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Merck Foundation meets the President of Namibia to underscore their long-term partnership with the First Lady of Namibia to break infertility stigma
March 20, 2020 | 0 Comments

Dr. Rasha Kelej, CEO of Merck Foundation & President, Merck More Than a Mother with H:E President Hage Geingob and  H.E. MONICA GEINGOS, The First Lady of Namibia & Ambassador of Merck More Than a Mother
Dr. Rasha Kelej, CEO of Merck Foundation & President, Merck More Than a Mother with H:E President Hage Geingob and H.E. MONICA GEINGOS, The First Lady of Namibia & Ambassador of Merck More Than a Mother

Merck Foundation launched their programs in partnership with Namibia’s First Lady together with Ministry of Health & Social Service and Ministry of Education

Merck Foundation to train doctors in the fields Cancer, Diabetes and Fertility Care to build healthcare capacity in the country

Merck Foundation to train media to break the stigma of infertility in partnership with The First Lady of Namibia

Windhoek, Namibia: Merck Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Merck KGaA Germany underscored their commitment to break infertility stigma and build healthcare capacity in Namibia during their high-level meeting held at the State House between The Head of State of Namibia, H.E. HAGE GEINGOB, The F irst Lady of Namibia, H.E MONICA GEINGOS and Dr. Rasha Kelej, CEO of Merck Foundation. The objective of the meeting was to explain and discuss the programs of Merck Foundation, which were launched in partnership with Namibia First Lady and Ministry of Health & Social Service and Ministry of Education.

H.E. HAGE GEINGOB, the President of Namibia emphasized “Namibia needs t he programs of Merck Foundation break Infertility Stigma and train media t o sensit ize communities about health and sensitive issues. Moreover, the training programs for specialized doctors are very critical for our people and their social and economic well- being. I wholeheartedly support Merck Foundation in our country, to enable the success of all their programs.”

Dr. Rasha Kelej, CEO of Merck Foundation & President, Merck More Than a Mother with H.E. MONICA GEINGOS, The First Lady of Namibia & Ambassador of Merck More Than a Mother during the launch event

The First lady of Namibia and Ambassador of Merck More than a Mother, H.E. Mrs. MONICA GEINGOS emphasized the importance of this campaign to break the silence of the Namibian women who suffered from the stigma of infert ilit y . Also emphasized the critical role her office is going to play to be the voice of these women to empower them through advocacy, access to information and change of mindset.

“I am very happy and proud of partnership with the First Lady of Namibia and Ambassador of Merck More than a Mother. This partnership will help us to break the stigma of infertility and empower childless women through access to information, health and change of mindset. It will also help us to train specialized doctors in t he fields of Diabetes, Oncology and Fertility care which will contribute significantly towards social and economic development in Namibia. We are committed to lead Africa to a better future through changing the landscape of healthcare in the continent”, emphasized Dr. Rasha Kelej.

Merck Foundation also plans to introduce other unique initiatives in t he c ountry t o create the desired culture shift with regard to breaking the stigma around infertility.

“Few initiatives include announcing the ‘Merck More than a Mother’ Media Recognition Award and Health Media Training for the first time in the country in partnership with The First Lady of Namibia together with Ministry of Health and Ministry of Education. Also, launching an inspiring children storybook of Paulus and Limbikani to strengthen family values of love and respect since young ages which will reflect on eliminating the stigma of infertility and result ed domest ic violence in the future. Also, involving Fashion industry to deliver the message of breaking the stigma of infertile women to the community in day to day life which will be achieved by out ‘Merck More Than a Mother’ Fashion Awards for Namibia and rest of Africa. We will also be launching our special project ‘Education Linda’, which helps young girls who are unprivileged but brilliant to continue their education.”, added Dr. Rasha Kelej.

About Merck Oncology Fellowship Program

The Merck Oncology Fellowship Program, a key initiative of Merck Cancer Access Program, focuses on building additional capacity through medical education and training.

The lack of financial means is not the only challenge in Africa and developing countries, but a scarcity of trained health care personnel capable to tackle the prevention, early diagnosis and management of cancer at all levels of the health care systems is even a bigger challenge.

Merck Oncology Fellowship Program focuses on building professional cancer care capacity with the aim to increase the limited number of oncologists in Africa and Developing countries. The program provides One-year fellowship program at Tata Memorial Centre – India, One and hal f – years Oncology Fellowship programs at University of Malaya – Malaysia, Two years Oncology Fellowship Program at University of Nairobi – Kenya and Two years Master degree in Medical Oncology at Cairo University – Egypt, in partnership with African Ministries of Health, Local Governments and Academia.

Launched in 2016, Merck Foundation has trained more than 80 Oncology Care Specialists from 26 countries which are: Botswana, Burundi, Cameroon, CAR, Chad, Congo Brazzaville, DRC , Ethiopia, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinee, Kenya, Liberia, Malawi, Mauritius, Namibia, Niger, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

About ‘Merck More Than a Mother’ campaign

“Merck More Than a Mother” is a strong movement that aims to empower infertile women through access to information, education and change of mind-sets. This powerful campaign supports governments in defining policies to enhance access to regulated, safe and effective fertility care. It defines interventions to break the stigma around infertile women and raises awareness about infertility prevention, management and male infertility. In partnership with African First Ladies, Ministries of Health, Information, Education & Gender, academia, policymakers, International fertility societies, media and art, the initiative also provides training for fertility specialists and embryologists to build and advance fertility care capacity in Africa and developing countries.

With “Merck More Than a Mother”, we have initiated a cultural shift to de-stigmatize infertility on all levels: By improving awareness, training local experts in the fields of fertility care and media, building advocacy in cooperation with African First Ladies and women leaders and by supporting childless women in starting their own small businesses. It’s all about giving every woman the respect and the help she deserves to live a fulfilling life, with or without a child.

