First woman speaker a step for equality

Date: January 27, 2010
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Mozambique is continuing to see a steady stream of changes when it come to upping the gender mix in the country’s political landscape. The most recent victory was the unanimous election of Veronica Macamo, a member of the ruling Frelimo party, who made history when she became the first woman speaker of parliament at a swearing in ceremony in the capital Maputo on 12 January.

Macamo was one of 106 women elected to Parliament during last October’s elections, an increase from 96 in the previous parliament, which brought the gender balance to 42.4% women.

Born on 13 November 1957 in Chissano locality in Billene-Macia district of Gaza Province, about 200 kilometres north of the capital Maputo, she studied law at the University Eduardo Mondlane university in the capital Maputo.

At 37 years, Macamo was elected to parliament in the country’s fourth legislation. At the end of her five year term, she took on the deputy speaker position, which she held until her latest appointment. Professionally, Macamo provides legal consultations for state-owned companies. She is also a founding member of the Mozambican Association of Women in the Judicial sector (AMCJ) and a member of the Frelimo central committee.

In accepting her position, Macamo attributed her success to experiences that have allowed her to exchange information and training with other national and international parliamentarians. For many women, this is another signal of women’s potential to achieve high ranks in the country, and they are celebrating the victory.

“This is a step ahead for Mozambican politics, as there is continuity in women leadership,” observed Julia Ucucho, a friend of mine during an informal conversation. “When Luisa Diogo (former Prime Minister) took office, most ‘doubting Thomases’ on women’s potential in Mozambique thought it was an end to the rise of women in the pearl of the Indian Ocean, but it was only a beginning.”

However, Veronica Macamo, like the other 106 women parliamentarians, will only be a real victory for women if they use their powers and influence to make positive changes for women and girls in the country.

Politicians and decision-makers of all kinds, have a duty to work towards gender equality. The upliftment of all people is the only way to answer the call made by President Armando Emilio Guebuza, who said national unity and peace are foundations for the consolidation of multiparty democracy in Mozambique.

“We invite all parties and coalition of parties in our political firmament and their leaderships and members, women and youths all Mozambican to participate in this process of consolidation of multiparty democracy, a process that also releases various creative initiatives for the success of our development programmes,’ he said.

Women leaders such as Luisa Diogo, a former World Bank economist who helped usher Mozambique’s economy to positive growth during her tenure as Minister of Finance, show that gender equality makes good sense for a country’s development. Diogo progressed to be Prime Minister under Guebuza’s administration, where she played a leading role in sealing development project agreements for the country.

And it is not only the political landscape that is changing in Mozambique. Go to any university or college in Mozambique and you will find the number of women determined to graduate with professional distinction on the rise.

Women are not only being found in increasing numbers in sectors traditionally considered to be for women. They are also emerging into positions in sectors such as mechanics or as drivers for public transport, which have traditionally been reserved for men. Women are increasingly challenging traditional notions of gender. Indeed, the sisters are calling for change.

Recent years have also seen legislative changes in the country, including
the approval of the Family Law, as well as legislation to counter the trafficking of women and children. The yardstick of the next parliament reigning between 2010 and 2015 will include how far forward Macamo and the other women in Parliament with go with gender equality and women’s interest.

There is an urgent need to approve pending legal instruments that could protect women, put in place binding laws to counter violence against women, and implement the region-wide Southern African Protocol and Gender and Development. These women at the pinnacle of the country’s decision-making can offer real hope for women and girls all around the country.

Fred Katerere is a freelance journalist based in Maputo. This article is part of the Gender Links Opinion and Commentary Service.



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