For many years, women continue to be poorly represented in governance and power structures across the West African region. Specifically, women are not adequately represented in two of the three core sectors of society, that is, in government (public) and the private sector. The West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI) in 2009 commissioned research to serve as empirical evidence of a cross-national analysis of the “status of women’s leadership in West Africa”. The findings of the research were to be used as advocacy reference by women-led organisations, women’s rights organisations, gender equality specialists, leadership, and governance experts and specifically as engagement tools by civil society advocates across national, regional, and international bodies.
The core objectives of the research were to examine and document the evolution of women’s leadership in the region; map out women’s leadership in different sectors, and assess how women have contributed to governance and democratisation across sectors. The study featured four countries primarily: Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Nigeria, and Senegal—with regional perspective coming from insights from other countries. The four countries shed light on the overarching governance and democratisation processes within which women’s demand for leadership; while exemplifying some of the challenges women face on the thorny quest for leadership, and the prospects for progressive change in women’s leadership development.
The data and related findings were derived from an exploration of multiple data sources, including primary data drawn from in-depth face-to-face interviews with women leaders and open-ended survey questionnaires. Other include extensive desk review and content analysis of policy documents, varied literature from academic and non-academic sources, and descriptive statistics to supplement the empirical data was also conducted.
The research revealed the steady progress recorded in women’s quest for leadership in West Africa, though, inadequate to fair and equitable gender-based representation in contemporary democratisation and governance processes. The research calls for renewed engagement to elevate women’s contributions to democratisation, governance, and socio-economic development in West Africa.