The Ambassadors of “Merck More Than a Mother” are: H.E. NEO JANE MASISI, The First Lady of Botswana H.E. FATOUMATTA BAHBARROW, The First Lady of The Gambia H.E. MONICA GEINGOS, The First Lady of Namibia H.E DENISE NKURUNZIZA, The First Lady of Burundi H.E. REBECCA AKUFO-ADDO, The First Lady of Ghana H.E AÏSSATA ISSOUFOU MAHAMADO, The First Lady of Niger H.E. BRIGITTE TOUADERA, The First Lady of Central African Republic H.E. CONDÉ DJENE, The First Lady of Guinea Conakry H.E. AISHA BUHARI, The First Lady of Nigeria H.E. HINDA DEBY ITNO, The First Lady of Chad H.E. C LAR WEAH, The First Lady of Liberia H.E FATIMA MAADA, The First Lady of Sierra Leone H.E. ANTOINETTE SASSOUNGUESSO, The First Lady of Congo Brazzaville H.E. PROFESSOR GERTRUDE MUTHARIKA, The First Lady of Malawi H.E. ESTHER LUNGU, The First Lady of Zambia H.E. SYLVIA BONGO ONDIMBA, The First Lady of Democratic Republic of Congo H.E. ISAURA FERRÃO NYUSI, The First Lady of Mozambique H.E. AUXILLIA MNANGAGWA, The First Lady of Zimbabwe

Merck Foundation is making history in many African countries where they never had fertility specialists or specialized fertility clinics before ‘Merck More Than a Mother’ intervention, to train the first fertility specialists such as; in Sierra Leone, Liberia, The Gambia, Niger, Chad, Guinea, Ethiopia and Uganda.

Merck Foundation launched new innovative initiatives to sensitize local communities about infertility prevention, male infertility with the aim to break the stigma of infertility and empowering infertile women as part of Merck More than a Mother COMMUNITY AWARENESS CAMPAIGN, such as;

‘Merck More than a Mother’ Media Recognition Awards and Health Media Training

• ‘Merck More than a Mother’ Fashion Awards • ‘Merck More than a Mother’ Film Awards

• Local songs with local artists to address the cultural perception of infertility and how to change it

• Children storybook, localized for each country

*Source Merck Foundation

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As pandemic rages, women and girls face intensified risks
March 20, 2020 | 0 Comments

NEW YORK, USA, le 20 Mars 2020,-/African Media Agency (AMA)/- As the COVID-19 pandemic rages around the world, governments are taking unprecedented measures to limit the spread of the virus, ramping up health system responses and announcing movement restrictions affecting millions. But amid these efforts, policymakers must not lose sight of the vulnerabilities of women and girls, which have been exacerbated by the crisis, says a UNFPA guidance note released today.

COVID-19, the coronavirus disease that has rapidly spread around the world since it was discovered late last year, appears most deadly among elderly populations and people with pre-existing medical conditions. Accurate and complete sex-disaggregated data are still needed to understand whether and how women and men experience infection, complication and death risks differently.

Yet even now, it is clear that women and girls face a variety of risk factors that must urgently be addressed.

“Disease outbreaks affect women and men differently,” says the new UNFPA guidance document, which covers how gender is playing a role in the unfolding pandemic. “Pandemics make existing gender inequalities for women and girls worse, and can impact how they receive treatment and care.”

Women on the front lines

Women may face heightened risk of exposure to COVID-19 due to their disproportional representation among health-care and social service personnel. Around the world, around 70 per cent of health and social service workers are women. Many are midwives, nurses or community health workers, roles that place them on the front lines of any disease outbreak.

Risks to women and girls also increase if health systems divert resources from sexual and reproductive health care to respond to the epidemic, and if supply lines begin to creak under the strain of the pandemic.

Sexual and reproductive health services and commodities are often overlooked in times of crisis, yet women continue to require family planning, menstrual health supplies and maternal health care. Already, countries have seen health systems forced to allocate staff and resources towards critical care services and away from other areas of care.

It is a particularly worrying time for women who are pregnant and in need of routine health services. Infection control measures must be taken to protect women in antenatal, neonatal and maternal health units, the guidance note says.

Pregnant women also need access to reliable information and quality care.

“To date, there is no evidence that pregnant women are at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19 or present with different symptoms,” said  UNFPA Executive Director Dr. Natalia Kanem. “It is important to ensure that all pregnant women with a suspected, probable or confirmed COVID-19 infection continue to have access to the full range of quality health care. Pregnant women with respiratory illnesses must be treated with the utmost priority due to increased risk of adverse outcomes.”

Risk of violence, affected livelihoods

The pandemic has also given rise to threats that extend beyond the risk of infection.  Evidence from previous disease outbreaks reveals that women and girls face particular vulnerabilities.

In the 2015-2016 Zika outbreak, women faced significant barriers to health care due to lack of autonomy over their own sexual and reproductive health, inadequate access to health services, and insufficient financial resources. During the 2014-2016 West African Ebola outbreak, women were more likely to be infected due to their predominant roles as caretakers and health workers.

Today, the coronavirus pandemic could exact a significant toll on women’s livelihoods, as school closures increase the burden of domestic care that typically falls to women, and as travel restrictions affect service industries and informal labour dominated by female workers.

Epidemics and their attendant stresses can also increase the risk of domestic abuse and other forms of gender-based violence. The economic effects of the Ebola outbreak, for instance, led to exacerbated sexual exploitation risks for women and children. Today, as families face heightened tensions, financial uncertainties and other pressures, women and girls face intensified vulnerabilities.

UNFPA urges policymakers to include women’s perspectives in pandemic planning and decision-making. Health systems are also urged to be prepared to provide essential support to survivors of gender-based violence.

