Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma is soon to step down from her role as chairperson of the AU Commission. Credit: GovernmentZA.
This June, the African Union (AU) is set to make a huge decision that could shape the fate of the organisation and the whole African continent for years to come. At the Assembly of Heads of State and Government to be held in Rwanda’s capital Kigali next month, the AU will choose its next chairperson.
This woman or man will lead the AU Commission and guide the continent for the next four years, or possibly even eight. They will be in charge of realising Africa’s Agenda 2063 and implementing all current programmes, including overseeing the African peace and security architecture, the African governance architecture, and ensuring the AU is adequately financed. It’s a hugely important post and Africans should care who fills it.
Five years ago, the AU spelled out five criteria for choosing the candidate: education; experience; leadership; achievement; and vision and strategy. That’s a start. But Africa shouldn’t be content with a person who simply meets the standards. Africans should demand the very best person.
After all, it is a truly demanding job. It demands visionary leadership, political credibility and acumen, and managerial skills. It is not a job for a political crony, but someone who can truly reach out and inspire the African people.
This is even more important given that the AU is more than just an inter-governmental organisation. It stemmed from the Pan African Movement, which was a people’s movement and was led by leaders such as Kwame Nkrumah, Patrice Lumumba and Julius Nyerere, all of whom arose from a continent-wide movement of trade unions, teachers, intellectuals, peasants and civil society.
The AU is thus not just a multilateral organisation, but an aspirational union, a representation of the common demands of ordinary people across the continent for unity, dignity and emancipation. Who its chairperson is matters.
For the people
This year, the United Nations is also selecting a new Secretary General. As with the AU, the decision is ultimately in the hands of its member states. But the UN has recognised that the legitimacy of the organisation ultimately rests on its standing with the people of the world. And so the candidates for the top job have been required to attend public hearings and answer questions from the world’s citizens, directly or online. They are called on to explain why they want the job, what they intend to achieve, and how they plan to pursue the major goals of the UN.
The AU has a stronger historic claim to be a people’s organisation than the UN. The Pan African Movement has diplomatic status at the AU (though it isn’t currently filling that role); the AU’s Constitutive Act contains foundational commitments to upholding constitutionalism, democracy, human rights and peace, and to preventing atrocities; and the AU has an Economic, Social and Cultural Council (ECOSOCC). The Union also has a Pan African Parliament, which is the closest approximation to the voice of the people within the AU system.
In choosing the next chairperson, what better role could there be for the ECOSOCC and the Pan African Parliament than to call candidates for the top job for hearings to present their candidacies and explain what they plan to do? The AU could even use social media to reach a much wider African audience so that people across the continent can pose questions to their potential next leaders too.
Finding the best
So far, most of the discussion about who should lead the AU has come down to which region the candidate is from. We seem to expect the leadership is chosen through a sort of rotational system, whereby each region has its turn. While there is some validity to this principle so that all Africans have a buy-in, this should not be at the expense of choosing the best candidate. Moreover, strictly adhering to the regional principle could readily become a conduit for cronyism.
What the debate should really be about is how Africa can select a head who is a leader of global stature, who upholds and protects the vision and principles formulated in the Constitutive Act, and who can represent Africa on the world stage.
The next AU chairperson must be able to tackle the continent’s most serious challenges, such as negotiating peace agreements, dispatching peacekeepers, advancing regional integration, and promoting the principles of democratic constitutionalism.
There are also trans-regional and global debates in which Africa’s voice needs to be heard. One of these is engaging with the Arab countries and the Europeans on the ‘shared spaces’ of the Mediterranean the Red Sea and the crises associated with them. Another is reforming the UN and enhancing Africa’s place within it, including the question of a permanent African seat at the Security Council.
The AU will be at the forefront of tackling these and other challenges, and the chairperson must be up to the job – from day one. Fortunately, Africa does not lack the highly experienced and capable leaders who can master these tasks and assemble a dynamic and capable team of advisors and lieutenants able to ensure that the commission fulfils its roles. There are figures out there with the breadth of knowledge, skills, global reputation, courage and well-earned respect necessary for the role – and amongst these, we need to find the very best.
If this means delaying the selection to next January in Addis Ababa so that there can be an open and consultative selection process – and the vibrant public debate that will go with it – so be it.
The choice of the AU chairperson is a continental leadership challenge. Africa won its liberation when it replaced entitlement to office based on birth and skin colour to level of talent. Africa should take this principle forwards by ensuring that the choice of the next head is selected by a new, consultative and transparent process that draws on the AU’s Pan African heritage and its consultative and representative institutions.
Source African Arguments.Abdul Mohammed is the chair of InterAfrica Group, an Ethiopian civil society organisation.
When Sibongile Sambo, a 42-year old woman from South Africa, was told by South African Airways that she did not qualify for a flight attendant position because she did not meet their minimum height requirement, she decided to take matters into her own hands.
She became an entrepreneur, and started her very own airline called SRS Aviation, and until this day, her company is the only Black woman-owned and operated aviation company in Africa.
So, how did she do it?
Starting an airline is not an easy or cheap thing to do, but despite this, she was still able to get it off the ground.
First, she formed her company and gave it the name of SRS Aviation. Then, she bid and won a contract for cargo transport issued by the South African government and formed a partnership with MCC Aviation – a South African-based fixed & rotor wing charter operator. Finally, she sold her car and cashed out her mother’s pension to help her obtain an Air Operating Certificate from the South African Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). It wasn’t an easy process, but she was able to raise the needed capital and make it work!
Now, Sambo’s company offers their clients professional and personalized flight options to destinations in Africa and around the world. Their services include VIP charters, tourist charters, cargo charters, game count & capture, and helicopter services. Her customers pay anywhere from $1,000 USD to $200,000 USD per flight.
Sambo’s vision is to be the number one choice in affordable air service solutions for individuals and businesses, locally and worldwide, by providing an unparalleled air service. She also aims to uphold the highest safety standards.
When it comes to giving back to her local community, she is also very passionate about helping young people by sharing her knowledge and expertise. During a recent interview with CNN, she commented, “I’m where I am today because somebody invested in me. It’s my opportunity now to invest in other people.”
Miss Ghana, Rebecca Asamoah, is crowned the first ever Miss Africa Continent in Johannesburg, South Africa on April 30, 2016 (AFP Photo/John Wessels)
Johannesburg (AFP) – Barefoot, wearing traditional costumes including animal hide skirts and elaborately beaded headdresses, the contestants strutted the stage before Ghanaian Rebecca Asamoah was crowned the first ‘Miss Africa Continent’.
The 24-year-old dental hygienist beat 11 finalists drawn from an original list of 40 contestants from across the continent in the inaugural pageant at Johannesburg’s Gold Reef City casino on Saturday night.
Runner-up was Michelo Malambo of Zambia, while South Africa’s Jemimah Kandimiri was placed third.
The swimsuit contest was also a departure from the beauty contest norm, with contestants wearing black t-shirts and tight shorts while dancing barefoot to music such as “Africa” by Mali’s legendary afro-pop musician Salif Keita.
The pageant is the brain child of South African film producer Neo Mashishi, who says it aims to empower young African women.
“This is the first ever Miss Africa Continent,” said Mashishi, adding that it had been five years in the making.
“This is about Africa, we are selling Africa to the world, and we are proud to be Africa”.
“The way everything was done was African, we didn’t emulate anything from Miss Universe, or Miss World,” he said.
Asamoah, who wore braids, entered the stage in a traditional Ghanaian Ashanti gold-coloured beaded crown and then returned in a evening dress made from the country’s trademark kente cloth.
She walked away with a grant to study business management at Monash university in Johannesburg.
Runner up in the 2015 Miss Ghana competition, Asamoah said she wanted to see young people help uplift the continent.
“There are a lot of things to be fixed in Africa — water, education, environmental issues,” she told AFP.
“My main concern is the empowerment of youths… so we can work hand in hand and put our continent in the best place it should be.”
In the weeks running up to the event, the 12 finalists embarked on a series of pre-pageant activities, including showing off their culinary skills in cooking traditional meals from their native countries.
Ultimately, the organisers hope to involve the continental body, the African Union, “so our winner can play a role in uplifting Africa”and spearhead campaigns to fight Africa’s woes such as malaria, poverty and xenophobia.
FILE – Nana Konadu Agyeman-Rawlings (L), then first lady of the Republic of Ghana and her husband, then president of Ghana Jerry John Rawlings, are seen during a visit to Denver, Colorado, in an April 24, 1999, photo.
Ghana’s opposition National Democratic Party has chosen former first lady Nana Konadu Agyeman-Rawlings as its presidential candidate at the party’s national delegates congress Saturday in the capital, Accra.
National Democratic Party supporters say the former first lady’s popularity could pose a significant challenge to incumbent President John Dramani Mahama in the November 7 general election.
NDP General Secretary Mohammed Frimpong says Agyeman-Rawlings is the best candidate to deliver the change Ghanaians demand.
“The entire country is clamoring for her return onto the political landscape to give to Ghanaians what she has done and knows best in terms of mobilization, women empowerment, and so on and so forth. That is why the NDP followers throughout the country had unanimously decided to endorse her as our presidential candidate for the 2016 election,” said Frimpong.
Former president Jerry John Rawlings, who is the founding father of the ruling National Democratic Congress expressed support for his wife before she was overwhelmingly endorsed by the NDP as the party’s presidential candidate. It remains to be seen if the former president will also support his wife against incumbent President John Dramani Mahama from the NDC.
Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, presidential candidate for the main opposition New Patriotic Party congratulated the former first lady.
Local media quoted Nana Addo as saying, “Her wealth of experience in Ghanaian politics should put her in good stead to help steer and shape the nature of our political discourse from one of attrition, personality attacks and negative preoccupations to an issues-based campaign, hinged on the competition of policies and ideas … That is how the public interest of our nation can be best served. The NPP and I welcome her into the race for the Presidency and wish her well.”
Anti-Mahama alliance possibe
Addo’s warm remarks prompted suggestions the two opposition leaders and their parties will form an alliance to challenge Mahama and his governing NDC in the presidential, parliamentary and local elections.
But NDP general secretary Frimpong says the party’s focus is not on forming an alliance with any other opposition party before the polls.
“Alliance ahead of the election is not in our agenda, that I can tell you for sure,” said Frimpong. “But the point is that we are all bent on seeking for change [and] there is a very strong determination for change … and that is why probably the NPP flagbearer and our just endorsed flagbearer will share this common opinion for the need of change.”
The NDP was unable to register Nana Konadu Agyeman-Rawlings as the party’s presidential candidate with the Electoral Commission of Ghana in the last election, despite endorsing the former first lady at the delegates congress in 2012.
“We had very strong disrupters in the 2012 election, and just as we were preparing to file her flagbearership with the electoral commission, there was a very elaborate conspiracy to scuttle this attempt, and that is what happened … And therefore, nobody could base her performance or would be performance on the 2012 election because after all she did not participate,” said Frimpong.
But critics say the NDP should resolve an internal power struggle, rather than blame outsiders for the party’s challenges.
FILE – Ghana’s President John Dramani Mahama, seen here delivering a speech in Paris, France, Nov. 10, 2015, might face a challenge from an opposition alliance in upcoming presidential, parliamentary and local elections.
Frimpong says the former first lady will play a key role in preventing Mahama from winning the presidential vote in the first round of the poll. He predicted Agyeman Rawlings would be the “kingmaker” on who becomes Ghana’s next president.
