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  • Print publication year: 2008
  • Online publication date: January 2011

6 - In Pursuit of Equal Political Representation


One of the most remarkable changes since the mid-1990s in Africa has been the rise of women political leaders. Rwanda claimed the world's highest ratio of women in parliament in 2003, with close to 49 percent of its seats held by women. Mozambique has 35 percent of its legislative seats held by women, and in many other African countries today, women hold over one-third of the parliamentary seats. There have been six female prime ministers since the mid-1990s and women Speakers of the House in Ethiopia, Lesotho, Gambia, Nigeria, and South Africa.

Liberia's Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf became the first elected woman president in Africa in 2005 and there have been two unelected female heads of state since 1995. Until the 1990s, it was virtually unheard of for women to run for the presidency in Africa. In the 1990s, women ran for the top executive office in the Central African Republic, Kenya, and Liberia. Since 2000, increasing numbers of women have run for office in about half the presidential elections held in Africa.

Six women have held the position of vice/deputy president. Uganda's Wandera Specioza Kazibwe became the first female vice president in Africa in 1993 and served for close to ten years. Women are also visible at the cabinet level; they are heading up key ministries and are no longer relegated only to the ministries of women, education, health, youth, and community development as they were in the past.