“All these survivors need to access protection and health services even in the midst of community quarantines,” said Aimee Santos, a UNFPA gender expert working in the Philippines, where the organization is working with Government health services on the pandemic response.

Working together

All of these vulnerabilities are exacerbated in humanitarian settings. “For the nearly 48 million women and girls, including 4 million pregnant women, identified by UNFPA as in need of humanitarian assistance and protection in 2020, the dangers that COVID-19 outbreaks pose will be magnified,” the guide says. It calls for humanitarian action plans to account for the need to respond to the pandemic.

In addition to advocating for gender-sensitive responses, UNFPA has been providing material support to affected health systems.

In China, UNFPA has distributed sanitary napkins and adult diapers for vulnerable populations, including at-risk elderly persons, as well as personal protective equipment for health workers. In Iran, UNFPA has acquired supplies such as masks, disinfectants and gloves for health workers.

In the Philippines, UNFPA recently provided personal protective equipment – including coveralls, long-sleeve gowns, face shields, eye goggles, aprons, head covers, and shoe covers – to frontline health workers. These supplies supplement an earlier distribution of hand-held thermometers and surgical masks.

“It is imperative that we support [the Department of Health] and all the heroes of this country today – all the people working in the health sector, especially the front-liners risking their health and safety to respond to this emergency. They need to be protected from infection,” said Dr. Joseph Michael Singh, a UNFPA health expert in the Philippines.

Distributed by African Media Agency (AMA) on behalf of UNFPA.

Source : African Media Agency (AMA)

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Kenya : Traders Warned Against Hike in Commodity prices
March 17, 2020 | 0 Comments
Kenya Association of Manufacturers (KAM) Chief Executive Phyllis Wakiaga

By Samuel Ouma

Kenyan traders have been warned against hiking prices of products over coronavirus pandemic.

The statement was issued by the Kenya Association of Manufacturers (KAM) chief executive Phyllis Wakiaga urging their members to stick to contractual obligation and avoid increasing prices.

“KAM advocates that the rule of law prevails during this time and that all producers and distributors continue to uphold existing contractual obligations, especially with regard to price controls for the sake of consumers,” said Wakiaga.

On its side, the Competition Authority of Kenya (CAK) notified manufacturers and retailers that they will attract a penalty of up to the 10 per cent of their turnover if they attempt to raise the their prices or hoard with an intention of increasing prices.

Few hours after Kenyan government confirmed the first case of covid-19 on Friday last week; Kenyans thronged shopping centres like supermarkets to purchase sanitizers and household commodities in panic buy mode.

Upon visiting a handful of supermarkets based in Nairobi, we discovered that there were shortages of sanitizers and basic commodities like maize flour, rice and sugar. Most shelves were empty and there were long queues of customers waiting to be served.

Dan Githua, Chief Executive Officer of Tuskys Supermarket, one of the famous supermarkets in the country had assured the customers of adequate stock.

“As a responsible corporate citizen, we wish to assure the public that the panic is unnecessary. We have engaged with our suppliers and received firm commitments that we shall continue receiving necessary supplies at the standard prices,” he said.

Githua also disclosed the adoption of a limited purchase policy which will see every customer buying three packets of a hand sanitizer, antiseptic and bleach liquid. The move was aimed at locking out opportunists who were buying the products in bulk and sell them at a very high price to desperate Kenyans.

“A few bold and entrepreneurial customers have been taking advantage of the prevailing Covid-19 panic to buy particular items in bulk and resell at inflated prices,” Githua said.

On Sunday, March 15, Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe confirmed the other two cases of the deadly virus forcing the government to shut down all learning institutions until further notice to avert further spread. The two who tested positive had travelled in the same plane with the first patient.

The first woman to test positive had arrived in Kenya from USA via London on March 5 and the virus detected 8 days later.

President Uhuru Kenyatta also announced that all foreigners have been banned from entering the country and those who entered the country in the last two weeks have been directed to self-quarantine.

“As a result of this we are going to implement the following measures: Only Kenyan citizens and foreigners with valid resident permits will be allowed to come into the country provided they proceed on self-quarantine or in a government quarantine facility,” President Uhuru Kenyatta.

Kenya had also cancelled flights to and from the affected countries. Non-essential travels have also been halted.

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March 17, 2020 | 0 Comments

  • Announcement made during Vlisco Women’s Month as part of the pan-African campaign theme ‘All women, all united’
  • Second year of mentoring program continues to empower Ghana’s most inspiring future female leaders
  • Over 150 young women attend a show-stopping event with mentoring sessions led by special guests and a panel discussion featuring all five past Vlisco ambassadors, designed to inspire attendees to achieve their professional goals
Mr. Stephen Badu, Vlisco Marketing Director

Ghana, 16th March 2020: Today, Dutch wax print specialist Vlisco announced the second edition of its Women’s Mentoring Program, designed to empower and support the brightest female talent across Ghana. To coincide with celebrations around International Women’s Day and Vlisco Women’s Month, Vlisco hosted an exclusive event at the World Trade Centre, Accra, inviting more than 150 young women and special guests to hear about the inspiring stories and experiences of experts and past Vlisco Ambassadors.

Vlisco has long been a brand that not only creates beautiful fabrics but also one that inspires and champions the role of women in our society. This led to the launch of the Vlisco Women’s Mentoring Program in 2019 with the aim of impacting the lives of young Ghanaian women by providing guidance on developing key skills in a variety of relevant areas. Following the success of the inaugural mentoring program, the ambition to create long-lasting impact with the women they seek to inspire, celebrating Ghanaian women and engaging future talent, remains.