“It’s becoming quite prominent that Ghanaians feel a female must be given a chance. And the record of probity and accountability in governance was [regarded] very high in their tenure and has slumped now to a very abysmal level … With all these considerations coupled with her drive towards mobilization to eliminate poverty, and disease and illiteracy, all these go to create fond memories in the population … Therefore, comparing with three other contenders … We can say that it would be very difficult just to think that there can just be one run-off.”
Cameroon’s forward, Gaelle Enganamouit of FC Rosengard has been nominated among five other players for the BBC Women’s Player of the Year Award. The other nominees are: Amandine Henry (France, Midfielder, 26), Kim Little (Scotland, Midfielder, 25) Carli Lloyd (United States, Midfielder, 33), Becky Sauerbrunn (United States, Defender, 30)
The 23 year Cameroonian is the only African enlisted and her performance in 2015 speaks for itself. She finished the Swedish championship as top scorer with 18 goals to her credit earning the golden boot with Eskilstuna United DFF.
Exiting the 2015 World Cup at the knock-out stage, Gaelle Enganamouit had left her foot prints with a hat-trick, in Cameroon’s 6-0 defeat against Ecuador, the first for an African at the highest football level.
She was crowned African Player in 2015 and won the 2016 Swedish Super League with Rosengard prior to her nomination.
Her international debut started in 2012 with Spartak Subotica in the Serbian league where she is said to have scored the fastest goal in three seconds.
The shooting queen with 43 caps and ten goals for the national team who was part of the Olympic squad in 2012 played for Tonnere Kalara club before moving to Lorema in 2004.
FILE – First lady Michelle Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton present the 2010 International Women of Courage Award to Jestina Mukoko of Zimbabwe on March 10, 2010, at the State Department in Washington.
HARARE—Zimbabwe human rights activist are celebrating the publication of a memoir recounting abuses by the country’s security apparatus, calling it a crucial reminder of obstacles they still face.
In the book, Jestina Mukoko, director of the Zimbabwe Peace Project, discusses her 2008 abduction and torture by state security agents in Harare.
“They were bashing the soles of my feet. That went on for hours. I was made to kneel on gravel. You know the small stones piercing through your skin, the pain is unbearable,” the author told VOA.
In the book, she describes how agents also exposed her to extremely loud music day and night, interrogating her for hours on end before handing her over to the police who took her to court on charges of plotting against the government.
She was released on bail in March 2009 and a judge ruled that September that her rights had been violated.
She said the government targeted her in 2008 because she was investigating rights abuses committed by state security forces during elections earlier that year.
FILE – Zimbabwean human rights activist, Jestina Mukoko (c) is led into court in Harare, Zimbabwe on Dec. 24, 2008.
Advocacy groups said her story is not an isolated one and that people who speak out against the government of Robert Mugabe continue to face intimidation, arrest and other abuses.
Just last month, activists marched in Harare to demand an investigation into the disappearance of journalist and activist Itai Dzamara in 2015.
Dewa Mavhinga, a senior researcher in the Africa Division at Human Rights Watch, said neither abductees’ case is unusual.
“What happened to Jestina Mukoko can happen to other people, continues to happen, we have a recent abduction last year of Itai Dzamara,” he said. “He remains disappeared outside the protection of the law. So this is important to show that these things are happening and more importantly there hasn’t yet been accountability.”
FILE – Zimbabwean Human rights activist and former political abductee Jestina Mukoko speaks at the launch of a booklet on enforced disappearances coinciding with the anniversary of the disappearance of Itai Dzamara on March 9, 2016 in Harare.
Zimbabwe’s government denies the charge that there is no impunity for abuses.
The chairperson of the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission, Elasto Mugwadi, told VOA that the commission will investigate the case if Mukoko files a complaint about the abuses chronicled in her book.
But according to Mukoko, who says she wrote her book to comfort others who have had similar experiences but are afraid to come forward, seeking redress via formal government channels would be pointless.
“The challenge that we have before us is to heal those wounds. And we need to be able to look back and say we don’t want that to happen again,” she said.
Since her release in 2009, Mukoko has remained in Zimbabwe to continue her humanitarian work.
Olatorera Oniru is one of Nigeria’s most assiduous and ambitious young entrepreneurs. The 29 year-old lady is the founder of Dressmeoutlet.com, a Lagos-based e-commerce startup that retails fashion products sourced from across the globe. Dressmeoutlet.com strongly promotes made in Africa goods with the goal of retailing only the best 20% African designers. Olatorera continues to travel across Africa and beyond in search of unique treasures and creative manufacturers to retail on Dressmeoutlet.com and will be visiting China, United Arab Emirates, South Africa, Morocco, Ethiopia and Tanzania within the next coming months. She enjoys going into the most rural of areas – learning, mingling and discovering unique treasures and natural resources that can be converted into luxury fashion apparel, shoes, jewelry and accessories.
Dressmeoutlet.com ships worldwide and currently has customers in different states across Nigeria, Uganda and the United States of America. The company now employs more than 20 full-time employees and will officially launch with a sales and exhibition event in Lagos, Nigeria on May 22nd, 2016. With years of experience from top companies including Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Ericsson, Central Bank of Nigeria and General Electric, Olatorera Oniru is successfully building Dressmeoutlet.com into a fashion e-commerce powerhouse and currently has funding offers from notable investors including Nigerian investor Tony Elumelu.
I recently had a chat with Olatorera to learn more about her entrepreneurial journey and what she is doing to ensure Dressmeoutlet.com grows into one of Africa’s most successful online retailers.
Tell me about your personal, educational and professional background?
I grew up partly in Nigeria and the United States of America. I attended primary school at Maryhill Oyo, middle school at Queens College Lagos and high school at Leesville High North Carolina.
In 2008, I graduated Cum Laude Honors with a degree in Business Administration/ Management and Entrepreneurship from NC A&T State University where I had served as a Senator for Academic Affairs, Founder and President of the Association of African Students, Tutor for Disability and Support Services, Campus Lead for Monster’s Diversity Leadership Program and during a time when I had also worked for General Electric under the Financial Management Program Internship.
Upon graduation, I accepted an excellent opportunity to work for Bank of America Merrill Lynch as a Senior Analyst for the Global Markets and Investment Banking group attaining my 2nd Fortune 5 company work experience. Working for Bank of America Merrill Lynch sums up one of the absolute best times of my life – working on Wall Street in the world’s greatest city that never sleeps – New York City, while leading million dollar initiatives supporting the optimization of revenue by investment bankers. I was one of the analysts at Merrill Lynch that led the 2009 Global Asset Services Initiative to integrate Merrill Lynch systems with Bank of America’s after the industry buyout and consolidation during the 2008 financial Industry crisis. During my employed years at Merrill Lynch, I also served as co-founder and president of Network of African Professionals in New York and as a Junior Board Member of CASA-NY (Court Appointed Special Advocates New York).
After 2 years at Merrill Lynch, I accepted an opportunity to work for the Central Bank of Nigeria as a Senior Supervisor which I did for a year and then proceeded to obtain my Masters in Business Administration (MBA) Degree from Emory University where I focused on Finance, Leadership and Entrepreneurship. While at Emory University, I received scholarships from the National Black MBA Association and The Executive Leadership Council and was a finalist for the Emory Goizueta Business School Entrepreneurship Scholarship. I was also elected Vice President of Multi-cultural and served as Continent of Africa Captain. During my MBA days, I was keenly learning and strategizing on how to innovate, build, grow and lead a large company and thus my goal as an MBA candidate was to learn, learn, learn, plan, plan, plan. A good percentage of the business plan for Dressmeoutlet.com was written during my MBA days.
Upon graduating with my MBA degree, I accepted an offer with Lars Magnus Ericsson Corporation that provided me the most amazing 3 years of work experience as a global consultant and subsequently as Head of Sales Governance for the MTN Nigeria account, an account that generated over 300 million dollars in annual revenue for Ericsson. While at Ericsson, I obtained two Executive Leadership Certificates from the International Institute for Management Development (IMD) in Switzerland and from Stockholm School of Economics in Sweden.
Over the course of my employed years, I travelled to over 50 cities in over 10 countries in 4 continents. My entire career has been whole-heartedly rewarding and now I am more than ready for the ups, downs, thrills and joys of the entrepreneurial world.
So what made you delve into entrepreneurship? Seeing that you had built a very successful career working for multi-national conglomerates.
I was ready for the leap. I believe I have leadership capabilities to create, establish and innovate; and now I want to create global visibility for African products, create jobs for people, and generally do my part in making the world a better place and I would not have 100% of the freedom I need to grow if I remain employed. I have dreams and I want to make all my dreams come true and this requires me investing as much of my time as possible into my dreams. I want to express my love and care for people in my own way. More importantly, as comfortable as I was, earning way above average with the conglomerates I worked for, I just could not be too comfortable knowing that the poverty rate in Nigeria is 65% and even worse in other African countries. And I know we need more leaders in Africa coming out of our comfort zones to change the status quo. If we have the capabilities and opportunities to do something and do it well, we must utilize it, we must go out there and make a difference. I am ready to do whatever it takes to build the fashion industry in Africa, create more jobs, contribute to the economy, increase the standard of living and witness Africa blossom. With Dressmeoutlet.com, I aim to witness Africans innovating more with natural resources and capabilities, exporting more finished products and catching up with the giants of the world.
Access to financing is always a challenge for many entrepreneurs. How have you been able to fund Dressmeoutlet.com?
Dressmeoutlet is being funded from personal savings. I think it is safe to say that we are reasonably financially prepared for the next 3-5 years of running and growing Dressmeoutlet.com. Notwithstanding the fact that we are open to considering outside investors who buy into the company’s mission and vision 100%. We have been approached by companies that want to buy Dressmeoutlet.com and companies that want to invest in Dressmeoutlet.com. Selling Dressmeoutlet.com is not an option. Right now, the team and I are very focused on growing and increasing the valuation of Dressmeoutlet.com.
What does success mean to you?
Success means doing everything I can to push my dreams beyond my biggest imagination. Success means providing for others, creating jobs, employing people. Success means witnessing a reduction in poverty across Africa, witnessing a worldwide increase in the appreciation of human creativity. Success means stronger leaders in politics, success means more entrepreneurs across Africa, and success means a strong boom in the retail industry across Africa. Success means the smile on employees’ faces when they get a raise, success means the smile on the face of the graduate from Mushin when I tell him you’re hired. Success means greater partnerships between Africa and America and between Africa and the rest of the world. Success means the rise of Africa. Success means Africa catching up with the rest of the world’s developed nations. Success means dispatching the very best products out of Africa to homes worldwide. Success means: Greatness. For Nigeria. For Africa. For the world.
What’s next for Olatorera Oniru and Dressmeoutlet.com?
I am strongly and whole-heartedly dedicated to Dressmeoutlet.com. What’s next is continuing to provide the absolute best fashion and beauty products to the world and satisfying customers 100% of the time. We want to grow on a daily basis and are constantly super excited when new customers sign-up on the platform and find amazing products that they truly love. What’s next is entering new territories, increasing our supplier database and multiplying our customer database in hundred folds. We have plans to double the size of our photography studio, our warehouse, and our manufacturing unit within the next 12 months. We are also increasing advertising and marketing efforts. More importantly, we are constantly looking for the very best products across Africa and worldwide and thus constantly increasing the variety of great items on Dressmeoutlet.com. We always have new products on the website every week thus don’t miss out on items you would love, visit Dressmeoutlet.com often.
Any words of wisdom for young African entrepreneurs that are afraid of starting something?
