Three cheers for the women running in Africa’s rich October election season

Ivory Coast and Tanzania together have nearly 70m people, with 30m registered voters, but only three women candidates were on the October 25 ballots.

IVORY COAST and Tanzania have between them a population of nearly 70 million, nearly 30 million of who are registered to vote, but only three women candidates were on the presidential ballot as the two economic powerhouses voted October 25.

In Tanzania, where 22 million people are listed as voters, Anna Elisha Mghwira of the ACT Wazalendo party is the only female candidate in an exciting race of eight whose votes are now being counted. 

In Ivory Coast, two women threw their headwraps in the ring: former minister Henriette Adjoua Lagou and entrepreneur Jacqueline Kouangoua. 

READ: The African women who tried for president - and how they fared

Mghwira, 56, has a tough task to prise the presidency from the domain of men, who have led the country since independence. A lawyer and theologian, she writes her own speeches and says voters should pick her based on ability, not gender.

 Tanzania’s Anna Elisha Mghwira of the ACT Wazalendo (Photo/ACT Wazalendo).

She has held leadership positions in the opposition Chadema party in addition to having been a member of the Tanzania National Union (TANU) in her youth. Earlier this year she joined her current party, which picked her as its national chair.

The ruling CCM’s party candidate, John Magufuli, beat two women, former United Nations Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro and African Union Ambassador to the US Amina Salum Ali, to the ticket.

Ivorian Adjoua Lagou, 56, is running on the opposition CPP party. She was minister for Family, Women and Children under former president Laurent Gbagbo. She did not shy away from campaigning on a gender platform, arguing the country’s social policies are tone deaf to women.

Henriette Adjoua Lagou/Facebook

A former president of the board of Air Ivoire, she also fronted plans to promote youth employment, industrialisation and reconciliation for the continued stability of the country following deep fissures over the last two decades.

Her compatriot, Kouangoua, 44, has also identified “total reconciliation” as a key plank of her plans. She was also critical of domination of men in the country’s electoral politics. 

Jacqueline Kouangoua/Facebook

“For 60 years it is men who have run the country, and see what they have given us. Crises,” she said while campaigning.

A businesswoman, she  is running as an independent candidate, and was the election’s youngest aspirant. 

Notably, the two Ivorian women stuck it out as three other male candidates dropped out.

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