Vlisco Marketing Director Mr. Stephen Badu elaborated on the mission to impact the lives of young Ghanaian women “2019 was a very exciting year as we launched the first Women’s Mentoring Program, and we had immense success and feedback from both the Ambassadors and their respective mentees. Our aim with the second edition is to extend this opportunity to more young women in Ghana who can be supported through the journey of achieving their goals via insights from women who have walked the path before them.”

During the first half of the event, the invited young women enjoyed two specialist mentoring sessions from Dzigbordi Dosoo, renowned businesswoman and co-creator of skincare brand Kanshi and Freda Obeng- Ampofo, founder of KAEME BodyCare. To provide an interactive learning experience, sessions covered key topics including gender balance and nurturing business relationships followed by a question and answer session with the young women in attendance.

Afterwards, special guests including customers and vendors of Vlisco joined the second half of the program which was hosted by notable MC, TV presenter and classical singer, Kokui Selormey.  The program entailed an engaging panel session featuring the former Vlisco ambassadors and 2019 mentees, sharing their positive experiences from the first program.

In true Vlisco fashion, three Ghanaian fashion designers showcased their latest collections interspersed with entertainment from musician Ekow Saxx, comedian Jacinta Asi Ocansey and band Afro Maestro. 

The program concluded with the announcement of five new mentees selected to participate in the 2020 edition of the Vlisco Women’s Mentoring Program. Each former Ambassador has been assigned one mentee as part of the year-long mentorship program, creating a forum where they can actively engage with and have a positive impact on the younger generation who aspire to follow in their footsteps.

Current ambassador Edith Uyovbukerhi noted, “It has been an incredible honour to have the opportunity to share my life and journey with my mentee, but it’s been a bigger privilege to be a part of her life and to impart into it. I have learnt from her and it has been a refreshing experience to watch her bloom so beautifully. I look forward to continuing this great experience with my new mentee.”

Mr. Badu concluded by citing examples of some of the work Ambassadors have engaged in such as Legacy Girls, an all-girls Senior High School Co-Founded by Mrs. Ellen Hagan (Vlisco Ambassador, 2013), The Young Educators Foundation & Spelling Bee by Eugenia Tachie-Menson (Vlisco Ambassador, 2014), The Girl’s Education Initiative of Ghana by Elizabeth Patterson (Vlisco Ambassador, 2015), Tech Needs Girls by Regina Honu (Vlisco Ambassador, 2016) and LittleBigSouls, charity for premature babies Co-Founded by Edith Uyovbukerhi (Vlisco Ambassador, current).

Also, during Women’s month 2020 Vlisco celebrates the power and unity of sisterhood. With the campaign motto ‘All women, all united’, Vlisco honours its ambassadors who work hard to motivate and empower other women. This motto is also included as a strong and bright embellishment in two exclusive Wax Hollandais and Super-Wax designs. The new campaign features four inspiring women and their powerful work to improve women’s lives in Togo, Benin, Democratic Republic of the Congo and Ivory Coast. These women walk the extra mile to motivate and embolden other women to build a healthier, joyous and prosperous society.

Vlisco proudly presents these amazing women in a campaign that will be presented in Togo, Benin, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ghana and Ivory Coast, and to a global audience online. The campaign features billboards, TV commercials, video portraits and events dedicated to women who are making a difference.

The Women’s Month ‘All women, all united’ Vlisco Wax prints will be available exclusively at Vlisco stores.

Vlisco has been a Dutch printer of wax fabrics since 1846. Because of African women traders, the fabrics, originally intended for the Indonesian market, became part of African culture. They not only bought and sold the fabric, they also advised on colour and design. Moreover, they created names for the different prints and told stories about their meaning.

African women then bought the fabrics to turn into garments that expressed their identity. The market for Vlisco prints in Africa is an example of mass-customisation and individual self-expression. This is not fast fashion but sustainable made-to-measure.

Vlisco still has its home in Helmond, the Netherlands. The design team is international and chosen for their individual and varied style. The imaginative designs come from the designers themselves, but the interpretation and expression are purely African.

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March 10, 2020 | 0 Comments

Renée M. Dugué-Strother*

Ruth Arreyngang Abunaw Besong (IPW) and Renée Dugué-Strother (R&R)
Buea, Cameroon 1/20

In true #BLACKGIRLMAGIC Fashion she walks life’s tight rope…

Masterfully balancing her journey’s responsibilities…

Magically maintaining her integrity, her esteem, her compassion, her mental acuity, and her spiritual awareness.

Resilient and resourceful, she relies on her ancestors and angels to fuel her rocket ship spirit guided by her Creator into her destiny’s galaxy.

She wondrously weaves all of these elements…

Faithfully embroidering each panel with threads of poise, grace, dignity, and class…

Each stitch embedded with vibranium-like endurance.

In true #BLACKGIRLMAGIC Fashion she wears her cape.

A garment fit for royalty, crafted with quality far superior to the finest fabrics this plane can create.

No runway in Paris produces this.

No fashion show in New York knows how.

No place in India inks silks of this caliber.

This regal drape…

This coveted covering…

Is embellished with the blood, sweat and tears of this planet’s Motherland.

Her Motherland.

Her Mother’s land.

And so she stands.

In front of her life’s proverbial mirror preparing for the day.

Seeing that she is completely dressed, equipped and covered.

No additional accessories needed.

The only befitting enhancement to her birth right suit and her natural beauty is her brilliant smile.

She puts it on.

And in true #BLACKGIRLMAGIC Fashion she sets out to share her radiant gifts with everyone she encounters.

*~Renée M. Dugué-Strother

#BLACKGIRLMAGIC CAMEROON was inspired by my host and Cameroonian partner, who warmly welcomed me into her home and her family in Buea.  She is a(n)… Woman of God, Faithful Wife, Nurturing Mother, Loving Daughter, Amazing Sister, Loyal Friend, Courageous Humanitarian, Relentless Scholar. This LADY is intelligent, sensitive, powerful, ambitious, kind, and strong beyond my comprehension! She is the epitome of perseverance and humility personified. I’m so inspired by this CEO Boss Lady with a heart as rich as Africa!

