Working to Advance
Health Equity in Africa

Reinventing African chieftaincy in the age of AIDS, gender, governance development

Reinventing African chieftaincy in the age of AIDS, gender, governance  development

Traditional leaders are re-inventing themselves and their offices in terms of how they promote development for their communities. The IDRC-funded research found that in Botswana, Ghana and South Africa, traditional leaders remain, for a variety of reasons, important to the design and implementation of development regardless of whether or not traditional leaders have statutory jurisdiction granted by the post-colonial state. This IDRC-funded project had two general objectives. The first was to analyze the role and contribution of traditional leaders to such selected social development policies such as health, education, land tenure and social safety nets in Ghana, Botswana and South Africa. The second general objective was to recommend ways for enhancing the involvement of the traditional leaders into different levels of the state in the governance of social policy decisions and implementation processes as a way to promote responsiveness, effectiveness and equity in public policies. A major finding of the project was the discovery of a three-stage best practice model for measuring the depth and effectiveness of involvement of traditional leaders in promoting development, including fighting HIV/AIDS from the social vaccine perspective: gate-opening; social marketing/public education; and finally, community-capacity building. The ‘best practice’ model actually questions the orthodox conception of traditional leaders as ‘gatekeepers’. Use of the model is one pillar/foundation for designing development interventions in areas where there are traditional leaders. In South Africa and Botswana there is a gradual progression to formally appointing and allowing women chiefs and/or traditional leaders. Traditional leaders are keen to understand and utilize state law to enable them to be development agents. This study indicated that traditional leaders are continuously redefining and reinventing themselves as development agents and gate-openers.