World leaders asked to double investment on reproductive health

World leaders must double investments on reproductive health to accelerate progress in attaining universal access by 2015, the Global Leaders Council for Reproductive Health has urged.

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The Arab Spring, Islamists and North African Women

The popular uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt appear to have set the stage for a wave of women’s activism in Africa, with a fresh demand for freedom and dignity.

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The 50 Women shaping Africa

Africa’s women are pushing their way to the top, from courageous political decision makers to cultural trend setters and hard-nosed bankers to pioneering activists: this is their century

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Onion Tears? by Shubnum Khan -- South Africa

?In the masterfully written Onion Tears, Shubnum Khan carefully examines the ties that bind three generations of South African Indian Muslim women

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Ghana: A third woman candidate in presidential race

Women do not shy away from political power in Ghana. After the former First Lady Nana Konadu Agyeman Rawlings, and the daughter of the "founding father", Samiah Nkrumah declared their interest in the presidency, Akua Donkor, a virtually unknown woman in the west African country's political sphere has entered the race.


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Is microfinance working in South Africa?

In an investigation into one microfinance recipient in South Africa, Khadija Sharife asks whether microfinance is helping families out of poverty or merely plunging them into debt    

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Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie on Ama Ata Aidoo

The Nigerian writer says she feels a "deep gratitude to" Ghana's Ata Aidoo as part of our series asking African writers to pay homage to their literary legends.  

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A day in the life of Rapadama, Burkina Faso

Big decisions must be taken in first day of the life baby Zu-Noogo, born in a village in central Burkina Faso.

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Free female contraception

Idea number six on our list of 11 ideas for Africa in 2011 is to let women take control

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Côte d'Ivoire vs North Korea - Development Scorecard

Both North Korea and Côte d'Ivoire face international sanctions, a big government deficit and food insecurity. Read the last in our series of development scorecards. 


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Graça Machel: 'All of us must work for women's empowerment'

Women are one of Africa’s greatest assets. To many of us, this is self evident. But resources need to be put in place and practical solutions found to banish gender inequality.

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Lindiwe Mthembu: Why I voted for JZ


The elections are over, and the slogan ‘JGM Zuma for President’ is history. This election stirred up passions, and many abroad have wondered how we could have voted in such large numbers for Zuma. Here is my story.?

Let me take Zuma’s name first. ‘Jacob’ we know. But what about the ‘G’? It stands for Gedleyihlekisa, meaning ‘one who is crafty when faced with conniving people’ or ‘one who is cunning’. Then the ‘M’. This is for Mhlanganyelwa, meaning ‘one who is attacked by everyone, from all fronts’. How appropriate! Zuma has been attacked on all fronts, but he has been crafty, and here he is, the President of our country. If he had gone to court, a lot of other high-powered characters would have gone down with him and I am not sure our country could have stood that. Thank God that is over and we can move on.


?A poet from Zuma’s home village of Nkandla has written words which roughly translate as follows: ‘Those who sent hunting dogs to finish you [Zuma] off, those hounds turned on your attackers instead... Yes, there were two bulls, one that was ready to attack you down back to oppression... using weapons that are made of shields designed for cowards... an attack turned to an advantageous aromatic flavour for you, bestowing on us as guitarists and poets a good reason to hail your victory.’


?Today, we in South Africa are a liberated nation, but it has been a hard battle. Thabo Mbeki and Nelson Mandela before him laid a solid foundation for reconciliation and liberation in our country. Importantly, they brought women into power and this tradition continues. There will be four ANC women provincial premiers serving under Zuma.??


Zuma is continuing his predecessors’ efforts at transformation. Indeed, I voted ANC to help accomplish my life-time goal of eradicating racism in our country. We all want security and safety in our lives, and the ANC is waging that struggle as we sing with Zuma ‘awuleth umshini’ (‘Bring my machine gun’). Back during apartheid, machine guns were needed to fight the system, and we used them. But now, the machine we are handing Comrade Zuma is a different one, one that can consolidate our goals and improve our lives.??


When I voted ANC, I was not just voting Zuma because he is proudly Zulu, as am I. That would be to undermine my intelligence. But I do celebrate that the ANC has triumphed in KwaZulu-Natal against the Inkatha Freedom Party and believe Zuma played a vital role in this, perhaps finally convincing the world that not all Zulus are chauvinist tribalists prepared to engage in ‘black on black’ killings.?


