December Issue 2014

Page 137

How can education aid the advancement of women's leadership and ultimately, that of Africa? One of the major challenges to leadership around the world is the lack of female representation in decision making spaces. This is a critical issue that affects many countries. Although there has been significant progress in many places to improve the gender disparity at leadership tables, more work has to be done to ensure that women are equally represented everywhere. Education is key determinant of a woman’s ability to make empowered decisions and research shows that inequalities in education for women in Africa is linked to increased chances of poverty and underdevelopment of communities. Furthermore, education is vital for the advancement of women into leadership positions on the continent. Education is the reason why Africans can celebrate the significant gains that women have made in breaking barriers at leadership tables. In recent years, the continent has seen two women heads of state in Malawi and Liberia, a female Prime Minister in Senegal, a female leader of the African Union, and the victory of nearly 64 percent of Rwanda’s parliament being women. Without access to quality education, these women would have been excluded from participating in the development of their countries and Africa as a whole, leaving governance to largely male dominated elites. The journey to becoming a leader in ones community and nation begins as a girl. Girl child education must be prioritized in order for African girls to become women leaders. Through educating young girls, cultural and social issues such as early marriage and pregnancy, which prevent girls from accessing quality education, decrease significantly. As a result, they are able to acquire the education and skills needed to improve their lives and become the next generation of leaders.