When African Presidents, Heads of State and Prime Ministers arrive in New York this year for the General Assembly meeting, they will find that the African Missions to the UN have turned into the proverbial "old boy's club." Of course, you have to understand that the continent itself is governed exclusively by men, with the exception of Liberia, where President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is the only female President in the continent. It is quite a sad situation. I remember when there used to be quite a few female African Permanent Representatives to the United Nations, but today, the number has dwindled to only two. Only the most populous country in Africa and the smallest, Nigeria and the Gambia, have female Permanent Representatives.
Prof. Joy Ogwu is the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotenciary and Permanent Representative of Nigeria to the United Nations. She is a former Foreign Minister and the Director-General of the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs. The other is Ambassador Susan Waffa-Ogoo of The Gambia, who is also a Permanent Representative to the United Nations. She had earlier served as Minister for Trade, Industry and Employment; Minister for Tourism and Culture; Minister for Fisheries, Natural Resources and the Environment; Minister for Tourism and Culture; and Minister of Information and Tourism. Even in the diplomatic staffing of these Missions, the men dominate in an extraordinary way. Even Nigeria, with a female Ambassador, has no female in the upper echelons of the Mission. Of the 8 posts of "Minister" or the 4 posts of "Minister Counsellor", none of them is held by a female.
The African Union, which has been advocating the issue of gender equality in Africa is more in tune with objectives of gender equality. Of the eight Commissioners at the Addis Ababa office, about 5 are women. At the New York office of the African Union Permanent Observer office to the UN, of the 8 senior staff apart from the Ambassador, there are 4 females.
Of all the African military advisers attached to the Missions to the UN, none is a woman. An observation here: even in the so-called developed countries, their missions are basically dominated by men. But one area Africans could be proud of, is our ambassadorial group in Washington, DC, where there are about 9 to 12 African female Ambassadors. That's a lot more than the two in New York.
So, why the empty platitudes of African leaders about tackling the issue of gender equality? Is it just a game being played by the "old boys' club," or the usual African empty promises about doing something and choosing to let it slide away without doing anything about it? What of the so-called "Solemn Declaration on Gender Equality in Africa,” by the African Union?
Here's what the African Union had to say about the Solemn Declaration: "At the Third Ordinary Session of the African Union (AU) Assembly of Heads of State and Government in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in July 2004, the Heads of State and Government adopted the Solemn Declaration on Gender Equality in Africa (SDGEA) . The Declaration is an important African instrument for promoting gender equality and women's empowerment as it strengthens African ownership of the gender equality agenda and keeps the issues alive at the highest political level in Africa. Through the Solemn Declaration, Heads of State and Government commit themselves to report annually on progress towards gender equality. In addition, the Chairperson of the AU Commission is expected to submit an annual report to the Assembly on progress made in the implementation of the Solemn Declaration as well as on the state of gender equality and gender mainstreaming at the national and regional levels.
To assist Member States in its reporting responsibly, the Ministers Responsible for Women's Affairs and Gender, at their First AU Conference held in Dakar, Senegal in October 2005 adopted two documents, namely the Implementation Framework for the Solemn Declaration on Gender Equality in Africa (SDGEA) and the Guidelines for Monitoring and Reporting on the SDGEA."
I am sure you are going to ask what is the concern of the African Sun Times, or Onyeani for that matter, in trying to rile our womenfolk about being mistreated by the menfolk. Okay, I hate people who make promises and don't keep them. The African Presidents or Heads of State have made promises to correct the inequality between the sexes in Africa, they should keep that promise. If they are not going to do it, there is no need making empty promises. On the other hand, it is our womenfolk who have to mount pressure on their respective Presidents to correct the imbalance in appointments to our diplomatic missions abroad, especially to the United Nations. The excuse that their husbands don't like to play the spouse is not a valid excuse anymore.
The African Sun Times
Sept 15, 2011