The ANC is a collective. It fired Mbeki, and it can fire Zuma if he does not deliver as expected. As for all the breakaway parties, like the Pan Africanist Congress, Inkatha and the Congress of the People, well, all the best to them. That is democracy and it helped motivate me to wear a Zuma t-shirt. It caused a stir and frown from ANC-foes but not for the 65% who voted ANC.?


In fact, since the 1994 vote, I have never felt so positive and determined as an ANC supporter. It did not matter to me that the ANC did not reach a two-thirds majority. Our victory was great anyway. I salute Mbeki who did great work despite his faults, and I love the fact that the ANC is able to admit weaknesses and make changes where necessary.


?I live in a predominantly white village near Cape Town, where most people voted for the opposition. My t-shirt seems to stir their paranoia. One neighbour said I had Zumified my chest. I answered that I had ANC’d my vote! I saw no reason to keep it a secret. Even if Zuma is a sinner, as it is alleged, are we not taught to condemn the sin but love the sinner? I am not committed to agreeing with everything Zuma does, just as I did not with Mbeki. But as with other ANC voters, I proudly saluted the comrade with my X. I do not feel guilty for being in the family of the ANC. Every family has dirty linen. We are washing ours and moving on. 


Lindiwe Mthembu is a South African writer and journalist


Helping women in Africa's battle against HIV/AIDS


The world is increasingly calling for justice and peace for women, pleading for equality and denouncing violence against them. But as all this unfolds, we are still faced with startling facts about the vulnerability of women to HIV infection, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa, where 61% of adults living with AIDS are women.?


Women bear the bulk of the burden of care, even though they may themselves be infected with HIV or indeed ill. We know that these efforts largely go unnoticed, unrecognised and unrewarded. These heroic contributions by women have been a significant factor in the prevention of the further spread of HIV. Women have taken steps to seek information for themselves, their families and communities, through involvement in home-based care services, peer education and widow support groups. ?


However, women need to do much more to mobilise their communities to change those aspects of culture that put them at risk of infection. This can only succeed with the full participation of all community members – traditional leaders and all other agents of socialisation, including men.


?One of the prime drivers of the epidemic is gender inequality and violence against women. One in every four women will experience sexual violence at the hands of an intimate partner. Although this issue is increasingly claiming space at national, regional and international forums, countries are not developing indicators to measure progress in this area. This is what women should demand. ??


Violence against women is also fuelled by the language used to describe it. Reframing communication is crucial. It is somewhat ‘acceptable’ to ignore violence against women if it is labelled a ‘domestic dispute’ because people feel that there would be an element of intrusion if they intervened. This attitude is often demonstrated when women report violence that has taken place at home: often law enforcement agencies attempt to ‘reconcile’ instead of prosecuting the perpetrator. The solution lies in a communication strategy that speaks to women as well as men. Women must be empowered not to tolerate violence and men must realise that they do not have to be violent in order to be men.


?Poverty fuels the spread of HIV in many ways. Women must hold governments to invest more to ensure that significant progress is made towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals to reduce poverty. Its alleviation, and women’s economic empowerment, have the potential to enable women to negotiate safer sex and contribute to the reduction of the spread of HIV.


?Women also need to demand tools that they can use to protect themselves against infection. They must call for more accessibility of female condoms, which can be used by women living with HIV who do not wish to fall pregnant and also to protect non-HIV partners. ?


What can be done? Imposing recommendations that promote gender equality as conditionality for grants goes against the tenets on which the Global Fund was created. When it comes to influencing patriarchal systems and gender equalities, it can only give out information and guidelines in proposal application forms on the availability of funds to target women and girls. However, the challenge is for countries themselves to put women’s issues at the centre of their programmes against AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. ?


In the short term, countries can support women providing care in Africa by compensating them for taking on a disproportionate burden of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. This is not too far-fetched. Nutritional and financial support is already being given to the families of orphaned and vulnerable children as a response to the HIV/AIDS crisis. A study done in Zambia and Malawi shows that approximately 70% of the beneficiary households of social cash-transferring schemes seem to be HIV/AIDS-affected, even though the schemes do not use HIV/AIDS as a criterion. Targeting households where women are the care-givers may bring more success than attempting to reconstruct gender roles and sexual independence in the first instance. Changing the mindset is a long-haul problem.

It is critically important that society create an environment for women to be supported in their efforts to demand their basic human rights and freedom from acts of violence. In this effort, the joint contribution of men, institutions and all agencies should be marshalled for maximum results.


Elizabeth N. Mataka is Vice-chair, The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria



Women, the motor of development

"If you want your husband to respect you, you have to study and work hard”

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