Contributors are invited to write on the topic above from either a research or an activism perspective. Abstracts and contributions must be written in English and in a style accessible to a wide audience.  Please submit abstracts to / or


No later than 14th August 2018


Agenda has been at the forefront of feminist publishing in South Africa for the past 30 years and raises debate around women’s rights and gender issues. The journal is designed to promote critical thinking and debate and aims to strengthen the capacity of both men and women to challenge gender discrimination and injustice. The Agenda journal is an IBSS/SAPSE accredited and peer reviewed journal.


GUEST EDITORS: Dr Jacqui Poltera and Jenny Schreiner


Conceptual Rationale:

Women’s leadership in the African context has attracted increased attention in recent years. Representative here are the African and European Union’s recent “Women in Power” event (June 2018) which prioritised women’s empowerment and gender equality and associated Declaration and Africa’s Agenda 2063,  Leading Women of Africa, The Beijing Declaration and Platform For Action (1995), Dakar Solemn Declaration on Gender Quality in Africa (2004), the Africa Women Innovation and Entrepreneurship Forum, the African Union’s Women’s Decade, and the United Nation’s Commission on the Status of Women.

The gender gap in leadership between men and women is widely recognised, as is the correlation between increasing women’s symbolic representation across and within professions and lessening gender gaps (Barnes and Burchard, 2013).To the extent that patriarchal structures, institutions, cultures and norms remain dominant, increasing the number of women leaders in government and other professional settings is regarded as one necessary strategy to redressing longstanding gender inequity in African countries.

And yet, the very concept of women’s leadership, particularly in the African context, is complex and open to contestation (Tamale 2000; Salo 2010 and 2012).Within and across African countries and contexts, there are distinct and multifarious racial, socio-cultural, ethic, political, and historical norms which shape power relations and inform the ways in which women can and do lead in formal and informal ways (Amadiume 1987 and 1997; Mama et al. 2003; Phiri et al. 2009; Geisler 2000, 1995, and 2004).Not all women leaders are women in positions of political power or traditional (professional) leadership roles (Gaza 2007). Rather, women can for example be leaders in a particular region, culture, profession and / or community, part of a collective of other women who lead, and women can enact leadership in a range of ways across sectors, countries, roles and contexts, either collectively or as individuals.

On the African continent, and perhaps especially in Sub-Saharan Africa, race, class, culture and gender can simultaneously intersect and complicate leadership, as well as influencing perceptions of leadership attributes (Booysen and Nkomo 2010; Mkhize 2011).This is not only the case in formal, professional roles, but also the ways in which women may assume positions as leaders in informal roles in their communities, families, and so on. The extent to which strategies aimed at redressing gender inequity are responsive to these interconnected aspects of women’s leadership in Africa is open to discussion and debate. Representative here are quota-mandated female representation (Clayton, 2015; Coffé 2012; Darhour and Dahlerup, 2013), anti-discrimination legislation (such as the Maputo Protocol)and Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act (2000),Sustainable Development Goals, the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, South African Commission for Gender Equality and associated gender-mainstreaming strategies.

There is some evidence to suggest women leaders tend to be more transformational than their male counterparts and exceed men in leadership attributes positively associated with effective leadership (Eagly et al. 2003; Chlala et al. 2004). However, such evidence is contested and the barriers for women in leadership and associated initiatives to redress them are well documented (Gouws, 2008; Glass and Cook, 2015; Bauer and Burnet 2013; Zeng et al., 2016). Further, although there has been progress in increasing the number of women at the top of their profession, overall career advancement remains slower and salaries lower for women across the board (Valian, 1998; Valian, 2005).

