Female politicians hold the key to beginning a true discourse about gender equality. However, with the rise of female politicians around the globe, is this a possibility? For ten years, the global community has promoted gender equality and female empowerment in the developing world through the Millennium Developmental Goals (MDGs), and those goals have not been met. However, even as critics take aim at this failure, women have been able to rise to parliamentary and governmental positions in less advanced countries. In South Africa, Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma has been elected chairwoman of the African Union commission. While her success is hailed as a major gain for the country and may well signify a trend towards female leaders throughout Africa, more work must be done. Critics assert that MDGs are not universal enough or multi-dimensional. The Ghanaian government, aware of this problem, has identified that true gender equality has been hindered due to a lack of resources to enforce gender equality policies, few reports and data regarding progress, and scarce indicators that can be monitored regularly with technology.
The problem lies in the following: there is a lack of researchers and resources being funneled to the steady observation of this goal, and any such observations are rarely relayed to governments in the forms of realistic policy solutions. Even so, some believe that quantitative data may be the wrong indicator for governments to use to formulate policy. Instead, ground level research may be needed to help government officials understand the complexity of the plight of women, especially those in the rural classes. One factor of gender equality, maternal health, is steadily monitored by international organizations. However, the funneling of resources does not account for poor record keeping practices and diffrences in access to those resources depending on whether women reside in urban or rural locales. It leaves one to question whether such goals and resources are allocated in a realistic manner. Additionally, why aren’t politicians creating a platform for women to voice their concerns in order for proper changes to be made?
Another issue concerns women in power and how they allocate their time to gender issues and amplifying the resonance of the female voice. During Dr. Dlamini-Zuma’s inaugural speech, she did not make a single reference to women or gender equality. Instead, her speech emphasized Africa’s role in the market for natural resources and the endemic poverty, solvable through strategies for economic development. How can women ensure that their voice is heard when governing officials of such standing are not calling for discussion on these issues? While her comments regarding economic development are crucial to the future of Africa in the world economy, women’s inequality is intertwined with issues of poverty, and hinders many developing countries from gaining public health of similar quality to one in more developed regions. The question remains whether the Africa of tomorrow will actually achieve the MDGs regarding women; while women have gained government offices, these women must urge populations to begin the needed discourse to reach true gender equality. Only then will the countries be able to identify the hindrances to this goal in order to asses proper solutions to gender inequality in Africa.