Because of you…

I WILL #Walk4Water

Mrs. Renée M. Dugué-Strother is a Healer, Artist, Writer, Humanitarian, and Co-founder, and Executive Director of Reborn And Rising, a nonprofit based in Houston, TX, USA. This organization  provides support to minority male child homicide survivors beyond the grieving period. Through music, art, education, entrepreneurial ventures, travel, and humanitarian efforts, with the support of dedicated mentors, our RISERS are encouraged to discover their passions and explore the tangible possibilities of making their dreams come true. Reborn And Rising’s desire is to empower youth to find strength in their experiences and rise above the pain to choose life after loss.

Reborn And Rising will continue to implement their Water Station Restoration Project 4 times annually. A long term partnership with Investing In People Worldwide (Buea) and Solid Fort Construction (Douala) has been established, and plans for the 3 remaining public tap rehabilitations this year are already underway. Reborn And Rising is committed to continuing to support the efforts of IPW, as Ruth Besong works tirelessly in ensure women and children’s rights are respected. Additional plans are also in progress, as Mrs. Renée has identified the boys and men of Cameroon are critically in need of assistance. Reborn And Rising will return in 2021 specifically to support them.

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Commonwealth gathering urges countries to make this ‘the decade of gender equality’
March 8, 2020 | 0 Comments

A Commonwealth gathering has called for an end to gender inequality by 2030 so every girl can have the same opportunities as boys.

Ahead of International Women’s Day, Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland joined a gathering of leaders, celebrities, academics and activists in London to discuss ways to accelerate the progress.

Despite decades of activism and reforms, only six countries in the world give women and men equal rights to work in their law books – an increase from none about 10 years ago.

The Secretary-General said: “Our Commonwealth Charter speaks of gender equality and women’s empowerment as being essential components of human development and basic human rights.

“Advancing women’s rights, the education of girls and their participation in the workforce are critical prerequisites for effective and sustainable development.

“For instance, on average, for every £1 invested in a business, those with all-male boards show a loss of two per cent, while those with two or more women yield a return of six per cent.

“But many countries need help to make it happen. So today, we are consulting on a toolkit that will support country-level efforts with training programmes and campaigns to accelerate gender equality.”

She declared this March as Commonwealth Gender Equality Month to “sharpen the focus on the need to accelerate the rate at which action is taken by our member nations to achieve gender equality”.

Delegates watched a new film that follows Livia Firth, co-founder of Eco-Age, to Botswana. In the film, she listens to women who have improved their living standards by working in Botswana’s diamond industry.

Over 80 cents of each dollar from Botswana’s diamonds go to funding measures to reduce poverty, empower women, deliver quality education and provide free health care.

Livia said: “In Botswana, I have seen a picture of what can happen when businesses operate in partnership with the government and civil society, and where long-term investments are made in collaboration with local communities to ensure that the benefits are truly shared with those on the ground.”

An expert panel discussed how diamonds have contributed to the sustainable development of Botswana uplifting communities and protecting the environment.

Panellists included The First lady of Botswana Neo Masisi, Patricia Scotland, Livia Firth, Baroness Lola Young, and three women featured in the film: Pat Dambe, Naseem Lahri and Kgalalelo Mokgweetsi.

Neo Masisi said: “Botswana’s economy transformed from one of the poorest countries in the world to a middle-income country in Africa where the discovery of diamonds has played a pivotal role in creating sustainable growth and development in Batswana’s livelihoods.

“Botswana has managed where many others have failed to translate the potential resources below ground into enduring value above ground.”

The panel presented a list of progressive practices, which had helped close the gender gap in the Botswanan workforce. These include engaging women in the development sector, investing equally in women and men and getting women into male-dominated industries.

The Secretary-General launched a toolkit, developed in partnership with the NO MORE Foundation, that will help implement the sustainable development goal five for gender equality.

The toolkit aims to provide guidance on devising culturally sensitive training programmes, bystanders intervention initiatives and motivational campaigns to bring about positive change more swiftly, including challenging gender-based violence.

International Women’s Day is a global event that celebrates women achievers in every field while calling for gender equality.


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Reflections… My First Trip To The Motherland
March 4, 2020 | 0 Comments

By Renée Dugué-Strother *

Pilanesberg, North West Province, South Africa September 2017 Photo Credit: Renée Dugué-Strother

The Anticipation…
Eyes wide
Heart open
Wings spread
Feet landed

At First Sight…
Soul weighted
Stomach pained
Tears flowed
Fists clenched

Settling In…
Being welcomed
Hands held
Energy soothed
Spirit imbued

Parting Gift…
Mind opened
Ears pierced
Back strengthened
Soul stirred

Each one, reach one, teach one
So much work, to be done

*Mrs. Renée M. Dugué-Strother is a Healer, Artist, Writer, Humanitarian, Co-founder, and Executive Director of Reborn And Rising, a nonprofit based in Houston, TX, USA. This organization provides support to minority male child homicide survivors beyond the grieving period. Through music, art, education, entrepreneurial ventures, travel, and humanitarian efforts, with the support of dedicated mentors, our RISERS are encouraged to discover their passions and explore the tangible possibilities of making their dreams come true. Reborn And Rising’s desire is to empower youth to find strength in their experiences and rise above the pain to choose life after loss.

