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Merck Foundation annual conference kicks off virtually
April 27, 2021 | 0 Comments

By Samuel Ouma

The 8th edition of the Merck Foundation Africa Asia Luminary conference officially began today on a virtual platform.

The three-day conference was inaugurated by Zambian President H.E. Mr. Edgar Lungu and Prof. Dr. Frank Stangenberg, the chairman of both the Executive Board of E. Merck KG and Merck Foundation Board of Trustees.

It was co-chaired by the First Lady of Zambia, H.E. Esther Lungu, and Senator Dr. Rasha Kelej, CEO of Mark Foundation.

“It gives me great pleasure to welcome you all to the 8th Edition of Merck Foundation Africa Asia Luminary, 2021 in partnership with Government of Zambia and co-chaired by my wife the First Lady of Zambia – H.E. Mrs. ESTHER LUNGU. Moreover, we are also happy to celebrate together the 4th Anniversary of Merck Foundation – our long term partner,” said H.E. Edgar Lungu.

The medical and social educational conference aims to improve access to quality & equitable healthcare solutions & build healthcare capacity in the fields of Diabetes, Fertility, Oncology, women’s health, Cardiology, Endocrinology, Respiratory and Acute Medicine. The foundation will also be celebrating its 4th anniversary.

The conference brings together more than  32,000  participants such as healthcare providers, policymakers, academia, researchers, and Health media from more than 70 countries from Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Other attendees are 17 First Ladies of Africa and African Ministers from different sectors.

In his inauguration speech, Prof. Dr. Frank Stangenberg called on ministers and health experts from Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the rest of the world to join hands to realize Merck Foundation’s visions stating that everyone in the world deserves to live a happy and fulfilling life.

Prof. Dr. Frank Stangenberg further disclosed that through Merck more than a Mother campaign in 35 countries, they have provided 180 doctors with Fertility specialists and embryology training programs and another 155 doctors with a one-year diploma and two-year master degree in sexual and reproductive health from the U.K. university which will improve women health in general and reproductive health in particular.

He added that the foundation would this year start issuing more scholarships in more specialties such as internal Medicine, Gastroenterology, Mental Health: Orthopedic Trauma, Paediatric, Emergency Medicine, Dermatology, Neonatal Medicine, Pain Management, Psychiatry, Clinical Microbiology, and infectious diseases, Ophthalmology, Urology, Trauma, and orthopedics.

On her side, Senator Dr. Rasha Kelej said they could not conduct the annual conference physically in Zambia as planned due to the global pandemic of Covid-19.

She noted that More than 1100 doctor from 42 countries have benefited from Merck Foundation scholarship in the fields of Diabetes, cardiovascular, endocrinology, Cancer, Research, Fertility Care, Women Health, Sexual & Reproductive care, Respiratory Medicines, and Acute Medicines, and more to join in the future to benefit from other specialties.

“Merck Foundation started this smart capacity building strategy in partnership with African First Ladies and Ministries of Health and Medical Societies since 2012, which contributed significantly towards transforming and reshaping the landscape of the public healthcare sector and towards advancing patient care in 42 countries. It is history in the making,” said Senator Dr. Rasha Kelej.

“Together we will discuss our strategy realization to build healthcare capacity, respond to the Covid-19 pandemic, provide the necessary training to establish a strong platform of experts in many important and critical specialties in their countries in collaboration with their Offices and Ministries of Health,” she added.

During the conference, sacrifices and efforts of everyday heroes and medical workers during the Cov-19 would be acknowledged, said Dr. Kelej.

She further thanked all their partners for their valuable participation and support that have brought progress to the foundation.

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Rwanda:Rural women farmers get smartphones to improve agriculture-related information sharing
March 31, 2021 | 0 Comments

By Jean d’Amour Mbonyinshuti

Minister for agriculture Dr. Gerardine Mukeshimana hands a smart phone to one of rural women during the event on Tuesday.
Minister for agriculture Dr. Gerardine Mukeshimana hands a smart phone to one of rural women during the event on Tuesday.

Rural women leading farmers’ cooperatives in four districts on Tuesday received smartphones to help them access agriculture-related information and share them with farmers.

Under the initiative dubbed “ConnectRwanda” the Ministry of ICT and Innovation started the smartphone distribution to the majority of Rwandans in 2019.

 A total of 3,000 rural women received the smartphones in four districts namely Nyamagabe in Southern province, Kirehe in Eastern Province and Nyamasheke in Western Province.

According to officials, the initiative seeks to connect the unconnected households to bridge the existing digital gaps.

Paula Ingabire, the Minister of ICT and Innovation reiterated that agriculture being the backbone of Rwanda’s economy, women are great contributors to the growth of this sector.

 “Access to finance and smartphones is very critical for development, especially in such times where digital divides have been exacerbated. As we conclude the women’s celebration month, we are thrilled to support women in agribusiness with Made in Rwanda Smartphones,” said minister Ingabire.

“In order to reach more development, women in agriculture should be placed at the centre of this transformation,” she added.

She noted that women constitute more than 60 per cent of the Rwandan agricultural workforce. 

Gerardine Mukeshimana, the Minister of Agriculture and Animal Resources, said that cooperative members would be able to access and share information easily hence improve their agricultural activities.

Under the ConnectRwanda initiative, private companies, government institutions and individuals work together to ensure that all Rwandans are connected.

Currently, Rwanda has a plant manufacturing smartphones under “Mara Phone” brand name.

Thousands of Rwandans have so far benefited from the initiative to acquire smartphones to boost digital drive in the country.  

Women who received the smartphones have welcomed the initiative saying that as women cooperative leaders, they will be able to communicate with other women in the agriculture domain through timely and adequate information sharing.  

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Nigeria Native Named Blue Jacket of the Quarter Aboard USS Iwo Jima
March 30, 2021 | 0 Comments

By Stephanie Fox*

ATLANTIC OCEAN – Seaman Beauty McGowan, a native of  Lagos, Nigeria, was recently named Blue Jacket of the Quarter aboard USS Iwo Jima. 

The Blue Jacket of the Quarter award is one of several quarterly categories used to recognize high-performing sailors who stand out from others in similar pay grades.
Seaman Beauty McGowan is a 2009 Lagos State Model College Kankon graduate and a 2015 Ladoke Akintola University of Technology graduate. Today, McGowan serves as a culinary specialist.

“As a culinary specialist, we feed the crew,” said McGowan. “I see it as a way of meeting people’s satisfaction and relieving them of hunger-driven stress.”

McGowan joined the Navy six months ago for the opportunities the military offers.

“I joined the Navy because I wanted a better life,” said McGowan. “I wanted financial viability and to be able to go to medical school.”

According to McGowan, the values required to succeed in the Navy are similar to those found in Lagos.