Other challenges associated with women’s leadership include criticisms that gender quotas are ‘artificial’ or tokenistic solutions to women’s under-representation in politics (Krook, 2013), and that despite increased numerical representation,“gender-transformative change” which aims to transform “the power dynamics and structures that serve to reinforce gendered inequalities” (Hillenbrand, E. et al. 2015) can remain elusive. It has also been argued that, while necessary, increasing the numbers of women representatives is not sufficient to ensure that women’s interests or feminist agendas are represented (Goetz, 2007; Gouws, 2008). A case in point are discussions concerning so-called ‘femocrats’ (Gouws, 1996) and associated ‘cognitive dissonance’ for women led by other women who adopt masculine traits (Festinger 1957). Similarly, theorists have highlighted the incongruence of inhabiting the roles of both ‘leader’ and ‘woman’ (Zheng, Kark and Meister, 2018). One of the challenges underpinning notions of women’s leadership is that there are no monolithic “women’s interests”. For example, can a middle class white female leader living in a metropolitan city represent and promote the interests of working class black women in poor, rural areas? If not, why not? What are the circumstances under which a woman from a different class and race can be said to represent the interests of women of different classes and races? What do we mean when we talk about “women’s interests”?

Overall, the notion of women’s leadership in general and African women’s leadership, in particular, is complex and open to contestation (Gasa 2007; Geisler 1995). In the context of increased focus on transformation (Ogudipe-Leslie, 1994; Mama, 2007), decolonialisation, international relations and sustainable development, there is an opportunity to reflect on African women’s leadership. What does women’s leadership mean in theory and practice? What are the defining characteristics of effective women leaders in the African context? Do the contexts and institutions in which women lead (formally or informally) inform the ways in which they lead? Are there any circumstances under which women are better positioned to lead in virtue of contingencies such as their training, context, and / or culture? And, in what ways are contemporary notions of women’s leadership in the African context informed by past feminist thinking and women leaders?

We are seeking academic, biographical, case-study and activist submissions that advance thinking and deepen understanding of women’s leadership in the African context. We are particularly interested in submissions that seek to problematise and critically analyse the notion of women’s leadership in Africa and bridge the gap between theory and practice. We are also interested in inviting reflections and analysis of how past African women leaders inform our current understanding of what African women’s leadership is and / or should be.

Other questions underpinning contributions might include:

  • What are the attributes and leadership styles of women leaders in the African context?
  • What are the barriers and enablers to leadership for women in Africa?
  • What are citizens’ views of women leaders in the African context?
  • What distinguishes women’s leadership from other forms of leadership and women leaders in Africa from their colleagues in the developed world?
  • What impact does or should gender sensitive women’s leadership have on policy, practice and governance?
  • What constitutes a “woman leader” in the African context?
  • Is it necessary for women leaders to exemplify and promote feminist agendas? If so, what does that mean in practice and what are the barriers and enablers?
  • In what ways, if at all, have African women leaders made a difference in terms of promoting gender transformation, feminist values, and social cohesion?
  • In what ways have African women leaders contributed to society?
  • What role have women’s organisations played in shaping progressive, feminist African women leaders?
  • What are the unique political, cultural, racial and / or ethnic dimensions of African contexts that inform and / or constrain leadership for African women?



Amadiume, I. (1987) Male Daughters, Female Husbands: Gender and Sex in an African Society Palgrave Macmillan

Amadiume, I. (1998) Re-inventing Africa: Matriarchy, Religion and Culture Zed Books Ltd. London & New York

Barnes, T., & Burchard, S. M. (2013). “Engendering” Politics: The Impact of Descriptive Representation on Women’s Political Engagement in Sub-Saharan Africa. Comparative Political Studies, 46(7), 767–790.

Bauer, G., & Burnet, J. E. (2013). Gender quotas, democracy, and women’s representation in Africa: Some insights from democratic Botswana and autocratic Rwanda. Women’s Studies International Forum, 41(12), 103–112.

Booysen, L. A. E., Nkomo, S. M. (1020). Gender role stereotypes and requisite management characteristics: The case of South Africa. Gender in Management: An International Journal, 25, 285-300.

Chlala, Y. Sengupta, A. Nyambura N. and Wilson, S. (2004) Transformative Leadership: The ‘Now’ and ‘Future’ of the Movement. Agenda: Empowering Women for Gender Equity. No. 60, pp 62-66

Coffé, H. (2012) Conceptions of female political representation: Perspectives of Rwandan female representatives Women’s Studies International Forum, 35, pp 286-297

Darhour, H and Dahlerup, D. (2013) Sustainable representation of women through gender quotas: A decade’s experience in Morocco, Women’s Studies International Forum 41, pp 132-142

Eagly, Alice H., Johannesen-Schmidt, Mary C., van Engaen, Marloes L. (2003) Transformational, transactional, ad laissez-faire leadership styles: A meta-analysis comparing women and men. Psychological Bulletin, Vol 129 (4), 569-591

Festinger, L. (1957) A theory of cognitive dissonance. Standrof, CA: Stanford University Press.

