Which African leaders qualify as an icon? Perhaps this is always a controversial question, but it was much easier to answer, say, 25 years ago, when the public memories of Pan-Africanist champions such as Kwame Nkrumah and Julius Nyerere were still fresh, Nelson Mandela had just walked out of prison, and Robert Mugabe was a widely respected leader.
Jacinta Victoria talks to Mariamu as she recounts how women like herself have progressively come to ‘have a say’ in Msambweni’s elections, a context where matrilineal organization has historically transformed, while at the same time provides potential space for women to pursue authority over particular social, economic and political relations.
This edition of Perspectives contributes to the ongoing debate on infrastructure development in Africa by sharing snapshots of experience from around the continent, exploring questions about democratic participation, the role of human and environmental rights, and economic transformation.
What do Borana women in Mathare think about elections and mainstream political processes? What spaces do they use to intervene in both constituency-based and national politics, if at all? How do their situated and connected experiences of poverty, patriarchy and ethnicity impact their political practices?
Informed by the discussions at an international conference jointly organised by the German Development Institute, the Heinrich Böll Foundation and Stanford University on “Emerging Power or Fading Star? South Africa’s Role on the Continent and Beyond”, held 12–14 July 2016 in Cape Town, the articles gathered in this edition of Perspectives shed light on some of the nuances and challenges that define South Africa’s place in the world today.
Activists, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and social movements across the world are facing verbal hostility from politicians, new laws and regulations that curtail their ability to operate, and outright violence. Africa is no exception.
Actual transformation of gender relations is painfully slow. Women in Kenya continue to suffer the brunt of poverty, illiteracy and exclusion from decision making. And men’s voices are largely missing from the equality dialogue. There seems to be political reluctance and resistance to reforming the system of governance in order to increase representation of women in public life.
When you write about Africa, make sure to always include sad and starving characters, advises Kenyan author Binyavanga Wainana in his famously ironic essay “How to write about Africa”, which takes aim at Western prejudices. In the same way that everyday laughter has been excluded from all-too-familiar depictions of the continent, African humour and satire as a form of social and political engagement remains underexplored.
Over the last five decades, successive African governments have promised their citizens dignity, equality, human rights and a better life. However, progress to achieve these ideals remains hampered in various respects, of which gender inequality is undoubtedly one of the most severe.