On Sunday Ivanka Trump, the first daughter of the United States of America visited Ethiopia beginning a four-day trip to Africa to empower African women with skills to overcome poverty and inequality. A project that is billed at 50 million dollars and aimed at encouraging the employment of 50 million women by 2025.
She visited one of the progressive countries in Africa, where equality has been pegged on a 50\50 ratio. Leaving behind the government that has described Africa in the least favourable terms. She is the daughter of a sitting president who has never visited Africa having the least favourable record of association with women in the recent past.
This initiative brings her credibility to focus. Although Ivanka, prior to her position in the white house has shown interest in women empowerment, she has spent the last two years on a family-friendly agenda that is at odds with the actions of the US government.
It begs the question; is this photo-op necessary to boost the first daughter’s profile or true concern for African womenfolk?
What does this mean for African women?
Let’s begin with Ethiopia, the country’s president is female. A woman heads the supreme court and half of the Ethiopian cabinet is female. It is ranked the 3rd fastest growing country in Africa. 81% of the females of working age are part of the workforce making almost 50% per cent of the total labour force. Although women provide most of the agricultural labour in rural areas their labour is unrewarded while communal resources and participation are restricted by their husband and fathers.
Do Ethiopian women really need a white American woman to liberate them?
There are other African countries with a much less favourable record on female empowerment and taking on more daunting countries would be more credible to Ivanka’s efforts.
Western Political personalities court Africa almost, in the same manner, ordinary tourists with white saviour complexes have courted her. This redemption of the subjugated African woman is almost like trophy hunting; especially from a woman who is yet to take a stand on the fight against sexual assault in workplaces and the sexual abuse of immigrant workers in the United States.
Should her father, a president with poor approval ratings, not get reelected in 2020, what happens to her good intentions then? Especially since they only became possible because of her position as ‘first daughter’.
Will this be one of those unfinished good intentions that leave African women more impoverished and ill-equipped to continue this new path?
What African women really need
African women need not be in this fight for equality alone. In the case of Ethiopia and Rwanda, the movement for gender equality takes a progressive male leader like Abiy Ahmed and Paul Kagame. With Africa’s leadership mostly male, the support of African men toward gender equality in homes and businesses cannot be underestimated. Ethiopian laws are progressive for equality but the gap lies in the translation and effective implementation of these laws.
Education and skill acquisition is necessary but it does not solve the problem of poverty in a continent where half of the workforce is female but governance is male dominant.
If Ivanka Trump wants to help she should wield the influence that she has been unable to exhibit in Europe with African leaders so that laws can be rewritten and challenged to provide a level playing field in all industry.
The rights and privileges she enjoys today as a white woman was not bought on four-day visits and handouts to save a poor political career. It was won on suffrage, challenging existent laws and roundtable debates.