“Growing up, I learned the importance of determination, endurance and perseverance,” McGowan said. “Those skills are currently helping me in the fleet.”

Iwo Jima is the seventh Wasp-class amphibious assault ship and the second ship in the U.S. Navy to bear that name. The ship was named for the Battle of Iwo Jima of World War II.

According to Navy officials, amphibious assault ships are designed to deliver U.S. Marines and their equipment where they are needed to support a variety of missions ranging from amphibious assaults to humanitarian relief efforts. Designed to be versatile, the ship has the option of simultaneously using helicopters, Harrier jets, and Landing Craft Air Cushioned (LCAC), as well as conventional landing craft and assault vehicles in various combinations.

With more than 90 percent of all trade traveling by sea, and 95 percent of the world’s international phone and internet traffic carried through fiber optic cables lying on the ocean floor, Navy officials continue to emphasize that the prosperity and security of the United States is directly linked to a strong and ready Navy.

According to Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday, four priorities will focus efforts on sailors, readiness, capabilities and capacity.

“For 245 years, in both calm and rough waters, our Navy has stood the watch to protect the homeland, preserve freedom of the seas, and defend our way of life,” said Gilday. “The decisions and investments we make this decade will set the maritime balance of power for the rest of this century. We can accept nothing less than success.”

Though there are many opportunities for sailors to earn recognition in their command, community and careers, McGowan is most proud of contributing to the team.

“The accomplishment I am most proud of is earning Blue Jacket of the Quarter,” said McGowan.

“Our sailors remain the true source of our naval power,” said Gilday. “Mission one for every sailor remains a ready Navy, a Navy ready to compete today and a Navy ready to compete tomorrow. Together we will deliver the naval power the nation needs.”

As a member of the U.S. Navy, McGowan, as well as other sailors, know they are a part of a tradition providing the Navy the nation needs.

“To me, serving in the Navy gives me pride and a sense of belonging,” added McGowan.

*Navy Office of Community Outreach

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Women-led Kenyan design house wins Fashionomics Africa sustainable design competition for turning fruit waste into eco-friendly footwear
March 29, 2021 | 0 Comments

The African Development Bank’s Fashionomics Africa initiative has named a women-led Kenya shoe design house as the winner of its competition to support producers of sustainable fashion.

Pine Kazi, which converts pineapple leaf and recycled rubber into fashionable footwear, won the $2,000 Fashionomics Africa competition cash prize. In addition, the business will have the opportunity to showcase its creation in online events, share insights on key sustainability challenges facing the industry and receive a certificate.

The brand, co-founded by Olivia Okinyi, Angela Musyoka and Mike Langa, will also have access to media opportunities and receive mentoring and networking opportunities from competition collaborators.

“Pine Kazi is greatly humbled to be the winners of the first Fashionomics Africa contest in Africa. This is indeed an honour to the Kenyan people and the African continent at large,” said Okinyi.

Musyoka added: “All our dreams can come true if we have the courage and the patience to pursue them.”

Competition judges said Pine Kazi’s shoes are innovative and sustainable. The upper of the shoe is made from pineapple textile, while the inside is lined with organic cotton. The sole is made from sisal plant fiber, fitted with recycled tyre underneath.

The Fashionomics Africa contest honours African fashion brands working to change how fashion is produced, bought, used and recycled, to encourage more sustainable consumer behaviour. A panel of four judges representing the Bank and competition collaborators – the United Nations Environment Program, the Parsons School of Design and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation – reviewed 110 entries from 24 African countries and selected three finalists: Pine Kazi; CiiE Luxuries, an eco-friendly accessories business based in Abuja, Nigeria; and clothing brand Labake Lagos.

“We were pleasantly surprised by all the applications received for the first edition of our Fashionomics Africa competition. It was very difficult to make a choice, but the finalists stood out with their innovative, durable and contemporary designs,” said Emanuela Gregorio, coordinator of the Fashionomics Africa initiative at the African Development Bank.

Of the applications, 65% were submitted by women and the businesses were predominantly micro-enterprises (54%), solo entrepreneurs (35%) and small businesses (12%).

“What we learned from this Fashionomics Africa contest, in this month celebrating women around the world, is that many women entrepreneurs are advocating for sustainable production and consumption, and we commend their efforts,” said Amel Hamza, Division Manager at the Bank’s Gender, Women and Civil Society Department.

An online public vote by 986 participants determined the winner: Pine Kazi got 400 votes, 318 votes went to CiiE Luxuries, and 268 to Labake Lagos.

Competition judge and a Program Director at New York-based Parsons School of Design, Brendan McCarthy, congratulated Pine Kazi during the competition winners’ announcement last Friday: “You transformed waste materials from pineapples into profound new textiles and absolutely beautiful new shoes,” he said.

The shoes are 100% handmade to reduce carbon footprint and can last three years, Pine Kazi says.

Okinyi wrote in Pine Kazi’s competition entry that if they won, they would invest half the winnings in machinery used to make shoe source materials. “[This machinery] will see pineapple leaf waste put to work and create more green jobs for unemployed youth,” she added.

The design house said resources would also be divided equally between research and development of natural dyes, the acquisition of professional stylists and the establishment of a centralized production system.

To learn more about the Fashionomics Africa online competition, click here.

Fashionomics Africa is an initiative of the African Development Bank to increase Africa’s participation in the global textile and fashion industry value chains – with an emphasis on women and youth.


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Somalia: A Sustained Fight for Human Rights paying off for Mama Zahra
March 25, 2021 | 0 Comments

By Samuel Ouma

Mama Zahra has beaten all odds to continue supporting the voiceless and the vulnerable
Mama Zahra has beaten all odds to give voice to the voiceless and the vulnerable in Somalia.Photo credit Twitter.

The task may be daunting but the crusade for better human rights in Somalia is one that Zahra Mohamed Ahmad better known as Mama Zahra has embraced whole heartedly. Under the canopy of the Somali Women Development Centre that she leads, Mama Zahra has worked tirelessly to empower women, counsel rape, war and victims of gender violence, provide free legal counselling, working on reconciliation and peacebuilding amongst many other human rights related initiatives.

Her efforts got a big boost recently when she was one of three Africans selected as recipients of the U.S State Department International Women of Courage Award. Assisted by an interpreter in an interview with Samuel Ouma for PAV, Mama Zahra says the award will serve as an encouragement to women in Somalia to keep making a positive change in society.

May we start with a reaction from you on the recent Women of Courage Award you received, how did you receive news about this? How did Somalis feel about it, and what does this mean for the work you do?

Mama Zahra: First, I would like to express my gratitude to the Almighty God for enabling me to bag this precious award because it means a lot to me and my people, especially women and girls. The information about the award came directly from the US Department of State Department and was received with joy by Somalis. I am sure it will encourage women, particularly those doing social works, to make positive changes in society.