Reborn And Rising will continue to implement their Water Station Restoration Project 4 times annually. A long term partnership with Investing In People Worldwide (Buea) and Solid Fort Construction (Douala) has been established, and plans for the 3 remaining public tap rehabilitations this year are already underway. Reborn And Rising is committed to continuing to support the efforts of IPW, as Ruth Besong works tirelessly in ensure women and children’s rights are respected. Additional plans are also in progress, as Mrs. Renée has identified the boys and men of Cameroon are critically in need of assistance. Reborn And Rising will return in 2021 specifically to support them.

Renée’s spirit is as free as her mind is determined. The consummate seeker of light and insight; she encourages all to seek the pathological origins of their behavior. She provides support in identifying, accepting and ultimately appreciating every aspect of existence, as completely necessary to fulfill our divine purpose. She is laser focused when achieving an objective, yet never forgets to laugh and love along the way.

A native of New Orleans, Louisiana, she has resided in Houston, Texas since Hurricane Katrina devastated her hometown in 2005. She loves spending quality time with family and friends, as they enjoy what she considers life’s must-haves…lots of love, beaucoup laughs, tasty treats, and scrumptious sweets…while music that moves your soul plays on repeat.

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National Gallery of Zimbabwe Director Sibanda retires
March 3, 2020 | 0 Comments

By Wallace Mawire

Doreen Sibanda

The Board of Trustees of the National Gallery of Zimbabwe has announced the retirement of Mrs. Doreen Sibanda from the position of Executive Director effective from  30 January 2020.

Mrs Sibanda was appointed as Executive Director of the National Gallery of Zimbabwe in 2004 and has served in that capacity over the last 16 years.

Mrs Sibanda is a qualified Educator, having attained a Certificate of Education: Art and Design the University of Birmingham, School of Education followed by a Bachelor of Education Degree (With Merit) University of Zimbabwe, 1979 and then a Master of Education: Qualifying Course University of Zimbabwe, 1980.

Mrs Sibanda initially joined the National Gallery of Zimbabwe in 1981, establishing the Education and Public Programmes Department of the organization and served as the Education Officer until 1988. She curated at Pavilion of Zimbabwe at the Venice Biennale, curated multiple exhibitions throughout her service in the National Gallery of Zimbabwe, as well as serving as Commissioner of all five Pavilions of Zimbabwe at la Biennale di Venezia since 2011.

As from 1996 to 2001, she founded and directed her private gallery, Mutupo, while working on a large number of projects in that stead. She has served as a Lecturer at the National Gallery of Zimbabwe’s BAT Studios, Harare Polytechnic and the University of Zimbabwe. Mrs Sibanda served as an Art Consultant to the National Gallery of Zimbabwe, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and HiVOS.
Mrs Sibanda has been appointed to numerous Professional Boards including the ZAVACAD, which she founded; Crafts Council of Zimbabwe, Women Filmmakers of Zimbabwe/ International Images Film Festival, National Handicraft Centre, National Merchant of Zimbabwe, ZARNET, Great Zimbabwe University Council, Women’s University in Africa, Zimpapers and POTRAZ.

  “On behalf of the Board of Trustees, Senior Management and Staff, I would like to thank Mrs Sibanda for the hard work and the immense contribution she has made to the Visual Art sector as well as steering the National Gallery of Zimbabwe through the most tumultuous of situations. Her fervent pursuit of the delivery of the National Gallery of Zimbabwe’s mandate to promote and preserve Zimbabwean Art has become a benchmark in this Century, and her legacy shall continue to inspire all stakeholders in the Industry.We wish her the best in her future endeavours,” said Chinovava Chikukwa of the National Gallery of Zimbabwe.

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Lawyers on Demand: Changing the Way Legal Work is Done in Africa by Playing the “Scale Game”
February 14, 2020 | 0 Comments

African legal clients are demanding a practice model that is swift, cost-effective and transparent

By Glenda Irvine-Smith*

Glenda Irvine-Smith
Glenda Irvine-Smith

According to the Director of Business Development & International Relations at Centurion Law Group (, and Key Coordinator of the firm’s unique Centurion Plus model, Glenda Irvine-Smith the demand for “agile” local lawyers has risen significantly on the African continent. This is why Centurion has developed its Centurion Plus platform to respond to this need.

Despite numerous global and regional challenges, investment in Africa is predicted to grow in 2020; with African M&A values in 2019 valued at around $13 billion in total, there is a lot to play for on the continent.

To take advantage of this positive investment climate, investors must form close working relationships with the best legal counsel, as well as due diligence experts and local advisors on the ground in Africa, who have specialist knowledge and understanding of the particular commercial challenges within their investment locations.

Investors in Africa must also consider geo-political and economic uncertainty on the continent as well as a plethora of country and region-specific governance, compliance and regulatory challenges when investing in the region.

In order to close deals on the continent, investors need access to the right information and data. The success of a transaction depends on having real knowledge instead of relying on market perception.

Furthermore, investors can never assume one country is the same as any other in Africa. Even if they are geographical neighbours, each country is vastly different to the next. The legal systems in many countries are also changing rapidly, stemming from a desire to encourage foreign investment, but also out of a need to protect the rights and resources of a country and its people.

This is why in Africa, the demand for “agile” local lawyers has risen significantly: African legal clients are demanding a practice model that is swift, cost-effective and transparent. With a cost model that is scaled to the client’s needs and a service model that is tailored to the job. Clients are also looking for non-traditional, outside of the box thinking which can seize opportunities in a way that a one-size-fits-all traditional legal approach cannot.

Centurion Law Group has developed its Centurion Plus platform to respond to this need. The firm believes in providing flexible solutions to clients that address mounting workloads and budgetary constraints. Centurion Plus is a platform which provides on-demand-lawyers that can work with clients on site or remotely, on various flexible models such as secondments, special projects, rotational work or flexible support. Clients also get the benefit of expertise at a far more competitive rate that reflects the significantly lower overhead costs of this model.