Please do it. Go out there and do it, one step at a time, one day at a time, one handshake at a time, one clap at a time, one achievement at a time. Africa now more than ever before, needs more entrepreneurs springing up and booming industries. Africa needs you, I need you, and the world needs you to succeed in whatever your passion is as an entrepreneur. Utilize any and every resource that comes your way. Speak to professors, attend conferences, and apply to opportunities. Push your dreams; don’t let anything stop you from doing anything great for the world. Simply do well, live well and work hard.
Prof Hassana Alidou receiving the award from Fatmata Koroma,CEO of Therapeutic Inc.Photo AlloConakry
In celebration of the Women’s History Month, Prof Hassana Alidou,Ambassador of Niger was honored with an award for leadership and service at the launching of the Women’s Leadership and Empowerment initiative by Therapeutic Interventions Inc.
Prof Alidou, one of the only three currently serving African female Ambassadors to Washington, was recognized for selfless services and serving as a trailblazer for women in Niger and Africa.
Accepting the award at the Historic Fraser Mansion in Washington, DC, Ambassador Alidou said the recognition was a call for more hard towards the cause of women and humanity at large. The Ambassador used her own life experiences to remind the over 100 people in the audience that in life everything is possible. According to Ambassador Alidou, she lost her mother by the age of three, her father by the age of seven, and was raised by a Canadian Nun in the largely Islamic country of Niger. In the midst of all the odds, she rose to where she is today after having stints doing international jobs and teaching at the University of Niger and later in the USA.She expressed readiness to help in mentor-ship programs organized by Therapeutic Interventions Inc.
To Fatmata Koroma ,CEO of Therapeutic Interventions Inc, Ambassador Alidou was a worthy role model that young African women could emulate. Fatmata, who got a standing ovation for her tireless activism on women’s rights, said more women like Ambassador Alidou were needed so that young African girls could learn from. The CEO for Therapeutic Interventions Inc who also runs a beauty pageant for Africa, got high marks from the participants following brilliant submissions of life changing projects from some of the young women she works with.
The evening emceed by Jeannine B.Scott of the USA-Angola Chamber of Commerce , and rich in symbolism, was graced with the presence of Ambassador Joseph Smith of Ghana and Ambassador Tiena Coulibaly of Mali who were held spell bound by the performances of the talented young women show casing the potentials of Africa.
Ambassadors Joseph Smith of Ghana and Tiena Coulibaly of Mali with Prof Alidou .Photo AlloConakry
Celebrity performer Anna Mwalogho brought the hall to its feet several times with sketches heaping praise to the toughness and resilience of the African women, the cultural shock of Africans making it to the USA, and the pride in maintaining one’s identity.
“The success of the evening was beyond expectations,” said Fatmata Koroma of Therapeutic Interventions Inc. which organized the event with the support of ABB Productions LLC. The huge turnout and uplifting messages were enough inspiration to help her in the crusade to empower and give young African girls a voice, she said. Up next for her will be a beauty pageant in June during which which more African talent will be on display.
As part of its celebrations to mark the Women’s History Month, Therapeutic Inc, will launch the Women’s Leadership and Empowerment initiative in Washington, DC. Scheduled for March 26, the event will have as guest of honor Prof Hassana Alidou, Ambassador of the Republic of Niger to the USA. According to Fatmata Koroma, President & CEO of Therapeutic Inc, the goal of the initiative is to help in providing women with the skills necessary for success in the global market.
Therapeutic Interventions Inc. is launching its activities on March 26 2016, what is Therapeutic Inc and what are the activities you will be launching?
We will be celebrating Women’s History Month and officially launching our Women’s Leadership and Empowerment Initiative.Therapeutic Interventions Inc. Women’s Leadership and Empowerment Initiative is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that promotes the education, development and empowerment of women through leadership programs, entrepreneurship, educational workshops and Women’s Empowerment Conferences.
The goal of these various programs is to provide women with the skills, leadership abilities, character, and interpersonal skills necessary for success in the emerging international and global market. Therapeutic Interventions Inc. Women’s Leadership and Empowerment Initiative work with young ladies from the African Diaspora in the United States, building their self-esteem and preparing them for leadership roles, as well as, promoting community service as goodwill Ambassador.
Therapeutic Interventions Inc. Women’s Leadership and Empowerment Initiative mission is to support women’s issues.Each Delegate participating in the Therapeutic Interventions Inc. Women’s Leadership and Empowerment Program will take part in a development program that will:Build positive self-image,Boost self-esteem,Encourage Entrepreneurship,Enrich leadership skills,Develop character and integrity
Who is expected to be at the event and what do you reserve for the guests in terms of highlights for the evening?
The diplomatic community along with members of the African community. Community Leaders, NGO’s, US Government officials are also guests attending the event.Highlights of the event are presentations from the Delegates of Miss Culture USA, and other Delegates from various pageants such as Miss Guinea North America, Miss United Nation, and Miss Africa USA.Special Performances from Celebrity Entertainer, Anna Mwalagho. More performances from Leon Juldeh Koroma and Jehoshua Azuka Otuya.Speakers include Bintou Diamande, President of UAA-Foundation Inc. and June Thornton
The Ambassador of Niger is expected to be the guest of honor, how does her presence tie in with the message and vision of Therapeutic Inc?
Niger’s Ambassador Hassana Alidou with President Barack Obama
She is an active member of ECOWAS. She is consistent with her service and leadership in the community. She is also one of few female Ambassadors in the African diplomatic community. The focus of the event is to Celebrate Women’s History Month and to officially launch Therapeutic Interventions Inc. Women’s Leadership and Empowerment Initiative.
What other activities will your Organization be working on after its launch?
We will be conducting an educational workshop for young ladies and we will also have the Miss Culture USA Pageant in June.
You are also involved in a number of other activities like beauty pageants, can you tell us more about these other activities of yours?
I am the chairperson and co-founder of Kushe’ Magazine and producer/host of a talk show called Celebrity Health talk.
Thanks very much for taking time to answer questions from PAV
Thanks for talking to us and do join us at the event as well!
National Geographic Traveler of the Year shares her journey of turning pain into purpose
WASHINGTON, DC— For Women’s History Month, NativSol Kitchen Founder and African Ancestry President co-host a Twitter Chat on March 23, 2016 at 7:00pm EST entitled “Women Finding Their Roots: From Pain to Purpose.” The 60-minute live interactive session will give online users an opportunity to gain insight and inspiration in tracing their African lineage by following the hashtag: #comebackhome.
African Ancestry, Inc., the DC-based company that pioneered genetic DNA- ancestry tracing for people of African descent inspires all to make a connection to their identity through genetic ancestry testing and research.
“This Women’s History Month is a time to reconnect to our origin. Genetically, black women hold the key to so much of ancestral information. It is time that she claimed her place as the mother to all living things. We must birth and nurture the future.” said Gina Paige, President & Co-founder of African Ancestry, Inc. “Women are the glue that holds the family and community together.”
In 2014 National Geographic selected NativSol’s founder Tambra Raye Stevenson as one of the “Traveler of the Year” for finding her African roots through food. Since then she had yet to travel to her ancestral land until this year in late April to Nigeria.
“Between the Ebola epidemic, terrorists’ attacks by Boko Haram and presidential elections, I had kept delaying my travel,” says Tambra Raye Stevenson, founder of NativSol Kitchen. “I was reminded even by Nigerians of safety in the north [of Nigeria]. But I had to trust my instinct and decide that it was now or never to complete my journey of coming back home not for me but for my ancestors.”
While in Nigeria this May, Stevenson will launch a new initiative called WANDA: Women Advancing Nutrition, Dietetics and Agriculture to empower women and girls in sustainable agriculture and nutrition. WANDA serves as an extension of NativSol’s work in promoting the African heritage diet with women and girls as the leaders in the movement.
In the Michael Twitty’s “Cooking Gene,” upcoming book, Stevenson shares her story of discovering her roots and passion for African heritage foods. “By tracing my roots back to Africa, I became grounded in my identity and inspired to transform the path of my profession by incorporating my heritage,” says Stevenson. “Ultimately I realized I was search of my purpose. With WANDA we change the narrative of our female ancestors held captive to till foreign land to now leading a women’s movement in agriculture bridging the Diaspora and Africa.” Stevenson has kick started a crowdfunding campaign to support WANDA initiative in Nigeria and people can support at iamwanda.org.
Featured in the Washington Post, NativSol Kitchen provides culturally-centered and faith-based nutrition education programming to both youth and adults. Based in Washington, DC, NATIVSOL is on a mission to reclaim the health and spirit of the African diaspora by creating a movement to restore heritage foods into people’s daily lives. Led by trained culinary nutrition experts, NATIVSOL has the passion and talent to equip the community to cook, shop and eat their way back to health.
Tambra Raye Stevenson
Founded in 2003 on years of research, African Ancestry, Inc. is the ancestry tracing company that pioneered African lineage matching in the United States utilizing its proprietary DNA-database of more than 25,000 African DNA lineages to more accurately assess present-day country of origin for people of African descent. Since its inception, African Ancestry’s lineage reveals have impacted the lives of more than 100,000 people in the U.S. from communities at large to global leaders such as Oprah Winfrey, Tom Joyner and the Reverend Jesse Jackson. African Ancestry has been featured across the globe in outlets such as CNN’s Black in America series, 60 Minutes and Essence Magazine; and was the centerpiece to the ground-breaking PBS special “African American Lives 1 & 2” with Skip Gates. African Ancestry is African-American-owned and operated and headquartered in Washington, DC.
Headquartered in Washington, DC, WANDA: Women Advancing Nutrition, Dietetics and Agriculture is leading a pan-African women’s movement from farm to fork. Founded in 2016, WANDA is on a mission to develop the next generation of women and girls as leaders in agriculture, nutrition and dietetics through education, advocacy and innovation as a means to alleviate poverty, build healthy communities and improve self-sufficiency.
Sierra Leone’s President Ernest Bai Koroma has again refused to sign a bill legalising abortion, saying it should be put to a referendum.
Pro-choice campaigners have been urging the president to sign the bill
It was unanimously passed by MPs in December, but Mr Koroma refused to sign it after protests by religious leaders.
After consultations, MPs returned the bill to him last month, unaltered.
The law would allow women to terminate a pregnancy in any circumstances up to 12 weeks and in cases of incest, rape and foetal impairment up to 24 weeks.
Abortion is currently illegal in Sierra Leone under any circumstances.
Human rights groups, including Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and five Sierra Leonean organisations, wrote to President Koroma in February urging him to give the bill his assent.
“Unsafe abortions – often resulting from restrictive laws and poor access to sexual and reproductive health services, information, and education – is one of the main factors contributing to maternal deaths in Sierra Leone,” their letter said.
The World Health Organization estimates that Sierra Leone has the world’s highest maternal mortality ratio at 1,360 deaths per 100,000 live births last year.
The BBC’s Umaru Fofana in the capital, Freetown, says the abortion issue has led to heated debates and protests on both sides.
President Koroma has now referred the controversial legislation to the Constitutional Review Committee, which is currently reviewing the constitution.
Our correspondent says it will decide whether to include the abortion law in its recommended changes to the constitution, which will be put to a referendum.
When President Koroma sent the legislation back to parliament in January, he asked for it to be reviewed after consultation with religious and women’s groups as it went beyond an African Union protocol on women’s rights which only backs abortion in cases of sexual assault and in medical emergencies.
Under Sierra Leone’s current constitution, the president cannot veto a bill which received a two-thirds majority in parliament, our reporter says.
The speaker of the house could sign the Safe Abortion Act into law, but our correspondent says he is highly unlikely to do so as he comes from the president’s party.