Talking about the work you do; can you tell us a little more about the Somali Women Development Centre-SWDC ?

Mama Zahra: SWDC is a non-governmental and non-profit organization established in 2000 to empower women and other vulnerable groups such as IDPs, victims of rape, war, gender-based violence, and any calamity, be it natural or human, through access to knowledge and economic and social independence. We also focus on the human rights protection of the vulnerable groups by providing free legal aid services, enhancing reconciliation and peacebuilding, lobbying with the involved parties, and building capacity.

What is the situation like for women and girls in particular and human rights in general in Somalia?

Mama Zahra: The situation is not encouraging at all. Unlike other countries such as Syria and Kenya, refugees in Somalia who are mainly women and children live in unfavorable conditions. Overcrowding and lack of social amenities are heart-breaking. Parents are being forced to live in small tents together with their children.

May we know some of the successes you have registered, what changes have taken place in Somalia as a result of your work with the SWDC?

Mama Zahra: I am proud of the accomplishments we have achieved since 2000. First, the People of Minnesota and I had formed Somcare to oversee the treatment of 250 seriously injured in the war. Through the partnership, these people were successfully treated in Kenya’s Kijabe hospital.  Second, we have trained several women on legal matters, and they have been of great help whenever help is needed. Besides, we have trained female security guards in prison on how to handle female inmates.  We have also offered support to people living with HIV/AIDS, orphans, blind children, and university students from a poor backgrounds. By agitating for an increase in women’s representation, the quota has increased from 11/12 percent to 24 percent. Somali women are highly represented in Parliament, making it one of the highest in the continent.  Out of 275 lawmakers, over 80 are women.

In terms of challenges, may you know some of the most acute challenges you have faced?

Mama Zahra: There have been both personal and organizational challenges. As an organization, we were hard hit in 2013 after two male barristers who were mandated to train women lawyers were killed in a terrorist attack in a regional court in Mogadishu. It was a sad experience, but we had to move on. Later, I was expelled from a regional state of election for standing for what is right before losing my son under mysterious circumstances. My son, the founder of the first laundry shop in the Somali capital, was shot dead in the street. He also owned a start-up kind of organization that offered support to the young. I believe he was killed because he was innovative.

How is your relationship with the government in Somalia, how are your activities and those of the SWDC perceived, and what are they doing or not doing to improve on the situation of girls and women?

Mama Zahra: I work with many ministries in Somalia to achieve our objectives, and Somalis have embraced our activities beyond any doubt. We are doing a lot to improve the situation of women and girls. For instance, we have partnered with the government to offer free primary and secondary education; we own medical facilities where they receive treatment and provide finances to vulnerable individuals to help them settle down and feed their families.

Mama Zahra was among the women recognized worldwide by the U.S State Department  for demonstrating bravery and leadership in advocating for human rights, peace, gender equality, women empowerment, and justice
Mama Zahra was among the women recognized worldwide by the U.S State Department for demonstrating bravery and leadership in advocating for human rights, peace, gender equality, women empowerment, and justice.Photo courtesy

In terms of policy proposals, what suggestions or recommendations do you have that could help improve gender and human rights in the country?

Mama Zahra: People should pay attention to both local and international laws on human rights to better women’s lives.

With all the work you have done and the growing international, is the thought of political leadership something you have thought of or something you may consider if Somalis call on you?

Mama Zahra: I have no political ambition, but I support women’s leadership; women should be represented at all levels of positions.

Any message to international partners out there on what and how there could support the work you have been doing on the ground in Somalia?

Mama Zahra: So far, we operate in two regions, but with well-wishers and partners, we can move to other regions to impact more lives.  I plead with them to rally behind us to help us realize our goals.

What next for Mama Zahra after the Women in Courage award? What changes or developments should we expect from you and the SWDC?

Mama Zahra: I was awarded for what I did, but now through international help, I would love to improve the living standards of the IDPs, install DNA facilities that are only found in South Africa in the continent, and advocate for a high-quality healthcare system.

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AfDB:On International Women’s Day, Acting VP Gichuri reflects on Africa’s gender wins
March 9, 2021 | 0 Comments

To mark International Women’s Day, development leader Wambui Gichuri shares her thoughts on how far Africa has come on gender equity. She also reveals personal life lessons that have inspired her. Gichuri is Acting Vice President for Agriculture, Human and Social Development, as well as Director for Water Development and Sanitation, at the African Development Bank.

1. What does International Women’s Day mean to you?

International Women’s Day is a celebration of women’s remarkable achievements and an opportunity to review the obstacles that stand in the way of women realizing our full potential.

More personally, I believe that what we tell our children – whether girls or boys – is really important. Growing up, I heard and saw many biases against women and girls – which unfortunately still persist. But my mum, who raised me and my two sisters as a single parent, told us that we could succeed beyond our wildest dreams if we focused on school, worked hard and passed our exams. She told us that education is the key that can open any door. This stuck with my sisters, and with me. On International Women’s Day, I honour all that my mother did to prepare us to achieve.

2. What progress in gender empowerment and equality have you seen in your career, and what challenges remain?

There are more women in school and more women with degrees. There are more women in boardrooms and in government. An African woman – Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala – is now heading the World Trade Organization. She is the first African and first woman to hold this office. However, we still need more women sitting where decisions are made. 

We need to be safe in our workplaces, out in public, and in our homes. We need more access to finance to start and scale up businesses. Organizations need to take action to close gender wage gaps. We need to invest in infrastructure services such as water, sanitation and hygiene to ease the burden among the millions of unserved people in Africa who suffer poor health as a result of inadequate or unavailable services or spend valuable productive time collecting water. It is a well-known fact that, in most cases, women and girls bear the brunt of these shortcomings.

What’s more, COVID-19 will undermine many of the gains of the past decade, for example, by making it more difficult for many girls to return to school.

3. How does your work at the Bank advance opportunities for women across the continent?

Gender equality and women’s empowerment is central to the Bank’s strategies and programs. In 2020, the Bank’s Board approved the People Strategy, which commits to actions and targets that move us closer to gender parity among staff. The Bank also approved a new Gender Strategy and Action Plan which aims to empower women in a number of areas, including access to finance and markets.

The Bank also invests in strategic initiatives such as the Affirmative Finance Action for Women in Africa program (AFAWA) which aims to reduce the estimated $42 billion financing gap for women-owned and run SMEs. AFAWA has two parallel channels: the first is strategic use of the Bank’s financial instruments such as lines of credit, trade finance, and equity funds – expected to unlock $2 billion. The second channel is an innovative guarantee mechanism expected to de-risk women’s SMEs and incentivize financial institutions to lend to women entrepreneurs. The guarantee mechanism, called the AFAWA Guarantee for Growth, is expected to unlock $3 billion. AFAWA’s implementation started in January 2021 and the program held a special Women’s Day virtual event, where it introduced some of the first beneficiaries.