Not only does this alternative to orthodox law firms, work for clients; it works for lawyers too. It is certainly a growing trend that instead of working at a law firm, working extremely long hours, and having a portion of your earnings going into the owners’ pockets, you can become a freelance lawyer, working on demand.

So many companies have adopted this design thinking model for the delivery of its legal services – by telling lawyers what, when and how they need their work completed.; This has led to the successful implementation of on-demand-services, dramatically reducing lawyers’ time on transactions, while improving the insight, judgement and predictability of outcomes.  Furthermore, “buyers” of legal services are increasingly driven to purchase legal services online, decoupled from traditional institutions, to access quality and convenience without the high costs.

While the concept is not new, this hasn’t been done in the unchartered waters of Africa yet. The challenge for African firms operating platforms like Centurion Plus will revolve around the mindset shift of becoming more process-driven, technology-enabled and delivering quality legal services.

* Glenda Irvine-Smith is the Director of Business Development & International Relations at Centurion Law Group. She is the Key Coordinator of Centurion Plus, where she leverages her network and database of leading African law firms and lawyers to assist large companies with their need to upscale quickly or take on new projects, making use of flexible lawyers and advisors. Glenda has had vast experience in navigating clients accessing Africa through a variety of different models.

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Africa’s female fund managers to receive major boost through launch of a multi-million dollar fund
February 11, 2020 | 0 Comments
UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, and African Union Commission Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat, witness the signing of a partnership agreement between UNECA and Standard Bank Group represented by UNECA Executive Secretary Dr Vera Songwe and Sola David-Borha, the bank's Chief Executive for African Regions.
UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, and African Union Commission Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat, witness the signing of a partnership agreement between UNECA and Standard Bank Group represented by UNECA Executive Secretary Dr Vera Songwe and Sola David-Borha, the bank’s Chief Executive for African Regions.

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia, February 10th, 2020,-/African Media Agency (AMA) /-  African leaders are putting women front and center of efforts to drive the continent’s economic growth through a game-changing fund that invests in women fund managers and also provides technical assistance.

The launch of the African Women Leadership Fund (AWLF) will provide capital to both first time and experienced fund managers in support of UN Sustainable Development Goals 5 (Gender Equality) and 8 (Decent Work and Economic Growth), and African Union Agenda 2063.

The ground-breaking partnership, formally signed at the weekend in Addis Ababa between the United Nations Economic Commission of Africa (ECA) and Standard Bank Group, will be transformational in breaking down structural barriers to inclusive investing in Africa.

Over $20 million was raised for the fund on Saturday that has a current goal of $100 million. President Paul Kagame of Rwanda was instrumental in leading the way, pledging $500,000. Senegal’s President Macky Sall also committed $500,000. South African President Cyril Ramaphosa pledged to contribute to the fund. The private sector participants pledged the rest.

High level presidents former presidents, PM Norway and AU chair with Vera and Sola after the signing

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada pledged $10 million to the African Union to boost gender parity. Norway Prime Minister Erna Solberg pledged $8 million to AU initiatives. A portion of these resources will be earmarked for the women’s initiative.


Among the world leaders who witnessed the official launch of this innovative impact investment fund were UN Secretary-General, Antonio Gutteres, African Union Commission Chairperson, Moussa Faki Mahamat, Ethiopian President Sahle-Work Zewde. Former Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was also in attendance, as were a number of former African female heads of state.

“We are turning the tables and making women the decision-makers of investable money in Africa. We want women to be on the supply side of money, not only on the demand side,” said Dr. Vera Songwe, UN Under Secretary General and Executive Secretary of ECA. A key goal of the fund is to empower women financial leaders who will drive economic growth, job creation, and create prosperity. 

In Africa women-owned funds and businesses struggle due largely to lack of successful fundraising, insufficient exposure to systems and procedures, and lack of track records, among others. They also contend with gender-based social expectation, resistance to women in leadership roles and lack of a support network. The fund will empower Africa’s women by giving them access to financial resources and investment management expertise.

Sola David-Borha, Chief Executive of Africa Regions at Standard Bank Group, says the fund aligns with the Bank’s purpose to drive Africa’s growth and “presents an opportunity for Standard Bank to leverage our footprint and expertise on the continent, and the relevant experience of our asset management arms, Melville Douglas and STANLIB Multi-Managers, to build Africa’s economies. Africa is our home, we drive her growth”.

Women fund managers will receive a deployment of capital, and subsequently invest in majority female-owned businesses. Even though the fund is sector agnostic, priority sectors will be education, manufacturing, healthcare, clean energy and agriculture. Additionally, technical assistance for fund managers and entrepreneurs will be offered through the initiative. This ranges from building capacity, direct mentoring to leveraging technology in health and education. 

Vera Songwe and UN SG Gutteres
Vera Songwe and UN SG Gutteres

Songwe emphasized “The goal here is to give women-led financial investment activities a huge injection of jet fuel to bear out the proven positive correlation between gender balance, higher financial returns and developmental impact.”

In his remarks, Secretary-General Gutteres said, “power is not usually given, it must be taken.”

* Distributed by African Media Agency (AMA) on behalf of United Nations Economic Commission of Africa (ECA)

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USA Business Delegates to Stand Firmly on the side of Zimbabwean Women in Dubai
February 6, 2020 | 0 Comments

By Nevson Mpofu

Abigail Magwenzi Commander In Chief of Red-Lip-Stick Revolution

Zimbabwe’s financially empowered bevy of women in Business will be backed by USA Business plenipotentiaries and conscripts of economic acumen this year from 21 to 22 February. The Do Dubai Conference will attract more than 200 top business executives, Small to Medium Enterprise women and young women of business fabric society.