‘Life is sacred’
Mr Koroma met leaders from the Inter Religious Council of Sierra Leone (IRCSL), who all oppose abortion, in January, saying they “represent a huge constituency across the country”.
Anti-abortion protesters marched to parliament in January
Catholic Archbishop Tamba Charles, vice-president of IRCSL, reiterated their view at summit on the issue later in the month declaring: “No life can be destroyed on the basis of choice as life is sacred.
“If they want to fight for the right of women, then let them be provided with the required medical facilities that will help reduce maternal mortality rate in the country,” Sierra Leone’s Politico news website quotes him as saying.
Our reporter says the recent Ebola outbreak exposed Sierra Leone’s weak health system.
The country is still recovering from a brutal 10-year civil war, which ended in 2002 and ravaged much of its infrastructure.
Evelyn was 11 years old when she was abducted by the Lord Resistance Army (LRA) of Joseph Kony in Uganda. Evelyn ended up as the wife of the LRA leader at the age of 14 and had children for him. In 2005, Evelyn made her escape and fell into the hands of Ugandan troops. Refusing to let the trauma of life with Kony to ruin her , Evelyn, who now works as a human rights advocate is out with a new book to share her experiences.
How did you become the wife of Joseph Kony and how old were you at the time?
I became the wife of Joseph Kony at the age of fourteen (14) years old. Upon abduction 1994, I stayed at the home of Oti Lagony (Chief of Staff) for few days and thereafter was transferred to Konys home where I started babysitting his sons Shalim and Ali. In 1997 one day he called me to go and lay his bed and thereafter forced me in bed hence becoming his wife.
What did you know about him prior to becoming his wife, and how was it like living with him?
I knew he was the leader of LRA and that I was staying in his home. Kony is a humble man and stayed well with people however beating was the order of the day since he delegated his first wife (Fatuma) to control all the women in his home. She had the authority to beat other women and Kony would not say anything.
You had children with him, what kind of father was he, with the kind of atrocities the LRA committed , did you get the feeling he put his kids in the shoes of others who were married off or had limbs chopped off?
It is hard to describe the kind of father he was to his children. Some parts are hard to comment on.
Joseph Kony was constantly fighting, how was he able to protect his family?
The family stayed like any other person in the LRA camp however whenever there was war we all went through the same situation like other members of the LRA in that camp or convoy. Another thing is that he had many escorts and his family would stay in the centre of a specific base or place the LRA settled meaning he was heavily protected.
Can you tell us how you made your escape?
I escaped on the 21/1/2005 during crossfire between the government soldiers and LRA. I remember that day after escape I entered an ambush where the government soldiers were and they got hold of me later taking me to Gulu barracks Fourth Division.
How have you been able to cope with the stress and trauma that life with him caused you and what do the kids think about him today?
Telling my story consecutively and the process of writing this book with counseling offered to me as made me cope up easily. My children always ask me where their father is but have not disclosed anything to them however they hear from people that they were born from captivity and sometimes ask me but I divert the statement to another story like telling them people only give birth from the hospital not the bush. I plan to disclose this to them fully when my first born clock twenty years.
What makes him so elusive, he has continuously escaped capture, why do you think it has been hard to get him and will you be happy to see him face justice?
It is always hard to capture rebel leaders may be that is the reason for his continuous escape from capture. I have forgiven him on my side whether he returns or not but cannot talk on behalf of the many who were affected by the war.
You probably have first-hand knowledge of Dominic Ongwen , one of the LRA Chieftains standing trial at the Hague, what can you tell the world about him and what kind of justice do you think he deserves?
On Dominic Ogwen it is important to hear from him on what he did and what he did not then judgment can be drawn from it. Views of different victims should be given attention if justice is to take its course on him and the victims.
In what way are you trying to use your experiences and exposure to help others who have gone through similar pain and trauma?
Evelyn shortly after she won the Women for Peace prize in 2013, photographed in Gulu, Uganda Photograph: Erin Baines for the Guardian
I always encourage them to acknowledge what we went through and be able to tell the world their stories because I learnt this from my experience that it promotes confidence and healing.
I also engage in peer support because that is a local way of providing counseling among Women’s Advocacy Network groups and people in the different communities. It gives people room to share their experiences freely and get ideas on how to go about it amongst themselves.
I also encourage especially women to work hard and use the little they earn to provide for themselves and their children the necessities in life like food, clothing and many more. For example I make beads and sell to provide for my family.
As the chair person of The Women’s Advocacy Network we request that if possible you use this opportunity to market us with what we do, we make beads, lap top bags different styles and dolls but have no market for them.
I apologize for the delay in responding to your questions because I was in the village where there is no internet.
-Corporate Social Responsibility among issues in focus
By Ajong Mbapndah L
TAGA CEO Anne Etoke
This year’s Exclusive Power Africa Dinner will assess the tremendous growth of the gas and energy industry in Africa says Anne Etoke, CEO of The Africa Gas Association (TAGA). Taking place in Silver Spring, MD, Etoke says the event will be attended by members of the African Diplomatic Corps and movers and shakers in the industry from the USA, Africa and several other continents. According to the TAGA CEO, the event will offer ample opportunities for networking .In addition, Industry Experts will dwell on financing, environmental concerns and corporate social responsibility.
The exclusive power Africa Dinner is coming up soon, can you introduce or tell us more about the event and its highlights?
Yes let me start by thanking you for the opportunity to share our activities and events with your readers. The Africa Gas Association (TAGA) will host the Power Africa Dinner on March 5th 2016 at the Hilton Hotel Downtown Silver Spring, with organizational support from Falcon Oil & Gas Inc. Nigeria and Tennis Shipping Inc Nigeria. The event falls in line with TAGA’s core mission of serving as the voice of Africa’s natural gas, oil and energy industry.
During this event, the tremendous growth of Africa’s burgeoning natural gas & energy industry will be explored and assessed through the prism of Industry Experts and African Diplomats. The program will future three leading speakers in the global Energy and Finance industry with a strong focus on Corporate Social Responsibility, Infrastructure expansion, finance and environmental concerns.
How have the previous dinners gone and what achievements have you registered with them?
Thanks for that question; The Africa Gas Association has registered great successes during past Exclusive dinners, Luncheons, Forums and summits. We are pleased to announced that some of our member companies achieved their goals in operating businesses in some African Countries. We have also created an opportunity for high level networking between the stakeholders and decision makers.
Who are some of the people expected to be there this year?
In attendance will be the cream of the African Diplomatic Corps in Washington ,DC, US State Department Representatives, , Representatives of major US organizations, CEOs of Energy, Oil, Gas and Shipping Companies from Africa, Business Investors from Thailand and other invited Guests. It will be a full house of important actors in the industry with great opportunities for business networking.
The dinner will be hosted by the Africa Gas Association that you run; can you shed more light on the Association?
Thanks very much for that question. The Africa Gas Association is a leading voice in the natural gas, oil and energy industry in Africa. It creates and promotes awareness about the African Gas, Oil and Energy industry through seminars, conferences, dinners, network sessions and more.
TAGA engages in legislative and regulatory advocacy that is based on field research, technical, and economic analysis, and also provides an industry forum for collective action on issues impacting member companies. There is also a strong advocacy for Corporate Social Responsibility so that companies can give back to the community.
Finally, The Africa Gas Association creates opportunities for technical cooperation and other activities to improve the competitiveness of the African Oil, Gas and Energy industry. We sponsor and participate in a number of forums, partnerships and coalitions to foster dialogue on energy policy to achieve a better understanding of the energy industry in Africa.
After the Power Africa Dinner, what will TAGA be working on for the rest of the year?
It is a full schedule for us throughout the year. The Africa Gas association has partnered with majors in the Industry, for example in April 2016; we will be very involved in Ivory Coast for the West Africa Upstream Summit where one of our Advisory Board Directors Mr. Jeff Shelton will be speaking. In June 2016, TAGA will be in Abuja, Nigeria for the Nigeria oil and gas week. This is huge one for us as it is a three year successful partnership with CWC oil and gas group from UK. One of our member companies AITEO Oil and Gas Inc.is a major sponsor for the NOG 2016.
In September 2016, TAGA will be hosting a Private Presidential Dinner during the UN General Assembly.
A word about your recent induction into the women of fortune hall of fame in Nigeria, what did this mean to you?
It was a very humbling and touching moment for me.I do work hard but the recognition was not something I was really looking forward to.
The MMS Plus in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Women’s Affairs Nigeria inducted me into the Hall of Fame for Women of Fortune. I was inducted into the Class of 2015. The recognition was based on positive contributions in the development of the oil and gas sector in Africa amongst other qualities. Such recognition only calls for more hard work on my part to contribute in a more forceful way towards positive development across the continent.
With the multitude of events that you are involved in or working on, what keeps Anne Etoke going?
My Faith in God and the desire to be part of positive change and developments especially in Africa. I am a Christian and I believe that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. I am also privileged to work with a superb team with solid experience at TAGA. The Board of Directors is made of seasoned individuals working relentlessly to make TAGA the voice of the energy Industry in Africa.
With my strong believe in Teamwork, humility, focus, persistence and continuous education, I think there is still a whole lot that can be achieved.
Thanks for the interview
The pleasure is mine and I should thank your publication for the great work it does in sharing positive African perspectives. We hope you join us at the dinner in March and provide more coverage for our activities.
JOHANNESBURG (AP) — A South African mayor has awarded college scholarships to 16 young women for remaining virgins to encourage others to be “pure and focus on school,” her spokesman said Sunday.
The scholarship was introduced this year and has been awarded to young women from the Uthukela district in the eastern KwaZulu-Natal province, mayoral spokesman Jabulani Mkhonza said. Each year the mayor’s office awards scholarships to more than 100 promising high school and university students from the area, he said.
The young women who applied for the scholarships voluntarily stayed virgins and agreed to have regular virginity tests to keep their funding, Uthukela Mayor Dudu Mazibuko told South African talk radio station 702.
“To us, it’s just to say thank you for keeping yourself and you can still keep yourself for the next three years until you get your degree or certificate,” Mazibuko said.
The grants will be renewed “as long as the child can produce a certificate that she is still a virgin,” she said. The scholarships focus on young women because they are more vulnerable to exploitation, teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, she said.
South Africa’s department of basic education recorded about 20,000 pregnancies among girls and young women in schools in 2014, with 223 pregnant girls still in primary school, according to the South African Broadcasting Corporation. A household survey conducted by Statistics South Africa found that 5.6 percent of South African females aged 14 to 19 were pregnant in 2013.
“I think the intentions of the mayor are great but what we don’t agree with is giving bursaries for virginity,” said chairman for the Commission for Gender Equality Mfanozelwe Shozi. “There is an issue around discrimination on the basis of pregnancy, virginity and even against boys. This is going too far.”
Virginity testing is not against South Africa’s constitution but it is essential that it is done with consent, said Shozi.
Some activists have called for the banning of virginity testing in South Africa, describing it as sexist and invasive. Those defending the cultural practice say it preserves tradition and has been modernized to teach girls about their reproductive health and HIV and AIDS.
Christopher Conte, the editor of Crossroads, grew up in Washington State, the northwest corner of the continental US. He graduated from Harvard College, and spent the first 22 years of his career as a newspaper man, learning his trade in the state of Vermont, whose green hills and lush valleys are reminiscent of Uganda. He covered the US Congress for Congressional Quarterly, and then spent 15 years as a reporter and editor for the Wall Street Journal, covering economics, the White House, labor, domestic policy and international affairs. In 1996, he became a staff correspondent for Governing Magazine, where he reported on a wide range of domestic US social policy issues. He also reported on telecommunications for the Benton Foundation, public health for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and international development for the World Bank Group’s International Finance Corporation. The latter job led him to travel extensively in Eastern Europe, Asia and Africa. He worked as a Knight International Health Journalism Fellow in Uganda from 2008 to 2010, and in 2011 he moved to New Delhi, India, where he helped establish a post-graduate journalism training program. Since then, he was worked as an international journalism educator for the International Center for Journalists and as a freelance editor and consultant.
