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'Change, slut shamed, equality': African leaders speak out on IWD

'Change, slut shamed, equality': African leaders speak out on IWD
The World Trade Organization made history in 2021 when it named Nigeria's Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala as its chief.   -  
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ERIC BARADAT/AFP or licensors -

International Women's Day (IWD)

As the world marks International Women's Day on Monday 8 March, African leaders have sent their messages of support.

Africanews takes a look at how both male and female leaders, former leaders and key players in Africa have reflected on the day.

The United Nations says the world has made unprecedented advances, but no country has achieved gender equality.

This year's theme is “Women in Leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 World.”

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala

While there may not be gender equality in any country, the World Trade Organization made history in 2021 when it named Nigeria's Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala as its chief, becoming the first woman and first African to lead the trade body.

In a tweet, she said: "Happy to spend my first #IWD with women & men of the @WTO focusing on impact of the pandemic on women & how trade and investment can bring solutions."

Okonjo-Iweala previously spent 25 years with the World Bank and two terms as Nigerian Finance Minister.

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

The former president of Liberia and the first female president on the continent said in a tweet: "Women leaders around the world have stepped up to the challenge of leading their communities and countries over the last year.

"On #IWD2021, let us reflect on all that they have achieved—and discuss how to catalyze further change."

Monica Geingo

Namibia's first lady came out with a strong message in a video on Facebook saying she had received abuse from people and had been "slut shamed", called ugly, stupid, fat and over-ambitious.

She says she was also asked, "when or if my husband is going to impregnate me".

Disrespecting women is an important enabler of gender-based violence as it reduces women to objects, she added.

"We must never forget that sexism aims to promote traditional beliefs about women's roles when you don't act within that norm you must be adequately shamed to remind you that you are not special and you are falling short of patriarchal stories," she said, urging people to speak out against verbal abuse.

The African Union

The bloc's Commission chairperson, Moussa Faki Mahamat, said gender equality and female empowerment was one of the African Union's priorities.

But he acknowledged that girls and women are the primary victims of the conflicts and crises afflicting Africa.

“Equality and the empowerment of women are seen as factors for the development of African women, as an opportunity to get them out of their deplorable conditions, made up of violence, exclusion and prejudice,” he said in a statement.

Denise Nyakeru Tshisekedi

The Democratic Republic of Congo's first lady is a champion defender of women's rights with the foundation that bears her name, which fights against gender-based violence.

"The work of the fight against sexual violence in my country and in Africa in general and requires all our involvement. Each of us, wherever we are, can make a contribution," she told Africanews.

Read more: International Women's Day: DRC'S First Lady on COVID and leadership

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka

The South African became the first female deputy president of South Africa and is now the under-secretary of the United Nations and the executive director of the UN Women.

"The future is better with women at the table," she said in a Tweet.

"Women leaders have been underrepresented, undervalued and undermined for far too long."

African First Ladies Peace Mission

"Today on International Women's Day, we celebrate the many achievements of women and girls in Africa and across the globe," Dr Mairo Al-Makura , Special Assistant to the President of Nigeria on African First Ladies Peace Mission, said in a statement.

But the body warned the pandemic is threatening to reverse the gains that have been made.

"The pandemic has disproportionally impacted women in many areas, particularly gender-based violence.

"To ensure that the Covid-19 response and recovery acknowledges their realities, women need to have a seat at the decision-making table."

Cyril Ramaphosa

The South African President said women have played a "pivotal role" in the country's response.

Ali Bongo Ondimba

Gabon's President said in a tweet: “Guaranteeing women’s rights is in everyone’s interest. It is not only a question of social justice but also of efficiency. To develop, Gabon needs all their skills.”