Breaking Societal and cultural norms while embracing female leadership

“The higher you go, the fewer women there are.” Those were the words of a Kenyan female politician and a Noble Peace Prize winner, Wangari Maathai.

“The higher you go, the fewer women there are.” Those were the words of a Kenyan female politician and a Noble Peace Prize winner, Wangari Maathai. Well, numbers also speak for themselves. In a world of 195 countries, women lead only 11. Even worse, in our beautiful continent there is just 1 female president out of 54 countries. In a society that sees women as emotional, this is also equated to weakness. However, female leadership has a beauty of its own, capable of expressing empathy and love, nourished by being emotional. We have example female leaders who are transforming the world during the COVID-19 crisis: The countries that could best manage this crisis are countries led by women such as Taiwan, Finland, Germany and New Zealand.

Let us look at female leadership in the agricultural sector within Africa: Women form about 60-80% of the labor force, yet most of them can´t own lands. This fact has limited their productivity and has contributed to the challenge of owning their own agribusinesses. A married woman in a rural community can´t start a business without the permission of her husband, and most times, her husband will prefer her to stay home and care for their children. If women were more empowered in the agricultural sector, then the world would be a place with less hunger. Because empowering a woman and permitting her to lead her own business in the agricultural field will not only put food on the table, but it will also better her family´s living conditions and enable her to actively take part in growing the country´s economy.

Molding young African women to become leaders is not an easy task. It implies unlearning all societal and cultural norms that hinder her from being the best version of herself. Norms such as having to sacrifice future careers over being good housewives, not being too ambitious and not taking part in decision-making. Furthermore, current government policies that favor women and provide financial support are not enough to empower young women! We need the society to change its mindset and attitude towards women as potential leaders.

I am an advocate of female leadership and as an attempt to empower girls and support them in the process of becoming leaders, I started a project called, My African Womanhood. The project aims to educate girls and women about menstrual management, sexual health, to promote women empowerment in the agricultural sector and female leadership. Further, I create room for discussions where girls can freely express their doubts regarding sexual health topics. At the end of 2019, I was able to impact the lives of about 200 girls in Cameroon and 100 women by training them on how to use sustainable menstrual products. Today, I run a business in Cameroon and Costa Rica where we sell sustainable menstrual products such as reusable pads and menstrual cups. I also participate as a panelist in webinars where I tell my story and encourage women to find their seat at the leadership table.

By Brenda Bih Chi (Cameroon) 
Student at EARTH University
Founder of My African Womanhood

August 2020 – AL for Agribusiness Network

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