By Hassan Isilow
African countries on Thursday marked the International Women’s Day with a pledge to reduce gender inequality by allowing women to participate more in politics and other fields.
“Each district (in Uganda) has a seat reserved for a woman representative in parliament,” President Yoweri Museveni said in a televised address on the occasion of the International women’s Day in Mityana district, Central Uganda.
Museveni, who has been ruling Uganda since 1986, said his government has fought discrimination against women by passing laws which empower them.
“Women are the base of society but for unknown reasons the traditional society marginalized women,” he said amid cheers from the crowd.
In most traditional African societies, women used to be considered as mere house wives and had lesser rights compared to men.
However, perceptions have changed over time and women can now compete with men in seeking formal employment or other opportunities.
Uganda, Rwanda and South Africa, have one of the highest numbers of women representatives in parliament on the continent.
In Kenya, human rights organizations condemned sexual and gender based violence and other crimes committed against women in the post-election period.
“Say no to sexual and gender-based violence in electoral conflict situations,” The Kenyan National Commission on Human Rights said in a statement.
“South Africa has made great strides since the advent of democracy (in 1994) to advance and affirm women as part of building a non-racial, non-sexist, prosperous and united country,” President Cyril Ramaphosa said in his International women’s Day message.
He urged South Africa to work together in improving the status of women in the economy by ensuring that they achieve gender parity. “Women must be equally represented in the workplace and must receive equal pay."
Ramaphosa also urged South Africans to tackle the economic and social factors that prevent young women from completing school and accessing further education.
Meanwhile, Nigeria's first lady Aisha Buhari used the day to condemn perpetrators of abductions and various harmful practices against women and girls.
For Nigeria, Buhari said, the day must be marked with a difference considering the sad incidence of the abduction of girls, especially the case of Chibok and Dapchi.
“As a mother, I share the sorrow and agony of the parents at this time, it is my sincere hope that efforts by government will soon lead to their release.” She said.
Meanwhile, women in war-torn South Sudan have called on the government to take adequate steps in addressing the rights of women and bridge gender gap in the East African young nation.
Zenaib Yassin, the chairperson of South Sudan Women Association, said the country’s progress can only be achieved if gender equality is at the center of all development initiatives and secured at all levels in society.
* Magdalene Mukami in Nairobi, Parach Mach in Juba and Rafiu Ajakaye in Lagos contributed to this story.