Q. What inspired “Crossroads”?
A. It grew out of some informal conversations I had with a number of Ugandan women journalists when I worked there as a journalism trainer and mentor. I was struck by their sophistication and by the graceful way they blended a cosmopolitan perspective with the traditional values of an older, rural Uganda. We became convinced that telling personal stories in a straightforward journalistic style would be a good way to illuminate cultural issues. We called the essays “coming of age” stories because the authors describe how culture shaped them when they were young and how they, in turn, hope to reshape it now that they have grown up. But while the stories are quite personal, they also reflect the fact that women have come into their own as a leading force in Ugandan society.
Q. Why did you deal just with women authors?
A. Mainly because it was women who came forward to write these stories. Women may be more attuned to the issues explored in this book because their own roles are changing so rapidly in traditional societies like Uganda. Also, women seem to draw fewer lines between the public and personal spheres, so they may be more sensitive to the impact of societal change on private lives.
Q. Are the authors of Crossroads representative of their whole society?
A. They are part of the educated, urban middle class, so that sets them apart in ways from many Ugandan women. But even if they are a minority, they are an increasingly influential and growing one, even though sometimes ignored by the western media. Caroline Ariba, whose story gave the book its title, reflects in her essay on what distinguishes her, as a university-educated urbanite, from poor women who spend their lives toiling in the fields. She concludes that they aren’t so different. Her nuanced observations and those of other writers, depict a culture in motion – or, as Caroline puts it, at a “crossroads.”
Q. Where is it going?
A. That is what people like the authors of “Crossroads” are deciding. In the West, we tend to see development as a uniform process that knows no physical or cultural boundaries. But does that have to be the case? Whether the issue is sex roles, religion, sports or politics, these writers are constantly weighing their own traditions against so-called “modern” values, accepting and rejecting aspects of each. In the process, they are constantly redefining themselves. In the opening essay in “Crossroads,” Nakisanze Segawa makes this point explicitly, explaining how she gave herself a new name to demonstrate her decision to chart a new course for herself while honoring tradition. The theme comes up again in other essays, including Sophie Bamwoyeraki’s reflections on what she gained and what she lost in moving from the simple village where she grew up to a life as a professional in Kampala, Lydia Namubiru’s explanation for how she became a “non-practicing pagan” and her biting observations about what she likes about Western culture and dislikes about the role westerners play in her society, Hilda Twongyeirwe’s account of her experiences with western-trained doctors and traditional healers in search of a cure for a mysterious childhood affliction, and many other stories.
Q. What challenges did you face as a non-Ugandan editing stories by Ugandans?
A. At times, I felt self-conscious about my role. Many Africans believe western journalists and researchers unfairly appropriate African stories for their own profit and professional advancement. They also object to stereotypes of Africa – many derived in the West but some perpetuated by fellow Africans – that either depict the continent as desperately backward or romanticize it as somehow more in touch with nature than the “civilized” West. I sympathize with such concerns. By producing true, personal stories, I think we avoided the hackneyed stereotypes. And as editor, I saw my role as helping the authors tell their stories, not telling them what to say. They, in turn, were poetic in describing what they find good about their society but brutally honest in discussing its shortcomings. Working with them was one of the most satisfying experiences of my professional life.
Q. Would the book have come out differently if it had a Ugandan editor?A. Judging from how my Ugandan friends communicate with each other on Facebook, yes. There would be many more phrases in local languages. There undoubtedly would be allusions to people and events I do not know. But being an outsider had some advantages. By asking Ugandan writers to explain things that a fellow Ugandan wouldn’t question, I’d like to think I helped make the issues more intelligible to a non-Ugandan reader. And I hope that by laying bare assumptions Ugandans may take for granted, the stories encourage constructive self-examination among Ugandans as well. In many ways, this kind of cross-cultural dialogue is the story for our times. Cultures increasingly are being shaped in a global discourse. Nothing can stop that. The important thing is to approach cross-cultural dialogue with an open mind, respect and empathy.
Q. What is next for you?
A. I would love to do another project like Crossroads, maybe in another culture. Or maybe I should see if I can find Ugandan men who’d like to tell their stories as these women have. A while back, a male Ugandan friend of mine predicted that “Crossroads” would be a best seller in Uganda because “everybody is trying to figure out women.” I wouldn’t be surprised to hear my female Ugandan friends say the same of men. If nothing else, working on a male “Crossroads” would give me an excuse I to keep going back to a country where the weather is always perfect and the people fill me with good spirit and hope.
*Culled from Crossroads]]>
All too often, Africa’s stories — especially the stories of African women — have been told by outsiders. But in Crossroads, a group of perceptive Ugandan women provide an unfiltered portrait of their own lives. In 15 deeply personal narratives that range from passionate to funny and from terrifying to tender, the women examine everything from religion to sports and from gender roles to the influence of western aid organizations. In telling their true life stories with bold honesty, the authors shed new light on Africa, the lives of African women, global feminism, culture change and modernization.
”The collection is no-holds-barred: these women critique traditional culture, Western influence, the bureaucratic bloatedness of NGOs, religion, and gender roles, all with clarity and nuance. The result is a well-rounded, compelling and edifying picture of the challenges that women face in modern Africa.”
— Michelle Anne Schlinger, Clarion Foreward Reviews
The stories were edited by Christopher Conte, a former Wall Street Journal editor and reporter who has traveled widely in Africa and lived for three-years in Uganda. Critics say the collection, a fascinating and elegant blend of traditional and thoroughly modern values, represents an important contribution to the literature on Africa and global feminism.
”A strong collection of memoiristic writing that illuminates African womanhood…” – Kirkus Review
”A riveting read” – Julia Royall, Fulbright scholar, and global health informatics expert
”A cultural keepsake” – Mazzi Wampamba, Ugandan author of “Like an Ocean: Poems in Prose”
”Perhaps the most insightful and enlightening non-fiction publication yet about the search for identity among women in Uganda” – Mark Schenkel, Het Financielle, The Netherlands
Polline Akello was abducted at 12 and recruited into rebel Joseph Kony’s army in Uganda. She fell pregnant at 16 but managed to escape, her story is one of extraordinary courage and resilience
By Arthur Chatora*
[caption id="attachment_21646" align="alignleft" width="300"] Polline Akello: From child soldier to global advocate[/caption]
Children living in conflict zones continue to bear the brunt of wars as direct and indirect victims. Young children continue to be recruited as soldiers with devastating effects on their lives. Rape and sexual violence are everyday lived realities for many of these children, which destroys their childhood and future.
The case of Polline Akello who, at 12 years-old, “was snatched from her home and forced to become a soldier” in Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), speaks to the devastating effects of war on children. Akello’s story is one of extraordinary courage and resilience.
Akello spoke to the BBC about her harrowing experiences as a child soldier and says, “all the years I spent there, I had no hope. We we were forced to cook and we were taken as sex slaves and we were forced to [walk] long distances”.
“At 16 she fell pregnant after being forced to become the ‘wife’ of a rebel commander,” According to humanitarian organisation, War Child.
Akello who is now aged 26, managed to escape when she was admitted at a hospital in Nairobi after an accident and losing her baby. She now shares her story in schools around the world to highlight the devastating effects of armed conflict on children. Akello says war victims are often silenced by “shame”, “they feel [speaking out] brings shame on them … I can’t sit and keep quiet”.
Akello says she will continue sharing her story and, according to the BBC, she will speak at the World Conference in London this Friday. Next week she will address the UN.
According to War Child, which provides support to vulnerable children and communities, “There are an estimated 250,000 child soldiers in the world today. It is estimated that 40% of all child soldiers are girls. They are often used as ‘wives’ (i.e. sex slaves) of the male combatants”.
*Source This is Africa/BBC]]>
Zimbabwe Institution of Engineers (ZIE) Women in Engineering members at the division launch during the Africa Engineering Week in Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe on 14 to 19 September, 2015.[/caption]
Zimbabwe Institution of Engineers (ZIE) is spearheading an initiative in Zimbabwe to enhance the active participation of women and the girl child in the engineering sector, according to Engineer Farai Mavhiya-Bhiza, ZIE Vice President and Women In Engineering (WIE) division Chairperson for the institution.
Mavhiya-Bhiza revealed at the recent Africa Engineering Week hosted by Zimbabwe in Victoria Falls resort with support from UNESCO that the Zimbabwe Institution of Engineers Women in Engineering division encourages women in all engineering disciplines to participate in the activities of the profession.
The women in engineering division of the institution was set up to make Zimbabwe and the world at large aware of the existence and professional participation of women in the engineering sector in Zimbabwe.
Mavhiya-Bhiza said that traditionally women are expected to be at home, church or doing charity work, but the current initiative seeks to change the norm.
“As women in engineering, we are here to work hand in hand with fellow male engineers to participate in socio-economic issues affecting the country,” she said.
The Zimbabwe Institution of Engineers vision which is supported by the women in engineering division is to be recognized as a credible institution whose members are leading players in wealth creation and sustainable growth in Zimbabwe.
Women who enter the engineering sector are expected to provide innovative, workable and economic solutions to engineering problems and challenges in society through upholding high engineering standards and ethical values in the practice of the profession.
According to Mavhiya-Bhiza, membership to the women in engineering division is welcome from students, fellows, graduate technicians, graduate engineers, technicians, honorary fellows, affiliate organisations and companions.
The objectives of the women in engineering division which is promoting the participation of women in the sector are to encourage and improve women engineers participation in the development of the nation, to mentor, empower and support young women engineers, to facilitate scholarships for continuous professional development for women engineers, facilitating attendance to local, regional and international workshops and conferences by women engineers, facilitating the economic empowerment of women engineers, partnering and participating with other women’s organisations, encouraging, supporting and providing career guidance to girls to pursue engineering including motivating and supporting women in engineering to remain in the engineering profession.
The Zimbabwe Institution of Engineers also reports that women in engineering statistics have gradually grown since 2011.
“This is evidenced by the increase in women actively involved in the institutional activities and appointed to the ZIE board. The representation of women in engineering members in leadership has increased from 3% to 33% in the ZIE board,” Mavhiya-Bhiza said.]]>
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon (R) and Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma (L), head of the African Union Commission[/caption]
World leaders have voiced overwhelming support and committed to promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment aimed at achieving the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. The African Union Commission Chairperson, Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, joined global leaders and delegates to make commitments at a meeting co-organised by UN-Women and the People’s Republic of China in the margins of the 70th Session of the UN General Assembly meeting in New York.
In her remarks, the AU Commission Chairperson said the AU places a central focus on achieving gender parity and women’s empowerment in its Agenda 2063. She pointed out that in Africa, the year 2015 is the year of women’s empowerment and development toward Agenda 2063. She noted that during the last Summit of Heads of State and of Government, a Gender Scorecard was developed to track progress made in achieving gender equality. Dr. Dlamini Zuma committed to refining this tool in the future by including more indicators.
The Chairperson noted that while Rwanda is leading the world with the highest number of women represented in Parliament, 22 countries have at least 30% of women in Parliament, while 14 countries have 30% of women ministers, with Cape Verde leading Africa with the highest representation of women ministers.