4. What words of advice would you give to young women starting out in their working lives?

Find good mentors to guide you – and be a mentor to others, because this is a good way to develop leadership skills. Networking is an important source of new ideas, knowledge, and possible job opportunities. Read books – they will help you expand your horizons, strengthen analytical and writing skills, inform your conversations, listening skills, and more!

Learn digital skills to adapt to virtual work environments and to be equipped for the future of work.

Most importantly: I encourage young women to work hard, dream big, be clear about your career goals and follow them with tenacity, passion, and energy.

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The Africa Digital Inclusion Facility approves grants worth $1.3 million for two research efforts to enhance women’s digital access to loans and micro-insurance
March 9, 2021 | 0 Comments

The African Development Bank has approved two grants for research that will increase African women’s access to a range of digital financial services including loans and micro-insurance.

The grants, for $1 million and $300,000 respectively, will be disbursed through the Africa Digital Financial Inclusion Facility, a blended finance vehicle supported by the Bank, to two financial technology firms, Pula Advisors Kenya Ltd., and M-KOPA Kenya Ltd.

Pula Advisors will use the $1 million for research of social, cultural and economic factors that impact women farmers’ access to micro-insurance in Kenya, Nigeria and Zambia. Research findings will inform the design and implementation of gender-centric insurance products. The project will be undertaken over a 3-year time frame.

“This grant funding will be used to leverage technology to develop innovative and responsive loan and insurance products that can spur productivity and inclusion, especially for our women smallholder farmers and traders.” said Sheila Okiro, the Bank’s Coordinator for ADFI.

The three-year project will have three phases: product development; piloting; and scaling; the outcomes are expected to benefit 360,000 farmers, 50% of them women, as well as boost farm yields by up to 30%. This will also raise incomes and enhance household and national food security.

M-KOPA will use the $300,000 grant funding for research involving 250 women and 250 men in Kenya’s Kisumu, Eldoret and Machakos counties. The company will assess the barriers to and opportunities for women’s access to digital financial services and financial literacy programmes via smartphone, and use the research insights to design a financial services app that is relevant to small-scale women traders.

The project, approved by the Bank on 9 February, 2021, will benefit women with no or limited access to financial services that run small informal businesses. Once developed, the mobile app will be used to pilot small loans to the women traders.

Both projects align with ADFI’s digital products and innovation and capacity building intervention pillars  as well as its cross-cutting focus on gender inclusion, a thematic running across all its interventions.

The PULA grant approval meets African Development Bank strategic goals, including the Ten-Year Strategy, two High-5 priority areas—feed Africa and improve the quality of life for Africans— and  the financial inclusion strategies of Kenya, Nigeria and Zambia. 

The M-KOPA project is aligned with the Bank’s Affirmative Finance Action for Women in Africa (AFAWA) program that seeks to increase access to finance for women.

ADFI is a pan-African initiative designed to accelerate digital financial inclusion throughout Africa, with the goal of ensuring that 332 million more Africans, 60% of them women, gain access to the formal economy. The Facility was formally launched in June 2019 at the Bank’s Annual Meetings in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea. Current ADFI partners are the French Development Agency (AFD); the French Treasury’s Ministry of Economy and Finance; The Government of Luxembourg’s Ministry of Finance; the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation; and the African Development Bank, which also hosts the fund.


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Les Margaret Africa 2021:JFD is unveiling a new generation of leaders ready to shape the future.
March 9, 2021 | 0 Comments

JFD, an organisation honoring and connecting women who change the world since 2013, took the occasion of International Women’s Day to unveil the 2021 winners of les Margaret Africa Awards and the first young winners of les Margaret Africa Junior Awards, under the High Patronage of Mr Emmanuel MACRON, President of the French Republic.

Jean-Michel Blanquer, French Minister of Education, Youth and Sports,Elisabeth Moreno, French Minister Delegate to the Prime Minister, in charge of Equality between Women and Men, Diversity and Equal Opportunities, Cédric O, French Minister of State for Digital Transition and Electronic Communications, Sira Sylla, Member of Parliament, member of the Foreign Affairs Commission and Wilfrid Lauriano do Rego, Coordinator of the Presidential Council for Africa, presented the awards alongside Delphine Remy-Boutang, CEO the Bureau & JFD. During the digital ceremony, JFD also revealed the results of the 2021 JFD x Anova. The entire study, which will be available from March 23, provides valuable insights into perception of digital professions in Gabon, Central Africa.

“I would like to salute the creativity and boldness of the 2021 winners of les Margaret Awards. They are the new leaders shaping the future. JFD is pursuing its mission to unveil the next digital champions and is contributing to their success by mobilizing major political, media and economic players such as the World Bank Group, EDF Group, La Poste Group, Crédit Agricole Group, Microsoft France, Total, Mastercard, Dassault Systèmes, Idemia, PayPal… In addition to media visibility valued at 1 million euros and support for acceleration and growth for one year, we will organize the first ever JFD Entrepreneurship Expedition on October 11, International Girls’ Day. The winners will be invited to walk in the footsteps of Margaret Hamilton in the USA, Europe and Africa.”, says Delphine Remy-Boutang, CEO the Bureau & JFD, President GEN France.

Les Margaret Awards 2021 laureates are:

Margaret Entrepreneur Africa:   

Nneile Nkholise, Co-Founder & CEO 3DIMO, which automates the analysis of livestock data to monitor animal health. This in-app generates a universally traceable digital identification of each cow linked to a farmer and will provide the farmer with a tool to record animal vaccinations, movements and inventory control.

🇿🇦  South Africa

Margaret Intrapreneur Africa:   

Eloho Omame, Founder FirstCheck Africa (ex-MD Endeavor Nigeria), is piloting a fund with a community of women business angels and investors, focused on women, to make it easier for African women entrepreneurs in the digital world to raise capital.

🇳🇬  Nigéria

Margaret Junior Africa:   

Xaviera Kowo, 18, Programmer, who has developed a waste treatment robot. Capable of picking up debris on its way to transport it to a defined area (garbage garbage cans, recycling center…), in record time. 

🇨🇲  Cameroon

Jury’s coup de coeur:

Rose Goyéli Tuo, 15, X-Market, an application for monitoring urbanization, allowing management of the often anarchic implantation of roadside stores. It thus reduces accidents, neighborhood quarrels, and altercations between vendors and public authorities (seizures, destruction of goods, etc.).

