By Chelsea Kuchik
Aili Mari Tripp, Professor of Political Science and Gender & Women’s Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, spoke to students of Loyola University Chicago on Wednesday afternoon about new trends in women and politics in Africa.
Tripp is an expert on this topic, having written and edited numerous books on women, politics, and feminism in regards to Africa.
She was also the president of the African Studies Association from 2011 to 2012, has received multiple awards and honors, and has served as an expert consultant for multiple intergovernmental organizations.
The lecture was held in the Quinlan Life Science Building auditorium as part of the annual Frank M. Covey, Jr., Loyola Lectures in Political Analysis, sponsored by the Political Science department of Loyola.
Tripp’s lecture was focused on two trends occurring in Africa today: why the number of women represented in parliaments between 1990 and 2010 had tripled and why post-conflict countries were passing more women’s rights legislation compared with other African countries.
Tripp attributed this progress to the implementation of party quotas, democratization of post-conflict states, international influence, as well as foreign aid incentives.
“It is interesting to see that colonial influence, ideology, culture, economic growth, and oil are not factors affecting these countries” Tripp said, in relation to women’s progress in Africa.
She credited many of the post-conflict countries’ constitutions as a great source of influence, due to that fact that include explicit wording in regards to women’s rights.
It isn’t a simple change in wording either. Tripp said that there was now “roughly two times as many laws against gender violence” in many of these African countries.
This is a big deal for a country that The Economist had once deemed “the hopeless continent,” Tripp pointed out.
“Africa has gone from a place of despair to some hope” Tripp said.
When asked if strides in women’s rights matter amongst violence and authoritarian regimes in Africa, Tripp remained optimistic.
“It does matter…Peace movements and women’s movements have been extremely important in preventing the resumption of conflict,” Tripp said.
Students in attendance enjoyed the lecture, citing it as very educational in a subject many are not well-informed in.
“I don’t know a lot about Africa. I appreciated her realistic perspective,” Dan Maday, 21, a junior psychology and political science major said.
He thought her findings on how conflict effects progress in these countries to be thought-provoking.
“It’s important to understand that conflict isn’t needed, but you definitely do need some spark to initiate change,” Maday said.
Overall, the lecture had a positive tone, trying to dispel stereotypes about Africa in terms of its possible progress.
“It’s improving a lot quicker than what people thought it to be,” Don Finch, 20, a sophomore political science major said.
He felt the lecture ended on a hopeful note.
“A lot of people think Africa is a lost cause…to see things improving is encouraging.”