Women have made remarkable progress in Africa, but there is still “some serious work to do in Africa and across the globe”, US First Lady Michelle Obama told young African leaders in Washington on Wednesday, stressing further that Africa’s future lay with women-run businesses as well as girls attaining tertiary education.
“In many countries in Africa, women have made tremendous strides. More girls are attending school,” said Mrs Obama, who told a group of 500 young African leaders – participants at the inaugural Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders. That “with leaders like you who are making those dreams possible” Africa’s future is bright.
She noted that women now start and run businesses on the continent. Maternal mortality has also reduced greatly. “More women are serving in parliaments than ever before,” she adds.
Obama however warned that the progress enjoyed in Africa could be derailed if the continent fails to stamp out practices like segregation in the workplace.
“A century ago, women in America weren’t allowed to vote, and decades ago, it was perfectly legal for employers to refuse to hire women,” the First Lady gave as an example.
She noted that this has changed as people of conscience stood up and rejected “these unjust practices”. The results of those hard-fought battles are evident today – 60 percent of college students today are women. Women also make up more than half the workforce, and women’s employment has added nearly $2-trillion to the U.S. economy in recent decades, Mrs Obama said.
The US First Lady expects African women to continue working hard to sustain the growth of the continent by getting more involved in key sectors of its economy.