By Natsai D. Mhosva
On the 15th of September the world commemorated International Day of Democracy. The subject of this year’s theme ‘Strengthening Voices for Democracy’ aimed to shine a spotlight on the importance of people’s voices, both expressed directly and through their elected representatives, in today’s political, economic, social, development, environmental and technological debates. The ability of people to raise their voices and decide how they are governed lies at the heart of democracy.
What does democracy mean in today’s world? And what is the responsibility that citizens have to uphold elected representatives to what they have sworn they would do? There can be no existence of democracy if we, as citizens, do not take ownership of the matters that concern us. We need to become a people committed to advancing democracy, good governance and inclusive leadership in Africa. Africa’s progress on improving governance is critical for its future. Citizen participation in democracy strengthens transparent and inclusive governments. It creates a process of building strong electoral commissions, strengthening internal accounting and auditing systems, supporting freedom of expression and the media, and encouraging citizen participation in government decision-making.
Democracy also means all voices are heard. Our leaders in Africa must continuously commit to reinforce women’s voices and ensure that women – half of the world’s population – are able to participate equally in political leadership and governance. According to the most recent Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) global ranking of women in parliament, Rwanda continues to have the only parliament in the world where women MPs are in the majority (now at 64% – a world record) and cements the country’s no. 1 position (a position the country has held since the 2008 elections).
African women are continuously blazing the leadership spheres with heads of states like H.E. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, president of Liberia and H.E. Joyce Banda, president of Malawi. In early September Senegal elected its first female prime minister, Aminata Touré. Additionally, the African Union Commission has Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma as the first female chair in its history; the UN Women’s Executive Director is Ms. Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka and the list keeps growing not only in political leadership but in other corporate and personal leadership spaces, thus beaming hope for the continent’s future and inspiring many.
Making statements about good governance, however, is easy. Putting them into practice is not. Nonetheless, making right decisions on governance is essential to Africa’s future. A common vision about governance and democracy contributes to stability, security and prosperity. 15 September 2013 marked a day to strengthen our voices on democracy to make it work for all, and in the words of Mahatma Gandhi, “to be the change we wish to see in the world.” The decision lies within us, we have to make a choice, a decision to take charge of our future, and all this begins with strengthening our voices for Democracy.
Natsai D. Mhosva is an FK exchange fellow from Zimbabwe with FEMNET. Connect with her on twitter @natsiemhosva and email firstname.lastname@example.org.