Mauritius: A woman president for all citizens

Ameenah Gurib Fakim will remain in the history of Mauritius as the first woman President. She has broken many gender stereotypes.

President Ameenah Gurib Fakim.
President Ameenah Gurib Fakim.

She has shown that women can make it with hard work and perseverance. She is the only President of Mauritius who does not come from any political background and is getting the highest function of the state on her own merit.

All the male presidents we have had since 1992 starting with Sir Veerasamy Ringadoo followed by Cassam Uteem, Karl Offman, Sir Anerood Jugnauth and Kailash Purryag were members of political parties. By holding the highest and most prestigious position of Mauritius President Fakim is lighting the torch and showing the world that African women can make it to the top.

She is among the most qualified woman in the region – let alone Mauritius. She is a monument in the scientific and technological fields. She now joins the club of women world leaders – Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia; Cristina Fernandez de Larchner of Argentina; Dalia Grybanskaite of Lithuania; Dilma Rousseff of Brazil; Michelle Bachelet of Chile; Atifete Jahjaga of Kosovo; Park Geun-hye of South Korea; Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic of Croatia; and Marie Louise Coleiro Preca of Malta, to name only a few. She is the only woman President in the SADC region.

Golden spoon

Gurib Fakim was not born with a golden spoon in her mouth, but contrary to many African girls, she was lucky to have parents who believe in girl’s education. Never in our wildest dream would we have thought that in such a patriarchal society like ours, Mauritians are speaking with one voice to say we are ready for a woman president.

This comes after 47 years of independence and 23 years of being a Republic. Gurib Fakim made it to the top through her achievements at the national, regional and international fronts. Breaking glass ceiling is not an easy job especially when the glass is still so very thick.

I still remember when I was conducting training to encourage women to join politics, a man in a high level position told me I wanted to put a flower pot in decision-making posts. Gurib Fakim is proving him wrong. Our women parliamentarians may have a lot to learn, and they must use our new president as a role model. Gurib Fakim completed her university studies in England and holds a PhD in Chemistry from Exeter University. She was the first woman to become Chair in Organic Chemistry at the University of Mauritius, as well as Dean of Faculty of Science and Pro Vice Chancellor of the University of Mauritius.


The African Union (AU) officially launched the African Women’s Decade (AWD) (2010-2020) with the aim to advance gender equality through the acceleration of the implementation of global and regional decisions and commitments on gender equality and women’s empowerment.

The then AU Chairperson and former Malawian President Bingu Wa Mutharika reiterated had said that despite many frameworks and commitments, women have still not yet been fully emancipated. He stressed that the AWD should bring real positive changes to the lives of African women, including their participation in all decision making processes.

On the flip-side of the coin, out of 15 SADC countries, Mauritius has regressed in its ranking for the percentage of women in parliament. The country which held the 10th place with 19% women parliamentarians, is now at 12th place with a mere 12% women in parliament. Mauritius is now among the five Southern African countries with the lowest percentage of women in parliament— Malawi, Zambia, DRC and Botswana.

We must encourage women and girls to see themselves as leaders. We must dare to be ourselves. The AU is submitting its first AWD report this year, and Mauritius is lighting the way with Professor Ameenah Gurib Fakim as President of the Republic and Maya Hanoomajee as the first woman Speaker of the Legislative Assembly.

Let us hope that she will no longer be called, “Madam Speaker Sir”! – Gender Links News Service

Post published in: Human Rights

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