Gasa, N (ed.) (2007) Women in South African History: Basus’iimbokodo, Bawel’imilambo / They Remove Boulders and Cross Rivers HCRS Press, South Africa. Dept. of Arts and Culture

Geisler, G. (1995) Troubled Sisterhood: Women and Politics in Southern Africa: Case Studies from Zambia, Zimbabwe and Botswana. African Affairs, Vol. 94, No. 377, pp. 545-578

Geisler, G. (2000) ‘Parliament is Another Terrain of Struggle: Women, Men and Politics in Southern Africa. The Journal of Modern African Studies

Geisler, G. (2004) Women and the Remaking of Politics in Southern Africa: Negotiating Autonomy, Incorporation and Representation Nordiska Afrikainstitutet, Spain.

Glass, C and Cok, A. (2015) Leading at the top: Understanding women’s challenges above the glass ceiling. The Leadership Quarterly pp 51-63

Goetz, A M. (2007) Women in politics & gender equity in policy: South Africa & Uganda, Review of African Political Economy, 25:76, 241-262.

Gouws, A. (1996) The Rise of the Femocrat? Agenda: Empowering Women for Gender Equity, No 30, pp 31-42

Gouws, A. (2008). Obstacles for women in Leadership Positions: The Case of South Africa, Signs  vol. 34, No. 1, pp 21-27

Hillenbrand E, Karim N, Mohanraj P and Wu D. 2015. Measuring gender-transformative change: A review of literature and promising practices. CARE USA. Working Paper. Environment & Urbanization © International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED).

Krook, M. (2013). Gender quotas and democracy: Insights from Africa and beyond. Women’s Studies International Forum, 41(P2), 160-163.

Lindell, I. (2011) Transnational Activism Networks and Gendered Gatekeeping: Negotiating Gender in an African Association of Informal Workers. Nordiska Afrikainstitutet, Uppsala

Mama, A. (2007) Is It Ethical to Study Africa? Preliminary Thoughts on Scholarship and Freedom African Studies Review.  Vol. 51, No. 1. Pp. 1-26

Mama, A. (1998) Khaki in the Family: Gender Discourses and Militarism in Nigeria African Studies Review. Vo. 41, No. 2, pp 1-27.

Mama, A. and Okazawa-Rey (2003) Militarism, conflict and women’s activism in the global era: challenges and prospects for women in three West African contexts Feminist Review No. 101, pp 97-123.

Mkhize, N. (2011) Am I just a white-washed black woman? What transformation means to a privileged young black woman? Agenda, 19: 65, pp 116-122

Mosler, C. (2016) Gender transformation in a new global agenda: challenges for Habitat III and beyond

Ogudipe-Leslie M. (1994) Re-creating Ourselves: African Women & Critical Transformations. Africa World Press Inc. Trenton, NJ.

Phiri, I and Nadar, S. (2009) “Going Through the Fire with Eyes Wide Open:” African Women’s Perspectives on Indigenous Knowledge, Patriarchy and Sexuality Association for the Study of Religion in South Africa Vol. 22, No. 2, pp. 5-21

Rosener, J. B. (1990) Ways women lead. Harvard Business Review, 68, 119-125.

Salo, E. (2012). “African Governance and Gender: From a Politics of Representation to a Politics of

Transformation.” YouTube video, 8:23, posted by CODESRIA, on August 1.


Salo, E. (2010). “Beyond Equity Committees and Statistics.” In the Next Twenty-Five Years: Affirmative

Action in Higher Education in the United States and South Africa, edited by D.L. Featherman, M. Hall,

and M. Krislov, 297–309. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.


