African women, like those of the Diaspora who founded the Black Lives Matter movement, are already carrying the torch of this new wave.