🇨🇮  Ivory Coast

Founded in 2013 by the Bureau, JFD, the women’s innovation movement, celebrates and connects women who are changing the world.  JFD aims to inspire and encourage women to reveal themselves and innovate. JFD, it’s also les Margaret Awards, which each year celebrates women who dare, innovate, and undertake. It is also a club founded in 2016. Based in Paris and since 2019 in Libreville, Gabon, the JFD Club is a network of more than 400 influential women who meet throughout the year to share and network.  In 2018, the Margaret Foundation is launched to support projects by committed women, notably by offering scholarships and training for young women wishing to move into innovation professions and raise their awareness of entrepreneurship. 2019 marks the first publication of the JFD Manifesto for an Inclusive Digital World”.  

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Spotlight Initiative to the rescue in fight against gender-based violence in Zimbabwe
March 8, 2021 | 0 Comments

By Wallace Mawire

The Spotlight Initiative to eliminate violence against women and girls is so critical now more than ever in the fight against gender-based violence in Zimbabwe, according to a statement by the EU Delegation in Zimbabwe on International Women’s Day under the theme: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world.

 It is reported that the COVID-19 pandemic has cast a dim light on the progress made in achieving gender equality by 2030 in Zimbabwe as part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

 It is added that a little over one year since the pandemic struck, a myriad of studies and surveys have reported  exacerbation of gender inequalities as women and girls continue to bear the brunt of unpaid labour, while being disproportionately at risk of violence compared to their male counterparts.  The pandemic is indeed not only a health crisis but also a social one.

The COVID-19 pandemic and measures taken to curb the spread of the disease, such as national lockdowns have resulted in what is now dubbed “The Shadow Pandemic” as emerging data and reports from those on the front lines, have shown that all types of violence against women and girls, particularly domestic violence, has intensified.[1] Teenage pregnancies are also on the rise as a result of the lockdowns.

The world has come to understand that violence against women and girls is one of the most pervasive violations of human rights. Such a recognition illustrates that gender-based violence is not as a result of women and girls’ innate vulnerability, but a deeply-rooted structural discrimination against women and girls that perpetuates gender inequality.

Gender inequality lies at the very root of gender-based violence, and unless the issue is addressed, a future where women and girls live free from violence and discrimination is futile. Thus, while the COVID-19 pandemic continues and efforts to curb its spread intensify, now is the time to equally buckle up and work hard to achieve gender equality in spite of the challenges the pandemic has revealed.

This is a matter of urgency as women are at the forefront of fighting the COVID-19 pandemic as healthcare and frontline workers both at institutional level and at home.

The Spotlight Initiative to eliminate violence against women and girls is so critical now more than ever in the fight against gender-based violence in Zimbabwe.

The European Union (EU) has committed USD21m for phase 1 of implementation of the Spotlight Initiative and is leading the fight for gender equality from the front.  The Spotlight Initiative takes the EU political commitments to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, and particularly SDG 5, to the next level.

With the generous funding of the EU, the four-year Spotlight Initiative programme aims to:Ensure that Zimbabwe adopts and implements legislation that strengthens the Constitutional provisions on gender equality, which leads to effective prevention and response to all forms of GBV and strengthens institutions to be more gender-responsive in their overall mandates, design programmes that advance prevention of violence, provide essential services to survivors, and foster a strong social movement against violence and harmful practices at the national and sub-national levels.

 It is reported that achieving gender equality and ending violence against women and girls can only be realized through a whole-society approach. For Zimbabwe to protect and ensure the rights of women and reap the benefit from engaging more than half of the population to recover better from COVID-19, a deliberate policy and strategic focus should include:

First, ensuring equal access to education. Gender inequality in education leads to higher fertility, higher child mortality, higher malnutrition, and lower education investments with the effects often being quite large. Policies designed to boost enrolment would particularly help poor women and thus contributing to poverty reduction in income and non-income dimensions. In addition, the educational attainment and future financial status of children is much likely to reflect those of the mother than those of the father. Considering that human capital is the most important prerequisite for growth, education and enhanced economic status for women are critical to meeting long-term development objectives.

Second, women must be drawn into the economic mainstream. The consequence of decline in women’s relative or absolute economic status has both an ethical and long-term economic implication. Any process of growth that fails to improve the welfare of the people experiencing the greatest hardship, broadly recognized to be women, has failed to accomplish one of the principal goals of development. In the long run, the low status of women would translate into slow economic growth.

Third, regulating and legalizing informal-sector employment where the majority of the female labour force (about 90 % according to some estimates) is employed would improve the economic status of women through facilitating access to credit and other services.

Fourth, increased participation of women in governance and political decision making at all levels. Women’s empowerment either through affirmative action or other avenues is associated with improved governance and reduced corruption.

Gender equality is a critical economic issue for Zimbabwe, directly linked to growth and poverty reduction outcomes, and not a marginal social or women’s issue concerned with equity, and thus should be prioritized as a matter of urgency for the country to progress.

The Spotlight Initiative, led by the UN Resident Coordinator, is being implemented by six UN Agencies (UN Women, ILO, UNDP, UNESCO, UNFPA and UNICEF) in partnership with the Government of Zimbabwe, Parliament, Independent Commissions, Civil Society, Academic Institutions, the Private Sector, and the Media and directly and indirectly targets 11 million beneficiaries, particularly rural women and girls, women and girls with disabilities and those living with HIV.

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Employ more female journalists, media houses told
March 8, 2021 | 0 Comments

By Samuel Ouma

Media stakeholders have urged Kenya’s media organizations to recruit more female journalists to achieve gender equality in the industry.

The Kenya Media Sector Working Group, in a statement, said recruitment of female journalists would assist the media in achieving affirmative action.

“More women should be recruited into journalism to ensure the media provides equal opportunity and space for both men and women. This requires affirmative action to urgently remedy the gender skew,“  read part of the statement signed by the group’s chairman Chairman Churchill Otieno.

Kenya Media Sector Working Group brings together Kenya Editors’ Guild, Kenya Union of Journalists (KUJ), and Association of Media Women in Kenya (AMWIK), among others.

Consequently, the stakeholders also raised concerns about the recent rise of journalists’ retrenchment and pay cuts in the media houses.

They termed the acts as unsustainable, noting that the decreasing number of journalists will cause long-term effects on the industry, roles, and responsibility of the media in society.

They asked the media house owners to carry out self-audit in the newsroom on the skills available and the ones needed.

To solve the challenges bedeviling the industry, they suggested the establishment of a Media Fund to ensure consistency and continuity of independent and diverse media.

They committed to working with Parliament to develop a law to establish an independent and progressive Media Fund.

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Kenyan lecturer Prof Catherine Ngila Bags L’Oréal-UNESCO Award
February 18, 2021 | 0 Comments

By Samuel Ouma

Prof Catherine Ngila
Prof Catherine Ngila

Kenyan lecturer Prof Catherine Ngila is one of the five women recognized by L’Oréal-Unesco 2021.

The five were awarded for their contributions in mathematics, astrophysics, chemistry, and informatics globally during the International Day of Women and Girls in Science held on February 11.