During the gathering, Chinese President Xi Jinping, among others, announced a donation of $10million USD to UN-Women to finance development and training projects aimed at promoting gender parity and women’s empowerment.
While leaders announced various contributions and donations, some of the world leaders expressed political will and determination in advancing the course for women’s empowerment and gender parity. President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya said progress for women is progress for us all, and the whole world stood to gain from gender equality.
Holding 20 years after the Beijing declaration and platform for action to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment, the meeting was attended by UN Member States, Non-Governmental Organisations, the private sector and partners.
Dr. Sipho Moyo[/caption]
“It gives me great pleasure to announce the appointment of Dr. Sipho Moyo, a citizen of Zimbabwe, as Director of Cabinet and Chief of Staff in the Office of the President” said Mr Adesina..
Dr. Moyo graduated with a Masters in Development Economics in 1989 and PhD in Financial Economics in 1994, both from Howard University, Washington DC, USA. She has had an illustrious career in international development spanning over 22 years.
Until her appointment, Dr. Moyo worked as the Executive Director of the ONE Campaign, an international civil society organization, where she distinguished herself by significantly growing the organization and mobilizing strong advocacy and support behind major development issues in Africa. Prior to joining the ONE Campaign, Dr. Moyo worked at the African Development Bank for twelve years from 1998-2010, where she worked variously as Resident Representative and Country Manager for Nigeria and Tanzania country offices, Principal Country Economist and Senior Economist. From 1992-1994 she worked as Economist and Financial Analyst of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), Rome, and at the World Bank.
“I am delighted that Dr. Moyo will be joining us. She brings extensive experience in development and solid understanding of multilateral financial institutions. Her extensive managerial experience, deep understanding of critical development issues in Africa, passion for people-oriented development, advocacy and ability to achieve results, will add great value to the African Development Bank and its community.”
Dr. Moyo will assume office on November 1, 2015.
By Katy Migiro*
Nairobi — When Abby and his wife Kyalu were abducted by rebels in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), he was forced into hard labour and she was raped.
When they returned home, Abby sent his wife – pregnant with a rebel’s child – to live with her parents.
“Finding out what they did to my wife was unbearable,” Abby said in a film ‘Living Peace: The Story of Abby and Kyalu’ which premiered at a conference in South Africa this week on sexual violence.
“I became violent with everyone around me. The trauma I felt made me crazy,” Abby said.
Most Congolese women who are raped by strangers are forced out of their homes, and children born of rape are also stigmatised, experts said.
“They are called snakes because they remind people of bad times,” Benoit Ruratotoye, director of the Institute for Mental Health in the eastern Congolese city of Goma, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone.
The trauma of war seeps into the family home. Men who have been exposed to violence tend to become violent towards their wives and children.
Six out 10 men reported being violent towards their partners, and one-quarter said they were sexually violent, according to a survey carried out in DRC’s North Kivu Province by the charity Promundo.
Of those questioned, one in 10 men and two in 10 women said they had been raped. Most people had lost a family member in the war and said they never had enough money to sustain their family.
In a country with few counsellors, psychiatrists or psychologists, those affected have to find a way to cure themselves, Ruratotoye said.
In 2012, Promundo and Ruratotoye started carrying out male group therapy sessions in the east of the vast central African country, described by one senior United Nations official as the rape capital of the world.
After a successful pilot with 300 men, they won additional funding to reach 9,000 men and their wives by 2019.
Community leaders help identify participants.
“They receive complaints every day: ‘He is violent. He is beating his wife. He is an alcoholic’,” Ruratotoye said.
A group of men sit down together, one afternoon each week for 15 weeks, and talk about the impact of war on their lives.
“There is a real space for men to express their own suffering,” said Ruratotoye. “There is this feeling that ‘I am not alone.'”
[caption id="attachment_20790" align="alignright" width="416"] Congolese rape victims march against sexual violence[/caption]
For Abby, the turning point came when another man talked about his wife being raped. “I felt he could understand the pain I was feeling,” he said. “I realised it was time for me to retake control of my life and take care of my family.”
Men agree on rules for the sessions, such as respecting and listening to each other, which they must also apply at home.
They give each other homework, such as washing clothes or bathing children, putting into practice what they have learned about gender equality.
Abby started playing with and bathing the little boy who had been born out of rape.
“When he started caring for my other son, I couldn’t believe it,” said Kyalu. “He changed, so I chose to forgive him.”
At the end of the programme, there is a community celebration where the women testify about the changes they have seen in their husbands. Through this, Ruratotoye tries to spread the message of non-violence to others.
“We want to be agents of change,” he said.
The wave of sexual violence in the DRC dates back to conflicts in the mid-1990s. While militias still roam the east of the country raping men, women and children, increasing numbers of civilians are becoming perpetrators as violence has become normalised, experts say.
Members of the Black Mamba Anti-Poaching Unit, a South African and majority-women ranger group. Photo: Black Mamba Anti-Poaching Unit[/caption]
8 September 2015 – The Black Mamba Anti-Poaching Unit, a South African ranger group consisting mostly of women, has been named as one of the winners of the top United Nations environmental prize.
By bestowing its Champions of the Earth award to the Black Mambas, in the Inspiration and Action category, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) is recognizing the “rapid and impressive impact” the unit has made in combatting poaching and the courage required to accomplish this task, the agency said in a news release issued yesterday.
“Community-led initiatives are crucial to combatting the illegal wildlife trade and the Black Mambas highlight the importance and effectiveness of local knowledge and commitment,”said UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner.
“Their many successes are a result of their impressive courage and determination to make a difference in their community. The Black Mambas are an inspiration not only locally, but across the world to all those working to eliminate the scourge of the illegal wildlife trade.”
Since its inception in 2013, the 26-member unit has helped arrest six poachers, reduced snaring by 76 per cent, removed over 1,000 snares and put 5 poachers’ camps and 2 bush meat kitchens out of action.
The area that they protect, the Balule Private Game Reserve, is home to an abundance of wildlife – including not only rhino but leopards, lions, elephants, cheetahs and hippos. It is part of the Greater Kruger National Park, a network of over 2 million hectares of protected areas that is home to thousands of birds, impalas, giraffes, wildebeest, buffalos, antelopes, hyenas, crocodiles, fish and zebras.
Protecting the rhino is vital in South Africa, where 1,215 rhinos were killed in 2014 alone. This is an increase of over 12,000 per cent since 2004 and symptomatic of a devastating epidemic that has pushed the rhino closer to the edge of extinction, according to UNEP.
Mr. Steiner noted that while their work contributes mostly toward ecosystem preservation and halting biodiversity loss, Goal 15 of the Sustainable Development Goals, it also exemplifies the action-driven solutions needed to achieve all of the SDGs, which world leaders will adopt later this month.
“With every rhino saved, the Black Mambas demonstrate that action on a local level is critical to achieving global sustainability and equity,” he stated.
Leitah Mkhabela, a member of the Black Mamba rangers, said: “I am not afraid, I know what I am doing and I know why I am doing it. If you see the poachers you tell them not to try, tell them we are here and it is they who are in danger.
“Animals deserve to live; they have a right to live. Do your part. When demand ends, the killing will end. Say yes to life. Say no to illegal rhino horn and elephant ivory.”
To date, the Champions of the Earth Awards have recognized 67 laureates in the categories of policy, science, business and civil society.
This year, the award year aims to support the Sustainable Development Goals by illustrating, through the examples of the laureates, that the transition to low-carbon, resource-efficient, inclusive and sustainable economic models is not just possible, but already in progress.
The other winners for this year will be announced in the coming weeks and will receive their honours at a ceremony to be held at the close of the Sustainable Development Summit on 27 September in New York.
By Francis Emorut
Journalists were left awed by the female condom during a demonstration on how its used.
[caption id="attachment_20550" align="alignleft" width="300"] Facilitator Priscilla Nabatazi demonstrates how the female condom is used during media and sexuality training at Eureka Place Hotel in Kampala on Friday Sept 4, 2015. Photo by Francis EmorutParticipants examining the female condoms during media and sexuality training at Eureka Place Hotel in Kampala on Friday Sept 4, 2015. Photo by Francis Emorut[/caption]
Awed by the cylindrical shaped rubber, journalists were visibly shocked because they were seeing it for the first time.
This was during the closing of media and sexuality training hosted by RHU at Eureka Place Hotel on Friday.
Priscilla Nabatanzi, one of the facilitators demonstrated to mesmerised journalists how the female condom is nipped at its top before inserting into the woman’s sexual organ.
She cautioned that extra care should be taken to avoid puncturing the condom during insertion.
She emphasized the use of only two fingers when inserting.
At the worskhop, media practitioners were also encouraged to advocate for change of bad policies and giving the voice to voiceless.
“The media should advocate for change of bad policies for the betterment of society,” Zaintuni Nabateregga, team leader training and development at Straight Talk Foundation, said
She implored the media to focus their attention in advocating for fairness and justice, bringing pressing issues to light, giving the voice to the voiceless and promoting accountability and good governance.
Alex Kiwanuka, the youth officer in charge of Reproductive Health Uganda (RHU) warned the media against portraying women and girls as sexual objects.
To drive his point home newspapers of various media houses were distributed to media practitioners and they were asked to cut out articles and pictures related to sexual issues.
Journalists were encouraged to use social media for breaking news.
Sam Bannz, a blogger, noted that people pick interest in social media because it provides information in real time.
He said because you are breaking news the effect is that you will pull out or attract a number of followers who will be following your hashtag.
“You no longer need to pile newspapers as you can access them online,” Bannz said.
A social media advocate, Kenneth Kintu, explained that the social media is a game changer for businesses engaged in marketing, sales and customer service.
He said 93%of marketers use social media for business.
Kintu pointed out that 1 million new blogs are created on online every month.
“It’s the biggest shift since the industrial revolution,” Kintu said.
He said in Uganda the social media communication channel that is gaining popularity is twitter as many users are shifting from Facebook.
Ten students who escaped after mass abduction by armed group Boko Haram find a new beginning, but struggle with trauma
By Chika Oduah*
[caption id="attachment_20268" align="alignleft" width="300"] Lily, who escaped from Boko Haram during the kidnapping of almost 300 girls in Nigeria, on a recent tour of the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C.Greg Kahn / GRAIN for Al Jazeera America[/caption]
WASHINGTON —Lily had sworn never to go back to school. After being kidnapped from her high school in Chibok, Nigeria, by armed group Boko Haram, the 18-year-old planned to leave education behind and do what her family had been doing for generations — farming.
School was not safe any more.
Boko Haram kidnapped Lily and 275 other schoolgirls one night in April 2014. In a remote town in northeastern Nigeria, the radical fighters grabbed Lily and the others as they slept inside the local high school’s dormitory. They stuffed them into trucks and drove off into the night with a convoy of squealing, terrified high school students.
Lily said her heart was pounding, and she closed her eyes and prayed. Hours after her capture, she found the courage to jump out of the moving truck; a friend followed her. She ran through the bushes in the middle of the night, and made her way back home.
After that, she resolved never to return to school.
The mass kidnapping of almost 300 Nigerian girls captured the world’s attention. Boko Haram had rampaged across northeastern Nigeria for five years, but the Chibok kidnapping gained the group worldwide infamy and revulsion. Boko Haram, a phrase that loosely translates as “Western education is forbidden,” aims to a government rule by an extreme interpretation of Shariah law. Since 2009, the group has spilled blood across the region, bombing, looting and kidnapping.
Activists in Nigeria birthed the Bring Back Our Girls campaign, demanding the Nigerian government to find the schoolgirls who were still missing. Only 57 of the girls had escaped, and they did so with no help from the Nigerian government.
