Yesterday, Monday, August 19, 2013, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, who was the first woman to serve as Deputy President of South Africa (2005-2009), took the oath of office as Executive Director of UN Women. Then Over the weekend, Joyce Banda, first woman President of Malawi, was sworn in as Chairperson of the Southern African Development Community, or SADC (at the same time that H.E Robert Gabriel Mugabe was sworn in as Deputy Chair).
Stergomena Tax had been Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of East African Cooperation in the Government of the United Republic of Tanzania. Over the weekend, she was sworn in as Executive Secretary of SADC. Joyce Banda commented,
I, being the first female Chair, and you, being the first female Executive Director, shall be expected to demonstrate our total commitment and determination to continue with the work of our brothers and take SADC to the next level.
Banda went on to explain that any failure on the part of the two women would “let down fellow women who are counting on our success, as well as the girls of our region who look upon us as their role models.”
Bernard Mbembe, Tanzania’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, noted, “This is the first time for a woman to hold such a high post in the community and we are truly honored to have a formidable candidate to secure such a post.”
Stergomena Tax was sworn in by Anastazia Msosa, Chief Justice of Malawi, the first woman to be Chief Justice of Malawi. Afterwards, she posed for photos with Joyce Banda, Anastazia Msosa, and Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, the Chairperson of the African Union Commission, the first women to be Chairperson of the AU Commission.
Quite a couple days. While Mlambo-Ngcuka, Tax, Banda and Dlamini-Zuma all have their critics, this is still a moment of some kind of promise and progress. It’s a pity that amidst all the handwringing that goes on in the Western and Northern media about, and often in the name of “African women,” that these convergent couple days went more or less unnoticed … yet again.