Women’s rights have not only been a hot topic around the world but they are increasingly discussed in numerous forums around Africa. From education to technology Africa is looking at how women can contribute to their communities and create change.
The “Pink Potential Initiative” focuses on the impact women in Africa are making in the area of technology. With this initiative they are bringing women to the forefront of IT in sub-Saharan Africa. The project organised by Techno Brain brought over 100 women together from the IT industry in order to help “mentor, inspire and network to wrap their minds around topical issues affecting the IT woman in the 21st century”.
This initiative is bringing women in Africa into the spotlight ensuring they have an influence over how the future of Africa is formed. It is one example of the progress that Africa is making in regards to the fifth Sustainable Development Goal (SDG); achieving gender equality and empowering all women and girls.
Times are changing not only in Africa but elsewhere, women and girls are being understood as instigators to end the vicious cycle of poverty. The Girl Effect, is an organization dedicated to demonstrating how through a few simple steps, such as finishing high school, girls can have a huge impact of their lives, their families and their communities.
One major issue that affects all young women is access to female healthcare. Earlier last month The Conversation published a piece centering around the fact that many girls in Kenya feel they cannot participate in school when they are menstruating. In the piece Sarah Jewitt of the University of Nottingham wrote that many girls in Kenya “don’t have proper sanitary wear or don’t have underwear to hold sanitary pads in place. The bathrooms at their schools are not clean or hygienic.”
This is not an issue that only affects girls in Kenya. Throughout Africa this is a common problem that contributes to health complications as well as academic issues.
News of Rwanda reported data from the World Bank which demonstrates that in Rwanda 20 percent of girls may miss up to 50 days of school a year due to improper sanitary care. The news agency continued by siting the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) which stated that one in 10 girls in Africa (mostly in remote areas) tend to miss school due to menstruation and this can even cause them to drop out.
A student in the Ngoma district, Eastern Province of Rwanda told News Rwanda “my mother could not afford sanitary pads for me to take to school. This made me feel humiliated going to school during my periods. Same issue happened to my classmates.”
Efforts are being made to progress women’s rights on the African continent along with making issues affecting women something that everyone is aware of. So long as these topics of discussion continue to circulate amongst the media as well as on the grassroots level the SDGs pertaining to women and girls seem like they may be achievable on the African continent. The international community knows that dialogue and action needs to continue and it seems that many around the world and particularly in Africa are putting every effort into enabling women to access their basic needs and human rights.
However, it goes far beyond that, Africa is a continent of extremes – from simply enabling girls to gain a full education to women becoming some of the leading actors in IT in the region. One can see that women and access to their rights leads to more than just being able to complete their high school years without being held back due to menstruation. It can lead to a place in which women and men are working together to create a powerhouse of innovation.