The likes of First Lady Michelle Obama, celebrity TV personality Ellen DeGeneres, and Pakistani education activist Malala Yousafzai carried signs marked #BringBackOurGirls.
Meanwhile, Emmanuel Ogebe, a U.S.-based Nigerian human rights lawyer collaborated with a couple in Nigeria to help bring some Chibok schoolgirls who had escaped from Boko Haram to the United States.
[caption id="attachment_20270" align="alignright" width="300"] Lily has a butterfly land on her hand while touring the butterfly pavilion at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. with Deanna Gelak, human development expert.Greg Kahn / GRAIN for Al Jazeera America[/caption]
“Schooling is an incredibly high-risk activity in northern Nigeria,” Ogebe said, explaining that girls freed from Boko Haram captivity could face security risks, survivors’ guilt and discrimination from their community.
“Most had been stigmatized as a ‘Boko Haram’ wife, which further traumatized them,” Ogebe said.
Lily was made fun of after her escape; leaving Nigeria offered her a chance to change the course of her life.
Lily and nine other girls arrived in the U.S. last year, between July and December.
The three Nigerian activists, who later formed Education Must Continue Initiative, helped them obtain U.S. visas so they could attend reputable private schools that offered scholarships for them. Initially they attended two different schools, with some of the girls on the West Coast, but now all are attending the same school in Virginia.
Lily was back in school.
“I know I said I would never go to school again but things have changed,” Lily said with a smile. “I am in America!”
The girls recently went back to class after a summer break that included trips to the White House, museum and a national tour with a church choir. Host families housed the girls during the summer vacation.
Murna, 19,discovered she has motion sickness and cannot sit in a car for long. Lily has not acquired a taste for American food.
Sometimes, Lily’s mind wanders to Nigeria, to Chibok, to Boko Haram, to her best friend Dorcas, who was abducted with her and is presumably still in the clutches of Boko Haram members. Dorcas and Lily grew up together as neighbors.
“She is still inside Sambisa,” Lily says. “I miss her so much. She is a very good person.”
Sambisa Forest, a 40,000 square-mile stretch of nature reserve in northeastern Nigeria, is believed to be Boko Haram’ main hide out . Many believe it’s where the 219 Chibok schoolgirls still missing are being held. More than700 captives have been freed from Boko Haram, according to the Nigerian military. Amnesty International estimates that Boko Haram has abducted more than 2,000 people, mostly women.
The group has formed an official alliance with the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS), calling itself the Islamic State West African province.
Murna, 17, says she used to have nightmares about Boko Haram.
“I had a dream that Boko Haram came to America on a plane and entered into the house to kidnap us and take us back to Nigeria,” she said. Murna, a tall and animated teenager, said she had several similar nightmares and is only recently beginning to cope with the trauma she endured.
Murna often spends her time braiding extensions into her hair. Lily and Lovely, 18, like to sit together and watch Nigerian movies on the iPads they borrowed from their school. They are acquiring new skills: learning to play violin, becoming tech-savvy and logging into Skype to video chat with friends, improving their use of American English.
“These young ladies immediately impress with their effervescent personalities and sweet dispositions. After simply giving them a ride in the car, they thanked me,” says Deanna Gelak, an education specialist who is hosting one of the girls. Gelak describes them as young ladies with a “special grace, good nature and wit.”
Lily, Lovely and Murna do not yet know what the future holds for them.They think often about their friends and families they left behind in Nigeria, but are uncertain of returning to live in their home country.
Lily watches a video message from her parents, sent to her via Facebook. She listens to her mother pray for her in her native Kibaku language. The sight of her elderly, white-haired father makes her cry. She turns her head away and sniffles. When asked what her mother said in the video, Lily says, “She told me that Boko Haram came to attack Chibok again but that I should not worry. They are fine.”
Murna prays every day for the safety of her father who is a police officer in northeastern Nigeria. Lovely’s father was recently killed by Boko Haram. She was not able to attend his funeral.
The girls sometimes feel they are too distant from their loved ones. But, they are carving new relationships in the United States.
Inspired by Ogebe, the Nigerian lawyer who helped bring them to the United States, Lily and Lovely have decided to become lawyers. Murna wants to be the first medical doctor in her family. They all hope for a Nigeria free from Boko Haram, where all girls will feel safe enough to go to school.
*Source Al Jazeera]]>
The office of the Special Envoy on Gender (SEOG) and the Department for Agriculture and Agro-industry (OSAN) of the African Development Bank (AfDB) launched a new report, “Economic Empowerment of African Women through Equitable Participation in Agricultural Value Chains” on Thursday, August 27 at its headquarters in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire. The event gathered high-level participants, including stakeholders from both the private and public sectors from the countries and sectors examined by the report – cocoa, coffee, cotton and cassava sectors in Côte d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Burkina Faso and Nigeria, respectively.
“This report prepares the ground to empower women, to take a leading role in the business of farming and agricultural value chains, regionally and globally”, said Donald Kaberuka, President of the African Development Bank.
Agriculture in Africa is poised to remain one of the most important economic sectors, accounting for around 25% of the continent’s GDP. Over 60% of its citizens rely on agriculture for some form of income. To transform the sector, the economic empowerment of women through boosting their productivity and raising their participation in commercial and higher value-add activities in agriculture is central.
Women make up almost 50% of the agricultural labour force in Sub-Saharan Africa. A total of 62% of economically active women in Africa work in agriculture, making it the largest employer of women. In some countries, such as Rwanda, Malawi and Burkina Faso, over 90% of economically active women are involved in agriculture.
“African women feed the continent and they can feed the world, too. But we must close the wide gap in wages and agricultural yields between men and women if Africa is to achieve full economic transformation,” said Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi, the AfDB’s Special Envoy on Gender.
The report highlights five major constraints that can limit women’s productivity and full inclusion into the agricultural economy: lack of access to assets, lack of access to financing, limited training, gender-neutral government policy, and time constraints due to heavy domestic responsibilities.
The report highlighted three broad areas for action that could begin to address the specific constraints women face in each focus country:
Grow the number of large-scale agribusiness entrepreneurs by providing access to financing and training, and improving regional and global market links.
Make sure women are remunerated by setting them up as co-owners, improving productivity, and providing training in core business skills.
Increase women’s access to niche markets by producing and marketing women-only products.
The role of women is largely limited to the unskilled parts of production: few own the land on which they work, they are rarely remunerated for their labour and often do not control the income generated from the sale of agricultural produce.
For example, in Côte d’Ivoire, the report estimates women account for 68% of the labour in cocoa production, but receive only 21% of the income. Similarly, in Ethiopia, women account for 75% of the labour in coffee production and receive only 34% of the income.
This report will help to identify areas that the African Development Bank (AfDB) and its partners could target to empower women economically through agriculture as the Bank implements its Gender Strategy (2014-2018).
She was born in Kenya, brought up in Somalia, relocated to Finland and now studies for Masters in Public Health at Harvard University in the United States.
Meet Fadumo Dayib who is aspiring to be the next president of Somalia, and above all, the first female president in the Horn of African countries.
Her motivation: “I want to be Somalia’s president because I believe women have a chance to lead Somalia. Women lead the country economically, manage family budgets and are very visible in society, but they have been kept out of politics. Somalia is now ready for a female president.”
In a video posted on the Internet, Fadumo exuded confidence that she is the agent of change that breathes a new sense of freedom.
‘’It’s shocking that we have a younger generation that hasn’t experienced anything but war,” she says in the emotional video that runs for five minutes, which was shared across the video-sharing platforms like the Vimeo and YouTube.
She said she is the answer to the prevailing situation in Somalia. Her campaigns are centered on fighting youth unemployment, protecting minorities and improving education.
“I want to breathe in hope into the youth of this country (Somalia). They can’t even imagine any other kind of future than war and destruction,” she observes.
Dayib, however, is not the first Somali female contender. She was preceded by Amal Abdi Ibrahim who made an unsuccessful bid since she was slightly less than 40 years of age.
Is Fadumo Dayib aware of the dangers that lurk in the murky politics of Somalia? –
“It’s very dangerous to be a politician or candidate in Somalia,” said Dayib. ”I’ve been warned many times that I could be killed if I run as a candidate.”
In the highly conservative Somalia, a whiff of a woman gunning for the highest office in the land is a laughable affair, but not so according to Fadumo who believes gender and clannism can never be the vehicle to successful Somalia.
She said she would not identify her campaigns and aspirations to clan affiliation. She could be on the same page with the current president of the country Hassan Sheikh who similarly condemned the idea.
“We should be—as Somalis—drift away from politics of clanism to a healthy one that is based on content and delivery,” he said at a conference he hosted to lay down the Vision 2016 agendas, and Fadumo seems to be cashing in on that. She is currently studying public administration at the prestigious Harvard University.
Her campaign tagline “I am a 2016 Somali Presidential Candidate. At the tender age of 42 and after 25 years in the Diaspora, I have finally understood the value of walking away in order to walk back to what matters the most. I am going home to reclaim Somalia and Somaliness.” seem to be gaining traction with the Somali Diaspora community who has volunteered to drive her campaign push.
Whether she will be the next president, or not she is already a figure worth looking up to.
*Source Somali Current]]>
Actress, singer and activist, Omotola Jalade-Ekeinde is a leading Nollywood actress with some 300 films under her belt[/caption]
Omotola Jalade-Ekeinde is known as the Queen of Nollywood, Nigeria’s booming movie industry. Since her 1995 film debut, the actress has appeared in some 300 movies, selling millions of videos and establishing herself as a Nollywood icon.
A prolific film siren, Jalade-Ekeinde has also carved out a successful career as a singer and reality TV star. But there’s more to Nigeria’s beloved celebrity than her glittering entertainment career. Here are 10 things to know about Jalade-Ekeinde.
She’s an icon: Last year, she was named as one of the top 100 influential people in the world by Time Magazine, in the Icons category. “I think that’s what gives me more satisfaction,” she says. “The fact that I wasn’t just recognized as an artist but as an icon — I’m very grateful for it.”
She is an activist: Jalade-Ekeinde uses her stardom to speak out about social issues affecting various African countries. An ambassador for the United Nations and an activist with Amnesty International, Jalade-Ekeinde has been on missions to Sierra Leone and Liberia.
She’s a family woman: Jalade-Ekeinde is married to an airline pilot and is a mother of four children.
The story behind “Omosexy:” Her popular nickname, “Omosexy,” was given to her by her husband — and it has caught on. “That’s my husband’s pet name for me,” she says, “and the fans love it and now people call me Omosexy almost more than Omotola.”
Her fans love her: Jalade-Ekeinde has amassed a large following — in 2013, her Facebook page has surpassed 1 million likes. Today, it’s 1.2 million, and counting …
Her road to stardom was paved with childhood tragedy: Jalade-Ekeinde lost her beloved father in her early teens. She started working at 15 to help support her family, her first job being a model.
[caption id="attachment_9013" align="alignright" width="300"] Jalade-Ekeinde with director Stephen Spielberg (left) and actor Daniel Day-Lewis at the Time 100 gala event on April 23, 2013.[/caption]
Her mother didn’t like the idea of her young daughter acting and initially forbade Jalade-Ekeinde from doing so. Finally, she gave in after a film director, joined by the entire movie crew, went to her house to beg her to allow Jalade-Ekeinde to appear in the “Venom of Justice” movie.
She is part of “New Nollywood:” Keen to improve the quality of Nollywood movies, Jalade-Ekeinde is now building a film studio — what she calls a “Village.” “I’ve come to a place where I realize I have to leave something,” she says. “I have to have a legacy.
