Africa

The African continent is not readily summed up in suffrage, political traditions or anything else. Some distinctions are, however, helpful. A line has often been drawn between the communities of the Mediterranean and sub-Saharan Africa but Islam, Christianity, and animism have been similarly influential in shaping responses to civil society and democracy. Also important have been the various influences of formal and informal empires, whether the French, the British, the Italian, the German, the Portuguese, the Spanish or the American. Combinations of indigenous and external forces have shaped perspectives and influences in ways that have been both empowering and debilitating.  In other words, specific traditions matter. Even with the inauguration of pan-African initiatives such as the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on Women’s Rights that came into force in 2005, generalizations should only be made with caution. While genital mutilation and discriminatory family law still curb many lives, there are positive signs such as the award of the Nobel Peace Prize for 2011 to Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia and Leymah Gbowee of Liberia, as well as Tawakkol Karman of Yemen.

Africa Suffrage Timeline

Right to Vote
Right to Stand for Election
Algeria
July 5th, 1962 July 5th, 1962
Angola
November 11th, 1975 November 11th, 1975
Benin
1956 1956
Botswana
March 1st, 1965 March 1st, 1965
Burkina Faso
September 28th, 1958 September 28th, 1958
Burundi
August 17th, 1961 August 17th, 1961
Camerooon
October 1946 October 1946
Benin
1956 1956
Cape Verde
July 5th, 1975 July 5th, 1975
Central African Republic
1986 1986
Chad
1958
Comoros
1956 1956
Democratic Republic of the Congo (Kinshasa)
May 3rd, 1967 April 17th, 1970
Congo Republic (Brazzaville)
December 8th, 1963 December 8th, 1963
Cote d’Ivoire
1952 1952
Djibouti
1946 1986
Equatorial Guinea
December 15th, 1963 December 15th, 1963
Eritrea
November 4th, 1955 November 4th, 1955
Ethiopia
November 4th, 1955 November 4th, 1955
Gabon
May 23rd, 1956 May 23rd, 1956
Gambia
1960 1960
Ghana
1954 1954
Guinea
October 2nd, 1958 October 2nd, 1958
Guinea-Bissau
1977 1977
Kenya
December 12th, 1963* December 12th, 1963*
Kenya Notes
“The right to vote and stand for office had been given to European women in Kenya in 1919; in 1956, those rights were extended to African men and women under certain conditions related to educational level and property ownership.” “In 1963, all Kenyans, regardless of color and other previously restricting factors, were given the right to vote and stand for election” (p. 209).
Lesotho
April 30th, 1965 April 30th, 1965
Liberia
May 7th, 1946 May 7th, 1946
Madagascar
April 29th, 1959 April 29th, 1959
Malawi
1961 1961
Mali
1956 1956
Mauritania
May 20th, 1961 May 20th, 1961
Mauritius
1956 1956
Morocco
May 1963 May 1963
Mozambique
June 25th, 1975 June 25th, 1975
Namibia
November 7th, 1989 November 7th, 1989
Niger
1948 1948
Nigeria
1958* 1958*
Nigeria Notes
*“Women in Nigeria’s southern region were enfranchised in stages, beginning in 1950, whereas women in the northern region (predominantly Muslim) were not. Southern women voted and contested offices in the 1959 federal elections, but no northern women were allowed to do so. Northern women finally received their full electoral franchise (to vote and contest office) in 1976” (p. 286).
Rwanda
September 25th, 1961 September 25th, 1961*
Rwanda Notes
*”For all offices except that of president of the republic; that restriction was removed in 1978″ (p. 323).
Sao Tome and Principe
July 12th, 1975 July 12th, 1975
Senegal
February 19th, 1945 February 19th, 1945
Seychelles
August 6th, 1948 August 6th, 1948
Sierra Leone
April 27th, 1961 April 27th, 1961
Somalia
1956 1956
South Africa
May 21, 1930 (“whites”)/
March 30th, 1984 (“coloreds and Indians”)/
January 14th, 1994 (“blacks”) [p. 351]
May 21, 1930 (“whites”)/
March 30th, 1984 (“coloreds and Indians”)/
January 14th, 1994 (“blacks”) [p. 351]
Sudan
November 1964 November 1964
Swaziland
September 6th, 1968 September 6th, 1968
Tanzania
1959 1959
Togo
August 22nd, 1945 August 22nd, 1945
Tunisia
1957 (“municipal elections”)/
June 1st, 1959
June 1st, 1959
Uganda
1962 1962
Zambia
October 30th, 1962 October 30th, 1962
Zimbabwe
Before 1957 (“Only men and European women”)/
After 1957 (“a qualified right to vote was gradually extended over the years to black women”) [p. 429]
March 1978

Resources

African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, http://www.achpr.org/english/_info/women_en.html

“African Women’s Human Rights Annotated Bibliography” (Sept. 30, 2008), http://www.cdp-hrc.uottawa.ca/projects/power/uploads/African-womens-human-rights-ann-biblio.pdf

Arab Human Development Reports, United Nations Development Programme, http://www.arab-hdr.org/

Feminist Africa (beginning 2002), http://www.feministafrica.org/index.php/home

Gawayam Rose and Rosemary Semafumu Mukasa. 2005. “The African Women’s Protocol: A New Dimension for Women’s Rights in Africa,” Gender and Development. 13: 3. November. 42-50.

Rebouché, Rachel. 2006. “Labor, Land, and Women’s Rights in Africa: Challenges for the New Protocol on the Rights of Women.” Harvard Human Rights Journal. 19. 235-256.

Solidarity for African Women’s Rights (SOAWR), a coalition of 36 civil society organizations; http://www.soawr.org/en/

Africa for Women’s Rights/l’Afrique pour les droits des femmes, a campaign by regional and international human rights and women’s rights organizations, http://www.africa4womensrights.org/