Taking Action to Advance Women Leaders in Africa | Wilson Center
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Taking Action to Advance Women Leaders in Africa

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While Africa’s history celebrates many women political leaders, former President of Malawi Dr. Joyce Banda argues that this rich tradition will only continue if policymakers, community leaders, and civil society take steps to advance those born to lead.

Building on her March 2017 publication "From Day One: An Agenda for Advancing Women Leaders in Africa," Dr. Banda released a toolkit that details how policymakers, civil society organizations, community leaders, and the international community can advance women's leadership in policy and political positions in Africa.

On July 17, the Women in Public Service Project and Africa Program at the Wilson Center hosted a conversation with Her Excellency Dr. Joyce Banda, former President of Malawi and Wilson Center Distinguished Fellow, and civil society leaders on how to advance women’s leadership in Africa. The conversation was moderated by Gwen K. Young, director of the Global Women’s Leadership Initiative and the Women in Public Service Project.

Key Quotes

Dr. Joyce Banda

“Income is key, business is key. When you bring income to the household, the women begin to make decisions and give the opportunity to the girl child to go to school.”

“When women become leaders, they focus on issues of women and children.”

“We need a toolkit to continue to fight for women’s participation in leadership because the continent of Africa has made good progress.”

“Now we know that it can be done. Therefore, we must run. We must be talking to our friends and partners [who] can help us accelerate that speed, making sure that we get as many women as possible into leadership.”

“I’m calling upon my fellow women to rise, to understand, to be counted, to fight, to change mindsets at [the] grassroots.”

“A change of mindset will be key for us to achieve the participation of women in leadership.”

“Women are risk-takers… They put their people first. It’s not about the votes, it’s about the people who gave them the mandate to lead in the first place.”

“Women believe in peace and in dialogue.”
Dr. Joannie Marlene Bewa

“Women’s leadership is not only about having great dreams, but also being able to have a strong ecosystem of alliances that can support [women] in implementing and guide women in decision-making.”

“As part of the African continent, we have values specific to ourselves that we don’t defend and we still believe in… This is a great opportunity for us to leverage [the] skills within this community of traditional religious leaders.” 
Karen Sherman

“Education is key to workforce outcome.”

“The woman earning an income is really a game-changer in the family and in the community. It changes how she’s treated, elevates her status. It gives her voice and agency within that family and within that community.”

Pape Samb

“We need to educate men to be a partner in empowering women… We need to educate men and young boys to understand how we define work in the household, how we define work in the economic market and in the social market.”

“Within our government, we should start having a network of men advocating for women.”



  • Joyce Banda

    Distinguished Fellow
    Former President of Malawi