“We need infrastructure; that’s what we need now in Nollywood. We have the fans, we have the figures, we have people chanting and calling your name but we don’t have infrastructure … We need studios, we need film villages we need schools and that’s exactly what I’m doing right now.”
Cameras follow her around: Besides gracing the covers of several lifestyle magazines, the leading actress is also the first Nigerian with her own reality TV show, “Omotola: The Real Me.”
She can sing too: Jalade-Ekeinde always loved music but decided to launch her singing career after she became an activist and started working with the U.N. World Food Programme. “I started going on all these missions and I came back and I saw so much I wanted to sing about it,” she explains. “I’ve always wanted to sing all my life anyway, but that was the motivation I needed.”
-In defense of my African Maritime Heritage
By Sylvie Bello*
[caption id="attachment_8573" align="alignleft" width="300"] Sylvie Bello[/caption]
In celebration of Black History Month and the Cameroon’s National Youth Day observed on February 11th, I found myself battling stereotypical arguments. Interestingly, a membership to the Oklahoma Aquarium that I had acquired for my 4 year-old niece led to comments from some of my friends and associates that I was acting ‘White’.
“How is an aquarium membership acting white?” I found myself pondering aloud. It came as a surprise to them that my decision to get the Oklahoma Aquarium membership was rooted in part because of my deep African Maritime Heritage.
My niece Kayla Bello, lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma, which is not only an ocean away from our native Cameroon in West Africa. Tulsa has no beaches and has very little aquatic environments. My family on other hand has a strong maritime background and it was my desire to pass that heritage to my only niece and to future Bello grand kids and descendants.
My African Maritime story?
Considering that Cameroon is named after River Wouri makes for an interesting historical reference. Briefly, the colonial oppressors upon seeing the multitudes of shrimps in the Wouri named it “Rio dos Camarões” (River of Shrimps). River Wouri runs into the city of Douala, the economic capital of Cameroon.
I was born and raised in Douala. Growing up, I enjoyed family time at the century old Ngondo Water Festival, the Yupe fish market, had my secondary school graduation picnic at the seaside Base Elf, we visited the Douala Maritime Museum and participating in many boating events in Douala. During Christmas vacations in my paternal village of Mbem in the North West Region of Cameroon, we enjoyed many aquatic activities from bathing and washing clothes in the river, fetching water, and water drumming. Anyone who has had that unique joy of spending time in an African village will know what I am taking about!
My secondary school was spent at the prestigious Saker Baptist College, an all girls boarding school in the coastal town of Limbe in South West Region of Cameroon. Our family loved the black sand beaches of Limbe, which CNN recently praised in an extensive coverage.
My Dad, Tah Ndi Majang Amos Ngaben Bello studied Geography and Hydrology at the University of Yaounde in Cameroon and at The Hague in Holland. He was an Administrator at the Sea Ports in Douala. Dad was born in Mbem Village in Donga-Mantung Division (on the Cameroon/Nigeria borders), which has with many rivers such as the Mantung River. Dad’s father did fishing and farming. Grandpa Ngaben talked of our ancestors freely swimming into present day Nigeria, this was before the ‘Scramble of Africa’ and the separation of families to form African ‘countries’.
My maternal grandfather Papa Christophe Bienvenue Ngassa worked as a government delegate in charge of fishing and hunting licenses in Obala Cameroon’s rainforests. I look back and fondly remember grandpa Ngassa’s visits to Douala with gifts of all kinds of fish and meats.
Today, a third generation of Bellos are continuing to explore and thrive in the Maritime field. Unlike the males of our family’s maritime past, this generation of Bellos in maritime are …women! Starting with me, as a teenager, my very first job was as a summer intern at ONPC now known as the Ports Authority of Douala. I returned to ONPC for many summer internships during my high school years. My sister Rita Bello did her university thesis on Sea Port Administration in Cameroon. While another sister, Manuella Bello has a Bachelor’s Degree in Maritime and Transportation Management and is a seasoned professional in the maritime industry.
So, though the desire to share our family’s maritime heritage was a strong motivation, a book on Black scientists sparked my niece’s curiosity in aquatic life.
You see, last December, my niece Kayla and I, participated in the annual Tulsa Kwanzaa Celebration organized by Ms. Latimer of the African-American Resource Center at the Tulsa Public Library. Several books were given out as favors; one of the books on Black scientists caught Kayla’s eyes. Astonishingly, of the five scientists highlighted in the book Kayla was most fascinated by the story of the great Black Marine Biologist Dr. Ernest Young. Amazing Kayla too may have caught the Bello aquatic bug!
After reading the book, we ventured to the Tulsa based Oklahoma Aquarium. I mean, where else in the frigid winter can one show a child fishes and other maritime life? Where else can a child have dreams of being a marine biologists or a veterinarian? Furthermore, consider fishing as a recreation?
To our great dismay, the Oklahoma Aquarium has never had a Black History Month event, even in its 10 years of existence. Additionally, its gift shop has zero books on Black scientists not even Dr. Ernest Just, who while a biology professor at Howard University, co-founded the 100+ old Omega Psi Phi Fraternity.
With the national cry of Black children and low outcomes of not graduating high school, let alone majoring in college sciences, how can these STEM related institutions that get tax dollars, get away for so long with little or no outreach and culturally sensitive programs for the Black community?
Its a good thing that Kayla’s interest in aquatic life was sparked by a Kwanzaa Book donation at the library and her family’s heritage. What about other Black kids who couldn’t get books on scientists or who may not have family members to nurture such interests? They depend on our tax dollars to reach them, and aquariums, that do not have Black History Month events and Black themed books in their gift shops, I believe are failing such kids and failing America as a whole. Thus we as a country cannot fully fulfill President Obama’s wish to out-perform and out-innovate the rest of the world, when (some) scientific institutions are not actively engaged in African American outreach and inclusion.
Makes me wonder, how many other aquariums across the US will not have Black History Month Events in 2014. What motivations does the Oklahoma Aquarium need to celebrate African American heritage?
Ironically, could it be that my associates were right? Do aquariums not cater to a diverse base? Should obtaining aquarium membership be only for White families? Hmmm.
*Sylvie Bello is Founder and CEO of the Cameroon American Council, the leading national African Immigrant Advocacy Organizations in the USA. She was recently recognized by the Cameroon Association of Tulsa for her outstanding community work. When Sylvie is not advocating on African immigrant priorities in immigration, health, education,and food policies, she is a volunteer at the Walters Arts Museum, the Shakespeare’s Theatre Company and the Ford’s Theatre. Sylvie’s eclectic post-college life includes being an Interior Decorator, Accounting/Finance Manager, , Presidential Campaign staffer, TV Reporter, Non-Profit Executive and Leadership roles on the boards of her sorority Omega Phi Chi Multicultural Sorority and the board of her boarding schools alumni (Saker Baptist College and CPC Bali).Sylvie splits her time betweenTulsa, New York City,and Washington,DC.
Sylvie Bello can be reached via email: email@example.com ,Twitter: @CamAmerCouncil
Contrary to received wisdom, there are lots of eligible and available men in Africa for today’s young, modern, educated African women. So why can’t some young women find a suitable match? Something else is going on: choice.
“You’re moving back to Ghana? You will be married within the year.” I smiled at my Uncle and said nothing in response. Marriage was the last thing on my mind. Or more accurately, getting married again was the last thing on my mind.
I thought about my Uncle’s words after living in Ghana for about a year and laughed, in all of that time I hadn’t met anyone whom I wanted to date let alone marry. In subsequent years, women looking to move to Ghana or other parts of the continent would contact me seeking advise, and one of the questions they would inevitably ask would be, “So, what’s the man situation like over there?” Inevitably my response would be, “There are no eligible men available.”“What do you mean there are no eligible men available” would be their inevitable rejoinder. “Well in Ghana people tend to get married early, and they stay married no matter what, even if they are in unhappy marriages. So for women like us who are in their 30s the choices are to be a side chick or mistress to a married man, or to hook up with a guy in his 20s who is just looking for a bit of fun. When you meet a man who is his 30s and unmarried there is usually a very good reason why.” I deflated a lot of women who were previously excited about moving to the continent and dating a fun, educated African man who has a great job, holds progressive views about gender roles, and cannot wait to be matched up with a well educated African woman, who also has a great job, and can hold conversations about anything from the conflict in Syria to the latest trends in African fashion.
But recently I’ve had cause to change my mind. Last week I was reading a blog post that Afua Entsuah wrote titled ‘The Plight of the Single Returnee Woman’, and from the title alone I thought, “No, no, no”. She referenced a conversation with me where I had recited my “there are no eligible men” refrain as well as a twitter exchange a number of women including myself had held with the late Komla Dumor on the subject of a BBC Africa discussion, ‘Is it harder for an educated African woman to find a date?’ My co-blogger Malaka in response to this radio discussion topic later wrote a post with the title, ‘Wanted: Small Boys for Educated African Women’. All this concern about whether educated African women struggle to find suitable mates or not, and the small role I have played in creating that impression got me thinking again about the trite comment I have been regurgitating for years.
I thought back to my Grand Aunt, a woman I have interviewed a number of times as part of my personal project to learn more about the lives of older African women, especially those women who are not literate in English, and have no means of documenting their stories for posterity. I remember what she told me about her first husband, “I did not love him. I married him because he was my brother’s friend.” That marriage had been an unhappy one, and a second marriage to a husband of her choice had been the one to bring her happiness. I thought of how my Grand Aunt had felt she had very little choice about whom to marry initially, and about her fear that if she displeased her brother he would not intervene if she had any challenges in her marriage. Then I thought of how far apart I am from what had been my Grand Aunt’s reality. For a start, I do not have to marry anyone because that’s the man that my brother thinks will make a suitable match for me. I started to dig deeper into what I thought of as eligible – a good looking man, a man with a job that he enjoys and one that rewards him adequately for his labour, and someone with whom I share common interests. I realized how many of those men I have met, sometimes gone on dates with, and been uninterested in pursuing something long term with for any number of reasons.
Take Alex, the building contractor. He was a divorced man in his 40s with a 10-year-old son. We went to La Chaumiere for dinner one night, Golden Tulip for a buffet breakfast another day, and then a trip to Mount Afajato one Saturday. He insisted I choose the venue for each date, and insisted on paying each time. He asked me to order the wine because he didn’t know much about wines. He was happy to go along to the mountain because he knew I had an interest in local tourism. He called me ‘my heart throb’. Somehow he just did not light my fire and I concluded that he was not eligible enough.
Then there was Kofi the wannabe musician. We met in a club one night. We had drinks the following week, and he couldn’t stop telling me about how much he was into me. That was an instant turn off but I continued to see him for a short while. He sent me badly constructed text messages every night. One night in the back of my car he came when I was on the precipice of what I am absolutely sure was going to be an earth shattering orgasm. I don’t think I ever forgave him for that. And by then I had had enough of the sms speech texts. He was definitely not eligible.
And there have been plenty of single men between Alex and Kofi. Yet somehow they have all not been eligible enough. Sometimes I just don’t find them sexually attractive. Other times I think they are too traditional in their views of gender roles. Sometimes their conversations bore me. Sometimes they are brilliant in bed but have too little options in life for me to want to hitch my wagon to theirs. Other times they are just not that into me. Whatever the case is, I have realized that I am a single educated African woman because that’s who I want to be. I am happy and satisfied with my life choices. There are plenty of eligible African men out there who want to date women like me. I just haven’t met one that I would like to date … yet.