Is culture responsible for African women oppression?

Women rights’ activists have been advised to work with cultural leaders and not blame culture for women’s oppression if they want to enhance the struggle for women empowerment and gender equality.

According to the Nnaabagereka (queen) of Buganda Sylivia Nagginda, there is need to adjust the international women’s leadership style.

“As we move into the future, the most successful women’s movements will be those that not only understand the nuances that exist among different cultures, but those that take an effort to integrate the positive elements within cultural institutions and work with cultural leaders as equal partners,” Nagginda said.

She made the remarks in a key-note address during the opening of the international women’s conference in Lilongwe, Malawi, on Monday.

The Conference, under the theme: “Women Steering Innovating Leadership in Africa” brought together hundreds of innovative women leaders from across Africa including activists, politicians, cultural leaders, donor agencies and AU and UN agencies among others.

Nagginda said the distinct cultures define Africa and recognising their unique importance in development will remain Africa’s attribute in the global economy.

“The most successful women’s movements will also be those that shift themselves from blaming culture for women’s oppression to engaging with the positive and empowering aspects that can be used as frameworks that demonstrate an understanding of and appreciation for distinct cultures,” she said.

Citing her Ekisaakate programme which grooms teenagers to value their culture and grow into responsible adults, Nagginda said cultural leadership can shape strong women leaders through mentoring and community development initiatives.

“If you cut your chains you free yourself. If you cut your roots, you die,” Nagginda said according to a statement issued by the Nabagereka Development Foundation.

“Cultural leadership stands as a living custodian of the roots of our women leaders, as well as a mentor and role model for them as they cut the chains of gender inequality.”

The conference was organised by the government of Malawi and a number of UN agencies and international NGOs.

Nagginda delivered a Keynote Address under the theme: “Cultural Leadership and its Importance in the Women’s Leadership Movement in Uganda.”

In her speech, she celebrated the fact that the conference was held in Malawi which is one of the two African countries that have female presidents.

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