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Women’s Access to Power and Decision-Making in Africa: Addressing Obstacles and Offering Solutions

Women’s Access to Power and Decision-Making in Africa: Addressing Obstacles and Offering Solutions Cover
Women’s Access to Power and Decision-Making in Africa: Addressing Obstacles and Offering Solutions Cover

There is widespread agreement that equal access to power and decision-making for men and women is fundamental to representative and responsive governance. This has been highlighted in governance and development discourses against a background of women’s unequal and limited access to public office. Women’s substantive representation in political positions is crucial to closing the gender gap in decision-making structures. Within Africa, tremendous strides have been made towards improving women’s political inclusion in recent years. This has resulted in significant and record-breaking milestones that have seen women assume various positions of power. Such achievements have taken place within the continent’s relatively short history of democratic governance.

At the same time however, many African countries still lag behind in improving access to power and decision-making for women as women generally continue to face well-known challenges that threaten their effective participation in politics and government. Addressing such challenges requires committed and sustainable efforts that involve key actors at all levels of society. This policy brief highlights the current situation on women’s access to power in Africa, the challenges that need to be addressed to allow for more access, and offers relevant recommendations for African and US policymakers.

Rhoda Osei-Afful is a Southern Voices African Research Scholar with the Africa Program at The Wilson Center. Rhoda is also a Research Officer with the Ghana Centre for Democratic Development (CDDGhana) where she works mostly on elections and gender-related projects. Ms. Osei-Afful is a member of the research team for the Gender and Political Settlement research stream of the University of Manchester-based Effective States and Inclusive Development Research Project (ESID), for which she just concluded initial field work. She is also a key member of CDD-Ghana’s Election Team and was the lead officer for the Center’s Ghana Election 2012 Observation Project which saw the nationwide deployment of over 4,000 domestic elections observers during Ghana’s last elections. Ms. Osei-Afful has also supported the implementation of various projects for the CDD-Ghana including the Transparency and Accountability Project (TAP) and the Local Democratic Debate Project. Ms. Osei-Afful holds a MPhil in International Affairs from the Legon Centre for International Affairs (LECIA), University of Ghana and a BA in Sociology and Political Science from the same university. She also holds a Certificate in International Election Observation from the Kofi Annan International Peace-Keeping Training Center (KAIPTC) based in Accra.

For more thoughts by Rhoda Osei-Afful, please visit our blog, Africa Up Close, here.

This is Research Paper No. 5 of The Southern Voices Network publication series.


About the Author

Rhoda Osei-Afful

Former Southern Voices African Research Scholar;
Research Officer, Ghana Center for Democratic Development

Africa Program

The Africa Program works to address the most critical issues facing Africa and US-Africa relations, build mutually beneficial US-Africa relations, and enhance knowledge and understanding about Africa in the United States. The Program achieves its mission through in-depth research and analyses, public discussion, working groups, and briefings that bring together policymakers, practitioners, and subject matter experts to analyze and offer practical options for tackling key challenges in Africa and in US-Africa relations.    Read more