Prof Ngila, the acting Executive Director of the African Academy of Sciences, was recognized for introducing, developing, and applying nanotechnology-based analytical methods to monitor water pollutants.

Her innovation is essential for the development of water resource management without degrading the environment.

The other four women are Prof Kyojo Nozaki, a professor of Chemistry in Tokyo Japan, Professor Shafi Goldwasser, the Director of the Simons Institute for Theory of Computing and professor in electrical and computer science in MIT USA; Prof Franscoise Combes, chair of Galaxies and Cosmology in France, and Prof Alicia Dickenstein, a mathematics professor at the University of Buenos Aires, Argentina.

The former Deputy Vice-Chancellor in charge of Academic and Student Affairs (DVC-AA) at Riara University holds a bachelor’s degree in Education. She also has Masters of Science in Chemistry from Kenyatta University and a Ph.D. in Analytical Environmental Chemistry from the University of South Wales, Australia.

According to Unesco Assistant Director-General for Natural Sciences Shamila Nair Bedouelle, attracting women to a scientific or technological discipline is a big challenge.

“We must also know how to retain them, ensuring that their careers are not strewn with obstacles that their achievements are recognized and supported by the international scientific community,” she noted.

The awards are part of the 23rd international prize for women in science.

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African women in science are making waves
February 12, 2021 | 0 Comments

To mark International Day for Women and Girls in Science, we asked contributors to the recently released Sanitation and Wastewater Atlas for Africa about the science that went into the Bank co-publication and their experiences as pioneering women in their field.

Maimuna Nalubega, Ph.D, Chief Water Development Officer, African Development Bank

Maimuna Nalubega, Ph.D, Chief Water Development Officer, African Development Bank
Maimuna Nalubega, Ph.D, Chief Water Development Officer, African Development Bank

Q: The Sanitation and Wastewater Atlas for Africa explores the links between sanitation and wastewater, and ecosystem health and human health. What role does science play in exploring those links?

The role that science plays in the link between sanitation and wastewater, ecosystem health and human health is rooted in the characteristics of water and its centrality to human and ecosystems health. Water of adequate quality and quantity is essential for human health and ecosystems health.

Water is called a universal solvent because of its ability to dissolve more substances than any other liquid. As it moves through the ground, the rivers and even the air, the quality of water changes with the contents of the medium. When we use technology to abstract water from its sources for domestic (or agricultural) uses, it is important that the water that is finally availed to users meets the required quality. scientists identify the most appropriate sources and means of abstraction of  water, and through research, identifies and optimizes the required treatment options to make the water potable or fit for the purpose.

Similarly, when we use water for domestic or industrial purposes,  it may not be suitable for return into the environment or water bodies. Without treatment, such water, or fecal sludge, will pollute the environment, spread diseases, and damage ecosystems. Scientists will quantify and characterize the wastewater, solid waste or fecal sludge and identify the best and most affordable options for treating this waste – including reuse.

Q: How did you apply your background as a public health and environmental engineer, postgraduate research on the role of wetlands on wastewater treatment and ecosystem protection, and current Bank position to collaborate on the Atlas?

In terms of my work on the Atlas, my experience in sanitary engineering training and research served three main purposes: for the conceptualization and design of the research project, along with our partners, UNEP and GRID-Arendal; to identify resource persons who could contribute to the preparation of the Atlas; and to review and provide feedback on the scientific content of the Atlas.

My primary role as a water and sanitation expert, and indeed the primary role of the Bank’s water development and sanitation department – which is in an operations complex – is not research. But we do collaborate with researchers to help identify solutions to specific problems.

Robinah Kulabako, Ph.D, Sr. Lecturer and Chair, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Makerere University; Lead author, Chapter 2, Sanitation and Wastewater Atlas for Africa

Robinah Kulabako, Ph.D, Sr. Lecturer and Chair, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Makerere University; Lead author, Chapter 2, Sanitation and Wastewater Atlas for Africa

Q: You led on the Atlas’ second chapter on wastewater streams. Can you point out where a scientific approach or methodology helped form the chapter conclusions that were reached?

We had to deploy scientific methodology: what is the source of this problem or what has been done about it? What is missing then? What could we recommend?

There was a lot of scientific research to review. It was not enough just to get the information. In science-based research, one needs to do what we call data analysis, so that you can make inferences from this data that will guide the conclusions that you draw.

For example, looking at industrial wastewater streams and effluents, we looked at the chain of effluent from major polluters in countries. The idea of ‘management,’ is that we ultimately protect the environment, given the quality as well as quantity of this effluent. Reviewing research studies and reports resulted in huge tables of data that we had to make palatable for the sake of the Atlas. One such huge table now appears as Figure 2.5 in the Atlas showing industrial effluent management in the African region. More palatable and pretty clear.

Q: In addition to your research, you are also a Senior Lecturer and Chair of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Makerere University in Uganda. You see the future of science in civil engineering in your classes. How does the future look for women and girls in science from where you sit?

I can actually see that the future for women and girls in science is gradually picking up. When I joined the department as an undergraduate student, we were only four girls in civil environmental engineering out of about 26 students. In the class before mine, there was only one girl. Over the years, I have seen the number of girls grow to between 30 to 40 now, in a class of about 100 students. And I must also confess, the performance of the girls has also improved with time: a few years ago we had a graduating class in civil engineering where six of the top ten graduates were girls.

At Makerere University, we have policies to promote women and girls to pursue technology, engineering, math programs…scholarships for training programs.

There are some challenges, the first one being fear, another is time demands on work and family. Some women and girls fear that maybe they will not manage, or they are made to believe that it is mostly males that are successful at pursuing this career.

I have faced this myself. When I was in high school, I believed I wanted to be an engineer. My class teacher at the time – a female – told me, “No, you cannot do engineering, that course is for males.” But I had family who encouraged me to pursue my passion. So, I quietly decided to do engineering without my teacher knowing. When she found out, she was not happy – she also said to me that if I pursue this engineering course, I will never get a man to marry me. Can you imagine?

I can tell you that the moment I graduated from university, I got married. This experience helped me realize that a teacher can limit their students – which is not a good thing.

Olufunke Cofie, Ph.D, Country Representative, International Water Management Institute – West Africa; Co-author, Chapter 6, Sanitation and Wastewater Atlas for Africa

Olufunke Cofie, Ph.D, Country Representative, International Water Management Institute – West Africa; Co-author, Chapter 6, Sanitation and Wastewater Atlas for Africa

Q: How would you describe the contribution of science-based research in determining the Atlas’ findings and recommendations?

The entire Atlas, including the findings and recommendations, were based on the body of knowledge generated from several investigations by diverse experts.

From available evidence, we were able to explain the state and trends in wastewater management and sanitation delivery in Africa, and to highlight the human health and ecosystem impacts of poor sanitation and wastewater management. We analyzed the pertinent policy and institutional arrangements and provided recommendations to progress towards achieving Africa’s Water Vision 2025 and the UN Sustainable Development Goals in 2030(link is external).