South African Development Community (2008) SADC Protocol on Gender and Development. Johannesburg, South Africa


Tamale, S. (2000) ‘Point of Order, Mr. Speaker’: African Women Claiming Their Space in Parliament. Gender and Development. Vol. 8, No. 3, pp. 8-15


United Nations (1995) Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action: Beijing =5 Political Declaration and Outcome UN Women. Represented by UN Women in 2014. Availability:


Valian, V. (1998) Why So Slow? The Advancement of Women. Cambridge: MIT Press


Valian, V. (2005) Beyond Gender Schemas: Improving the Advancement of Women in AcademiaHypatia20(3) 198-213


Zeng, W. Kark, R and Meister, A (2018) Paradox versus dilemma mindset: A theory of how women leaders navigate the tensions between agency and communion, The Leadership Quarterly



Contributions are accepted in any form, prose (both theoretical and practical), poetry, narrative, interviews, and visual arts.


Submission Guidelines for Agenda Journal

The following guidelines are intended to assist authors in preparing their contributions.



Agenda invites contributions from feminist and gender scholars, activists, researchers, policy makers, professionals, educators, community workers, students and members of womxn’s organizations and organizations interested in and concerned with gender issues.


Submissions should contribute to developing new thinking and fresh debate on women’s rights and gender equality in Africa and other developing countries.


Writers need to:

  • Write in an accessible and understandable style;
  • Inform, educate or raise debate;
  • Try to pin down reasons for contradictions and point out differences of opinion;
  • Provide an analysis and an argument;
  • Be logical;
  • Be sensitive to but not uncritical of how gender, class and race affect the reporting of an event;
  • Ensure the introduction encapsulates the contents of the piece and that it attracts the reader’s attention by either making a controversial statement, providing a thought-provoking or new insight into the subject;
  • Utilise a gender or feminist lens.


Formats of Contributions

We publish articles in various formats, which range from 6,000 words for more theorised articles, which form the main reference pieces in an issue, to shorter pieces with a minimum of 1,500 words.

Article (6 000 words max). This should be based on new research and contain analysis and argument.

Briefing (2 500 – 4 000 words). This is an adaptable format for updates and reflection on a wide range of subjects

Focus (4 500 words max). Focus pieces examine an aspect of a chosen theme in detail

Profile (2 500 – 3 500 words). Profiles look in detail at an organisation, project or legislation, or a person

Report-back (1 500 – 4 000 words). Reports on meetings, conferences workshops etc.

Review (1 500 – 3 000 words). These are typically reviews of books or films

Interview (1 500 – 3 000 words). An interview can be a record of a conversation among a group of people or a one-on-one interview in which the writer asks the interviewee/s questions on a subject

Open Forum (2 500 – 4 000 words). This is a vehicle for debate and argument, airing differences of opinion on a relevant topic

Perspective (1 500 – 3 000 words). This is an adaptable format in which writers are able to use a more personal reflective, narrative style

Poetry. Original work on the theme, in any style, will be considered

Art. Images of original work on the theme in any media will be considered, for publication in black and white.


Written contributions should be submitted in the following format:

File type:          Microsoft Word

Font:                Arial

Size:                 10 pt

Line spacing:   single

Alignment:      left

Referencing:    Harvard style


All written submissions should include the following:

Abstract:         200 – 300 words (except poetry)

Keywords:        approx 5 keywords (except poetry)

Bio:                  100 – word author biography, including email address

Bio picture:      head-and-shoulders photo in 300 dpi jpeg format

Contributors are encouraged to provide photos and/or graphics to illustrate their submission


Selection and Editing Process

All submissions are peer reviewed. Articles, briefing and focus pieces go through a double blind peer review process, while all other contributions are reviewed by at least one member of Agenda’s Editorial Advisory Group.

Reviewers comment on the suitability of a text for publication in the Agenda journal, as well as provide comments to help develop the piece further for publication if required. Contributors may be asked to rework the paper accordingly. In this case, upon resubmission, the piece will be assessed by the Agenda editors and a final decision made regarding its publication in the journal.

Please note that Agenda reserves the right to edit contributions with regard to length and accessibility or reject contributions that are not suitable or of poor standard.

Please note, as per Agenda’s policy of creating opportunities for new writers, submissions by writers who have published in the journal within the last two years WILL NOT BE CONSIDERED.


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