Women who have achieved great stature in government, industry, sports, and the media are becoming a familiar sight
In recent years, the economic growth of Equatorial Guinea has transformed the country into one of Africa’s leading states and in this transformation women are taking on a more empowering and increasingly high-profile role.
Though traditional gender roles are still more common within Equatoguinean society, in which women are predominantly responsible for home labors and childcare, a female presence is increasingly notable in professional jobs and within the government sector. Key to this evolution is the emphasis that the government has placed on education, an integral part of the government’s Horizon 2020 plan, considered by many the nation’s leap into the future.
Witness to this development is Her Excellency Purificacion Angue Ondo, Ambassador of Equatorial Guinea to the United States. “One year following the change of dictatorship, a department for women was set up. It was a dream, a utopia, and I was lucky to be part of the first team,” she explains.
Having pursued a professional career since finishing her studies, Ms. Angue Ondo has played a pivotal role in promoting the status of women within and beyond the frontiers of her country. During the 1990’s she worked at the Ministry for the Promotion of Women and later served as Ambassador to Cameroon and as of 2005 to the United States.
Ms. Angue Ondo insists that as one of the continent’s smaller countries, Equatorial Guinea often goes unnoticed in international media coverage of the African continent and as such, many myths and utopias remain regarding the realities of the role of women within the nation’s cultural environment.
To clarify Equatorial Guinea’s objectives in this direction, Ambassador Angue Ondo explains: “We work so that all women, including those who are illiterate, know everything that goes on around them so that they may participate and give their opinion.”
Equatoguinean women, says Ms. Angue Ondo, are by nature strong and hardworking. And as an example she presents the determination shown by women during one of the country’s crises: “When the price of cocoa suffered in Equatorial Guinea – one of the core products in our economy before petroleum – women did not suffer because they decided to sell food they produced so that they could support their families.”
And from their vital role in the family to their role in politics and civil society, women have undoubtedly become agents of change in Equatorial Guinea.
“Women are very smart because we educate children, support our husbands and maintain our households. When we have participated in the economy, we have always responded splendidly,” says Ms. Angue Ondo. And just like her, others have also taken on positions of leadership, including H.E. Maria Leonor Epam Biribe, Minister of Social Affairs and for the Promotion of Women, whose appointment represents a pivotal recognition of the emphasis on strengthening the role of women.
However, beyond the political and social arenas, women from Equatorial Guinea have also made international headlines in the field of sports. When one hears Nzalang Nacional (national ray) – used to refer to the national women’s soccer team – inevitably a sense of national pride sinks in. Since the Equatoguinean team’s outstanding performance in the 2008 Women’s African Football Championship from which they emerged victorious, it’s as if a new ray of light has been shed upon the capability of women.