However, one of the Atlas’ conclusions is that “there is little information and data on wastewater generation, collection and treatment, especially for industrial and agricultural wastewater streams, in the majority of African countries.”

So, any gaps in the Atlas are because scientific evidence is lacking or not accessible. Hence, the Atlas is not just about science-based research – equally important is accessible research results to inform policy and practice.

Q: Can you tell us a little bit more about why pursuing a degree in soil science appealed to you? To what degree is science your passion?

As a child, while helping my mum to prepare food for younger siblings, I often wondered how by adding water to custard powder, the color immediately changed from white to yellow slurry. It baffled me, so I developed an interest in chemistry, which happened to be my best subject in school.

I wanted to do science, but actually I was interested in pharmacy. But when I got to the point of selecting core subjects, my Uncle in an upper class at the same school told me, “You cannot do physics, drop it.”

I ended up dropping physics so I could not study pharmacy at university. I applied to study agricultural economics at the University of Nigeria-Nsukka, but when the admission letter came – I had been admitted into soil science. I must confess that was the first time I learned of soil science. I went in for it and later focused on soil chemistry, which allowed me to follow my childhood passion of studying something that would involve chemistry.

Q: When people say you are a role model for women and girls considering careers in science, you respond by saying…

Shine in your uniqueness. Your uniqueness is unique; your uniqueness distinguishes you.

*Source AfDB.Responses have been edited for clarity and brevity. Learn more about the Sanitation and Wastewater Atlas for Africa via this link.

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Kenyans urged to shun politicians fanning flames of violence
February 8, 2021 | 0 Comments

By Samuel Ouma

Bishop Dr. Nancy Kinuthia of Glorious Family Church Nakuru
Bishop Dr. Nancy Kinuthia of Glorious Family Church Nakuru

A section of church leaders has called on Kenyans to reject politicians who instigate violence.

Speaking in Kenya’s Nakuru town, the leaders went ahead and urged the youths to avoid being used to cause chaos by reporting those giving them handouts to relevant authorities.

“As leaders, we must stop using the youths to cause chaos for political reasons. We want to unite and live peacefully as Kenyans in any part of this country,” said Bishop Dr. Nancy Kinuthia of Glorious Family Church Nakuru

Kenyans were further asked to elect only leaders who offer solutions to their problems and ignore those with selfish motives.

The men in clothes lamented over the recent reported political chaos, saying they risk evoking 2007 memories when the country plunged into post-election violence.

They appealed to the government to take stern action against politicians inciting people ahead of the 2022 polls.

Their request comes in less than one week after the National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC), an agency mandated to address and reduce inter-ethnic conflicts, put politicians fanning violence on notice.

NCIC Chairperson Reverend Samuel Kobia said the agency would be publishing the names of persons or institutions whose words or conduct undermine peace in the country in a naming and shaming list.

Kobia said any politician whose name will appear in the list of shame three times would be barred from seeking an elective post.

“If a politician or any other Kenyan has appeared on the list of shame more than three times, he or she will be promoted to the wall of shame. We are working with other agencies to ensure they do not hold any political office ever,” he said.

The NCIC said it would be monitoring activities and utterances of politicians, and anyone who will cause political, ethnic unrest will be dealt with according to the law.

“The intolerance that we have witnessed in the recent weeks and months are only symptomatic of what is likely to happen and even to get worse if it is not dealt with urgently. We need to deal with this interference because we know it is what led us to 2007/2008 post-election violence,” said Kobia.

Recently, unruly goons disrupted rallies held by former Prime Minister Raila Odinga and the deputy president William Ruto      Kiambu’s Githurai market and Nairobi’s market, respectively.

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Sierra Leone: Mariatu Kabba nominated for 50 most influential women award.
January 28, 2021 | 0 Comments

By Ishmael Sallieu Koroma

Girl rights Activist, Change Maker and Journalism Mentor, Mariatu Kabba has been nominated for the 50 most influential women in Sierra Leone.

The fifty most influential Sierra Leonean Women award is an initiative of twenty -two youth and women -led organisations supported by Kids advocacy Network to spotlight and recognise important role women play towards national development.

Mariatu Kabbais a Journalism mentor working for BBC Media Action Sierra Leone and Activist for girls’ empowerment and peacebuilding started her radio career at Radio Mount Aureol/Cotton Tree News (CTN), in 2013 which was known to be the largest public service media project in post-war Sierra Leone, whilst studying for her BA in Mass Communication at Fourah Bay College.

Through her work, Madam Kabba has been able to give voice to voiceless and deprived women and girls while telling the inspiring stories of other young women and girls who push boundaries and make a mark in areas that have traditional been male dominated.

“In my passionate quest to respond to the leadership development needs of women and girl, I Co-Founded Strong Women, Strong Girls Sierra Leone, a non-profit women/girls empowerment Initiative geared towards strengthening the socioeconomic status of women and girls and providing them with the knowledge and leadership skills needed to be successful in life and to actively contribute to the social change for a sustainable and healthy society,’’she said.

“I am passionate and determined, driven by ideas for changes I would like to make happen in my country and in Africa as a whole. Some of these passions and dreams I have already been able to follow’’

The Journalism Mentor and Activist for girls’ empowerment said that her organization has touched many girls in deprived communities bringing hopes for a brighter future adding that her motivation is waking up every day knowing that she has been obligated by God to serve Him and to help humanity.

When asked how does she feel been nominated for the 50 Most influential Sierra Leonean women award, she replied,”Sometimes you feel like you’re just doing the little you can in touching lives, with no knowledge of whether the world will actually acknowledge it. It always astounds me when people do, and my work resonates with them. It makes it all worthwhile.” “It feels great to be nominated for the 50 most influential Sierra Leonean women Award.”

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Nigerian Born US-based Attorney Becomes Hollywood Red-Carpet Diva
January 27, 2021 | 0 Comments

Nigerian born US-based legal attorney, Nneka Egbujiobi, ESQ. is simultaneously shuffling between legal career where she handles multimillion dollar cases as a litigation attorney in Passedena, California with walks on celebrity red carpet in US including prestigious ones hosted by HBO, BET. She has also been embraced by the black women lawyers’ association in California where she has participated in panel conversation providing inspiring speeches to young black lawyers who desire to become entrepreneurs outside legal job.

The delectable Hollywood red carpet diva who is currently making waves in the legal profession and high society clout made her entrant into celebrity circle from journalism in Belioit’s Daily News to representing University of Michigan in CNN projects. And that is also as she obtained a law degree from the University of Wisconsin Law School. “I started my journalism journey in Beloit, Wisconsin University in the United States. From there I rose in the media world and was able to make my way amongst the political giants,” says Nneka.

