Men in positions of power are dropping the ball, according to former president Barack Obama, who thinks perhaps a way to fix that is to get more women at the table.
Democrats, in particular, have high hopes for the impact women could make in the fall's midterm elections. But the former president spoke about the importance of having more women in leadership positions globally, particularly in Africa.
Obama hosted a town hall in Johannesburg this week as part of Obama Foundation Leaders: Africa, a year-long development initiative for 200 emerging leaders from across the continent. The five-day workshop featured female leaders, including children's rights activist Graca Machel, Nelson Mandela's widow, and former Liberian president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.
When a woman asked Obama how to get more involved in politics, the former president expressed support for increasing the number of female politicians. He said:
Women in particular . . . I want you to get more involved. Because men have been getting on my nerves lately.
I mean, every day I read the newspaper and I just think like, ‘Brothers, what’s wrong with you guys? What’s wrong with us?’ I mean, we’re violent, we’re bullying. You know, just not handling our business. So I think empowering more women on the continent — that right away is going to lead to some better policies.
In the months since Obama left office, U.S. news headlines have been filled with stories of men in the media, entertainment and politics — including Obama's successor, President Trump — facing allegations of sexual assault and harassment.
Other headlines have included men being involved in some of the worst mass shootings in recent history and other violent crimes. And the number of men who have found themselves criticized for bullying, making racist statements and other controversial acts is growing faster than most people can keep track of.
African men are no exception, having been accused of political corruption, violence and terrorism. So it's not a surprise that Obama, who considers himself an advocate of global women's rights, wants to see more women in positions of influence. He has been increasingly vocal about his desire to see more women in positions of power in Africa.
The former president was also in South Africa to deliver the Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture on the 100th birthday of the late South African president, whom he praised for his broad commitment to diversity and human rights.
It is not clear whether Obama will hit the campaign trail in the United States in the fall to advocate the election of more women in Congress. But what is clear is that the former president believes that one of the best ways to improve the state of global politics is to increase the number of women at the policymaking table and to minimize the presence of men who are incapable of the leadership he believes is needed to move the world forward.