This is time for women to rise and shine. Women have risen to greater heights accelerated by the 1995 Beijing Declaration for Action. A number of women are in top leadership positions at Global Level. Women according to UN-WOMEN are 30% in decision making positions like in Parliament looking at Zimbabwe.

Among these, Abigail Magwenzi Commander In Chief of Red-Lip-Stick Revolution delineated that time for women to shine. She noted that the glamorous event will be graced by delegates from USA these, she adds will add a link of social interaction with Zimbabwe business women.

 ‘’Our main objective is to program a mind-set that is business wise in identifying new greater opportunities in the midst of our challenges. In other words we have to look at issues lagging and blocking our business. Obviously we have to talk about solar energy.

‘’We have to build bridges between Zimbabwe and Dubai. Besides, we look at other countries like USA that we are inviting .We haves a number of business delegate from some other countries. We have delegates from the USA and those from Asia, Africa and Zimbabwe which is expected out of the total number of delegates likely to score high. It’s time to show and display market intelligence, network, share experiences and identify financial solutions for Business’’.

  ‘’USA and some Asian countries will have a number of the top business delegates of high

  Fabric and financial muscle. There are goals like poverty eradication which we want to score in terms of goals on empowerment and equality.

‘’It’s time for Zimbabwean women to shine in the Global market looking at making women become entrepreneurs and different leaders. Dubai is targeted because of its Global central point in terms of business. It is a hive of various business activities attracting 1 billion tourists World-Wide.

Dr Magwenzi one of Zimbabwe’s first millionaires believes in hard-working to become a millionaire. She notes millionaires work hard to become what they are. She has a belief as well that if women are empowered they can become Leaders. However she adds that there should be an equal society.

‘’Women to be empowered they need to brought up in an equal society. As Red Lip Stick Revolution we create an equal society they empower all women so that they become business leaders of top skills. My organisation trains, capacitates and imparts skills in women from grass roots. In-fact we want to grow a community of rich women.

‘’That is the reason why we have engaged USA so that our women can socially interact to become leaders in the country. There are also Asian business gurus from China and Dubai we will come although there is a challenge of corona- virus. Dubai despite anything is safe destination of sundry activities ranging from business to Tourism.’’, says Abigail.

Vandudzai Zireva of BUY ZIMBABWE buttressed Abigail‘s points by announcing that Zimbabwe will run a Supermarket in Dubai so that Dubai can experience Zimbabwe’s products.

‘’Zimbabwe shall have a supermarket in Dubai. We have to do this so that Dubai can experiences the sound of our products. Secondly, this is for social interaction, business experience and growing opportunities in terms of Investments’’ , she announced.

The 2020 Dubai Women Conference is expected to make women grow in business by opening up new channels for economic development and growth. Experts, have noted, Zimbabwe’s economic index in terms of Gross Domestic Product will rise through promoting and supporting women through financial and resource empowerment.

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Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala named the next Angelopoulos Global Public Leaders Fellow at Harvard Kennedy School
February 4, 2020 | 0 Comments
Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala

CAMBRIDGE, MA—Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, a former finance minister of Nigeria and former managing director of the World Bank, has been named the next Angelopoulos Global Public Leaders Fellow at Harvard Kennedy School. The announcement was made today by Harvard Kennedy School Dean Douglas Elmendorf. Okonjo-Iweala begins her fellowship this month.

“Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala will bring to the Kennedy School a wealth of practical experience and insights into the development challenges and achievements in Africa and across the developing world,” Elmendorf said. “As the longest-serving finance minister in Nigeria and a leader at the World Bank for more than two decades, she engineered successful new approaches to fostering sustained and inclusive growth in developing countries. She will enrich our campus conversation on the public policy choices needed for effective governance that serves societies.”

In October 2019, Okonjo-Iweala delivered the Robert S. McNamara Lecture on War and Peacein the John F. Kennedy Jr. Forum at the Kennedy School. “I am honored to be able to return to the Kennedy School as the Angelopoulos Fellow, and to work with students and faculty who are wrestling every day with the world’s most complex development problems,” she said.

Okonjo-Iweala was the longest-serving finance minister in her native Nigeria and the first woman to hold that position. She was also the first female foreign minister. Okonjo-Iweala drove systemic financial reforms and strengthened fiscal transparency to fight corruption, tripling the country’s growth rate. She also negotiated a $30 billion reduction in Nigeria’s external debt. In her 25-year career at the World Bank, she rose to the No. 2 position of managing director of operations and oversaw the development portfolio for South Asia, Africa, Europe, and Central Asia.

A magna cum laude graduate of Harvard University (1976), Okonjo-Iweala earned her doctorate from MIT and has been awarded 15 honorary degrees. She was recognized as one of the 100 most powerful women in the world by Forbes magazine for four years in a row, and by Time magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in the world. She was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2019. Currently, Okonjo-Iweala is chair of the Board of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, which has immunized 760 million children in the developing world against infectious diseases. She is also co-chair of the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate.

The Angelopoulos Global Public Leaders Program was established with support from Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki, president of the Athens 2004 Olympics, former ambassador of Greece, lawyer, and recently appointed committee chair of “Greece 2021.” The program provides opportunities for high-profile public leaders who are transitioning from office or other leadership roles to spend time in residence at Harvard Kennedy School reflecting, teaching, learning, and conducting research. During her time at the Kennedy School, Okonjo-Iweala will meet with students and scholars as well as lecture, write, and participate in public discussions and forums.

Okonjo-Iweala becomes the fifth Angelopoulos Global Public Leaders Fellow since the program’s inception in 2011. Previous fellows are Juan Manuel Santos, former president of Colombia; Ban Ki-moon, former secretary-general of the United Nations; Tarja Halonen, former president of Finland; and Felipe Calderon, former president of Mexico.

*Source Harvard Kennedy School

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