Prof. Fatoumata Keita from University for Arts and Human Sciences of Bamako, has called on African leaders to enforce laws regarding women’s empowerment and gender equality in academia.

She said in terms of legal and policy framework, African leaders had done a lot by signing onto international conventions regarding gender equality, the protection of girls and human rights, however the problem was the implementation of these frameworks.

“We have all the texts, so the only thing now is to implement, and enforce the laws regarding women’s empowerment and gender equality in academia.”

Prof. Keita made this call during a public roundtable organised by the Merian Institute for Advanced Studies in Africa (MIASA) University of Ghana (UG), in collaboration with the German Historical Institute Paris (GHIP) and the Centre for Gender Studies and Advocacy (CEGENSA), UG.

The roundtable, on the theme: “Re-thinking the academic environment for increasing gender-balance and inclusion”, was to deliberate on how to increase and promote female academic leadership at universities across Africa and discuss the challenges and opportunities for women in academia in African contexts.

She said there were various and great things to do to empower women and that goes beyond the text, the conventions, the conferences, and slogans.

“Practical mechanism is what we need.”

“There are different levels, at the national levels there should be groups who can work to engage the countries to implement the texts that they have signed. And at the international level, academia should also have observatory and advocacy groups that can engage the countries to respect the convention they have signed. We can also have evidence-based research to engage the institutions.”

Prof. Keita noted that women in academia faced a lot of challenges common to other professions, including coping with their multiple identities like the professional identity tensions that women faced and the gender biases.

“It is also important to acknowledge that there are also good and successful practices. There are places where something good is happening and we also need to take examples from there.”

Prof. Akosua Adomako Ampofo of the University of Ghana said women experienced challenges that were gendered in academia, and especially societal expectations of women become more difficult when working in institutions that do not have time boundaries.

“We must stop the attitude that certain jobs were meant for women, especially now that women are contributing to the financial pot. These are challenges we put on women which we do not put on men.”

She said women in academia worked a lot out of the normal working time, like markings, writing the papers, doing the policy work for government and civil society organisations, and so adding societal expectations made working in academia very challenging.

“These workshops serve as a platform to have conversations, to share ideas, experiences and what to adopt, change and work collectively, while institutionalizing some of the experiences.”

Prof.Ampofo said, “as academics, we need both gender on board, so if one group is challenged, there is the need to create equal opportunities. We must understand, agree and appreciate that the football field is not equal so if we want to make it equal, we have to change certain things for certain people.”

She advocated the creation of space for daycares within the working environment for young women in academia to safely keep their children.

“Most academic jobs do not follow the normal working period routine, so we must provide a safe environment for their children.”

Prof. Clementina Baptista de Jesus Furtada, University of Cape Verde, said funds must also be allocated for young female researchers as well as capacity building both at the individual and institutional levels.

“Women in academia also need to have institutional mentorship, inter-generational collaboration between senior and juniors as well as platforms to share experiences.”

Prof. Nana Aba Appiah Amfo, Vice Chancellor, University of Ghana, said the theme for the roundtable discussion also aligned with the university’s strategic plan, priority four, which is on gender and diversity.

She said the university through this strategic priority aimed to create the best environment for equal opportunity in gender and diversity.

She said the public roundtable would be a great occasion to celebrate their achievements as female scholars, irrespective of their levels and positions, to recognize, identify and find gender transformative approaches to addressing the inequalities they faced within their academic journeys.

“It is an occasion not for female scholars to lament on the unimaginable challenges faced in various contexts, but to encourage ourselves as we seek to promote and support gender equality and inclusive working academic environment.”

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