Inspiration for the next generation of women leaders
More and more women are paving the way for young girls to become leaders in their own communities. We hear about the accomplishments of African women every day – from the daily work of women on the front lines against the pandemic to the elevation of others into influential and responsible positions. At this significant time in the history of the global trading system, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, former Nigerian Minister of Finance, former World Bank Group executive and non-resident prestigious Brookings Africa Growth Initiative grantee, became the first woman and the first African to head the World Trade Organization. We also note the appointment of Monique Nsanzabaganwa, former Deputy Governor of the Rwandan Central Bank, as the first female Vice-Chairperson of the African Union, responsible for implementing much-needed reforms to support Africa’s further path to greater solidarity and integration.
So in the 2021 edition of our flagship report Foresight Africa, The Brookings Africa Growth Initiative has chosen to highlight the transformative leadership of women – in leadership roles, at the forefront of the pandemic, and in everyday life – by opening each chapter with a distinctive quote from an important woman.
To celebrate this year’s International Women’s Day, the Brookings Africa Growth Initiative asked women leaders to reflect on the challenges facing young women and share their thoughts on how we can more effectively encourage and empower young women and girls to become leaders themselves. Every woman was approached for this purpose because she went against all odds and rose to great heights in her communities, on the continent and on the global stage. Below are the answers from these inspiring women.
Rt. Sweetheart. Winnie Kiiza
Former opposition leader, Parliament of Uganda
Although women are pushing for leadership positions, our communities stand firm against women in leadership positions. Too often they (the patriarchy) find women too sensitive to lead. This trend, along with many other deep-seated and unconscious gender biases, is forcing potential female leaders to withdraw into their shells. However, women naturally possess powerful traits that can help them lead more effectively.
As female leaders, we should and can operate under the existing patriarchal system by sharing our achievements and ambitions to guide and shape our communities’ perception of the ability of women and to provide a source of inspiration for women to grow beyond gender Bias and fear.
President, Women in Africa Initiative
Africa’s girls and women will benefit most from making their continent a place that unleashes its enormous potential. I seek guidance from them. So many live on the fringes of society, in the shadow and shadow economies, in community associations, in peer lending groups. They are not integrated into the economy or government institutions. It is high time they did. In fact, we’ll talk about Africa’s potential until this army of changemakers takes over. They can and must connect their companies to the economy and anchor the state in their lively communities. You can create an Africa that will become the best expression of the development of a continent. Africa was the cradle of civilization. Tomorrow it can be a leader in a globalized world.
Dr. Frannie Léautier
Senior Partner and CEO, SouthBridge Investments
This year we should celebrate more women in leadership positions than any other year. The COVID-19 pandemic has fallen heavily on women. Many have lost their livelihood. Most have a threefold duty: they look after families, run households and withhold economic activities. And some, as caregivers and key service providers, have taken the brunt of the pandemic. Still others have stepped up to solve challenges in their communities as well. We should get our young women to realize that they already have superpowers that they can rely on to solve and lead problems – locally, nationally and internationally. You should trust these superpowers of observation, listening, and learning; Empathy with others; experiment and persevere when doing the difficult; and crystallizing lessons into actions that bring about systemic change. But most importantly, we should encourage them not to be afraid of dreaming big or starting small, as finding solutions to the daily problems we and our communities face can lead to major changes in the world.
Arunma Oteh, OON
Former Treasurer, World Bank
Leveraging Africa’s phenomenal female leadership is critical to “moving better” post COVID-19. Indeed, African women display important leadership qualities such as courage, compassion, character, and empathy when given the opportunity. They are also able to successfully cope with complex situations because they are authentic, collaborative, rigorous, result-oriented and self-sacrificing. All of these are attributes that society needs today in order to rebuild itself after the greatest crisis of our lives and to end the double challenges of poverty and inequality. I am optimistic that if we employ men and women, young and old alike, we can turn a multi-faceted crisis into opportunities that will unleash Africa’s enormous potential.
For more information on women in leadership positions and the unique obstacles they face, visit the recent Brookings event. “Women and Leadership” with the new Director General of the World Trade Organization Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and the former Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard.
See the blog “5 ways women are driving Africa’s transformation and contributing to a global resetBy Winnie Byanyima and Caroline Kende-Robb to learn about the remarkable role women play in Africa’s long-term recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Strategies on how to put women and girls at the center of the COVID-19 response can be found on the blog of Mamta Murthi from the World Bank, “Put girls at the center of the response to the COVID-19 pandemic in Africa.”
In addition, you will learn more about the pressing challenges women and girls face under COVID-19 in Damaris Parsitaus Outlook Africa 2021 Position, “Invisible life, missing voices: putting women and girls at the center of recovery and recovery after COVID-19.”
Finally, every chapter of this year’s Foresight Africa The report begins with a striking quote from an eminent woman who emphasizes the transformative leadership of women – in leadership roles, at the forefront of the pandemic, and in everyday life. You can find all of these reflections here.