Her impact in the media visibility has become huge as she recently launched an application for dating. She is the chief executive of Africa’s first and only dating and networking App called “Hello Africa.” Ever since its creation, the site has recorded much success with huge followership and it has become a pride to the Africans across the globe. Both the Africans living in and out of Africa have found value with this App, because they are now able to make free connections via swipes and also communicate through the video mainstream with fellow Africans, both in close and distant proximities.

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Sierra Leone:The Travails of Women Empowerment
January 21, 2021 | 0 Comments

By Ishmael Sallieu Koroma

For years, women have been neglected, dejected and left behind in every sphere of life from key decision making, participation, and representation on positions of trust even when they account for about 52 percent of the population yet they occupy less than 20 percent of elected positions in the country. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission findings and recommendations are very clear that “Women have been excluded from decision-making in Sierra Leone.  Women are largely absent in the structures of government and traditional forums that are critical in formulating policies. (TRC Recommendation 347)
The challenges they faced are enormous from effect of culture, traditions and patriarchal attitudes towards them have continuously placed them in that position with many been uneducated, in addition illiteracy among them is very low. However there has been some progress as today more than any time in our nation there are more girls in schools, and women in a position of trust and leadership roles compared to 50 years ago in Sierra Leone, even though more needed to be done to fully realise their aspirations as clearly espoused in many international treaties to which the country is a signatory to.

The country experienced one of the worst civil conflicts in the world’s community of nations in 1991 which ended in 2002. Women suffered the brunt of the internecine war, many were killed, raped, became widow, and lost their children in addition those who were pregnant were mutilated alive. It was a dark history for every Sierra Leonean, and it is a history that as a nation and people will never forget. Years of decadence corruption, unequal distribution of the state resources, lack of respect for human rights to name a few were the factors responsible for our devastating war.

 “Women were subjected to systematic abuse during the conflict.  Violations perpetrated against women included torture, rape, sexual abuse, and sexual slavery, trafficking, enslavement, abductions, amputations, forced pregnancy, forced labour and detentions,’’ TRC Report No. 323.

Head of Media at Feminist United Sierra Leone Allies, Makalay Saidiatu Sonda, said that its almost 17 years since the TRC recommended for a 30 % representation quota for women yet both past and present government have not been able to do this reform despite the lots of campaigns and sensitization by women’s groups in the country.

“ The 50/50 group has been really instrumental in that since after the war to make sure that the 30% representation quota that the TRC recommendation should have been made possible and now we should we should be thinking about the 50/50 gender parity because the Truth and Reconciliation Commission has stated in 2004 that a 30% representation for women  in elected assemblies ,  cabinets and other political posts should be made possible in order for us to increase the 50/50 gender ; parity within the next ten years , that means that , 2004 we should have implemented the 30% quota and within the next 10 years , we should walk our way into the 50/50 gender parity,’’ she said.

However, in its recommendation to the government, the commission recommended that the government work towards achieving of at least 30% women in cabinet and other political posts.

  “The Commission recommends that the Government work towards achieving a representation of at least 30% women in cabinet and other political posts.  Government should also work towards incrementally achieving 50/50 gender parity in cabinet and political posts within the next 10years TRC Recommendation No. 351,’’
She added that governments not meeting the recommendation of the TRC of the 30% quota nor the 50/50 gender parity is something deliberate on the part of governments stating that she cannot understand how as a country we think it should progress by holding back majority of its population.

“women in Sierra Leone make up more than 50% of our population so if these women are not given a sit at the table to make the right decisions, to implement policies, to better us as women, I don’t know where we will be going and we have already so many challenges you know with issues regarding gender issues I will say because now look at the high rate of sexual violence in the country in the past five years, it has been skyrocketing and also just look at the teenage school drop-outs they are mostly girls may be If we have had women in positions of powers, in parliament, cabinet we have majority of women maybe we would have gone past all these social problems,’’ Makalay lamented.

Makalay further said the 30% representation quota is not only a TRC recommendation, but it is also a legal obligation for Sierra Leone as a nation to implement adding that the country is a signatory to key international instruments or laws that makes it binding to implement gender parity or laws within decisions making bodies within our parties and political space.

On Political Participation and Access to Power the Commission recommended for women that political parties to ensure an at least 30% quota of their candidates for public elections for women and urged the country’s National Electoral Commission to enforce this minimum representation.
“The Commission recommends that political parties be required to ensure that at least 30% of their candidates for public elections are women.  This includes national elections, local government and district council elections.  Legislation should be enacted to make this a legal requirement.  The National Electoral Commission should be required to enforce this minimum representation.  Such a stipulation will require all political parties to nurture and develop meaningful participation of women.  This is an imperative recommendation,’’ 349.

However, with this imperative recommendation, none of the political parties have never reached this threshold, more than ever more women and girls are becoming educated yet they do not give them the political space for them to exercise their political franchise nor the country’s electoral enforcing the recommendation on a very important recommendation that has the propensity of making the country reached its women’s empowerment drive for a better nation. In parliament, there are only 16 females in the house in a place where there are men and women and even with the Bio administration the number of female cabinet ministers or in leadership roles in government are minimal. 

Attaining the 30% quota representation as a nation will mean a great step towards women empowerment in the country and a development to the nation as women can contributes meaningfully in diverse ways if they are given the platform their leadership and interestingly research has shown that women can better deliver in leadership and can reduce corruption in the society.
This article is produced with support from MRCG through the ATJLF project on “Engaging the media to change the narrative on Transitional Justice (TJ) issues in Sierra Leone.

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Senator Rasha Kelej, CEO of Merck Foundation named among Most Influential African Woman in the world, as “African Woman of the year 2020”, for the third time
December 30, 2020 | 0 Comments

  • NAW: Senator Dr. Rasha Kelej, is truly a force of nature and one of Africa’s unsung ‘sheroes’ of women’s empowerment and health advocates. Here at the NAW, we will be right behind this inspirational woman, all the way.
  • -SENATE APPOINTMENT in December 2020: Dr Rasha Kelej appointed as a Senator, member of the Egyptian Senate (2020-2025) by President of Egypt, H.E. Mr. ABDEL FATTAH AL-SISI
Dr Rasha Kelej, the CEO of the Merck Foundation, is the brain behind the inspiring ‘More Than A Mother’ campaign

Cairo, Egypt: Senator Dr. Rasha Kelej, CEO of Merck Foundation and Member of Egyptian Senate (2020-2025) has been named one of the most influential African women in the world for 2020, for the third time. She has been nominated this year as the “African Woman of the Year 2020” by the New African Woman Magazine UK, and most influential African woman 2020, by Avance Media, for her efforts to advocate for women empowerment and healthcare capacity building especially during these challenging times of Coronavirus pandemic. Senator Dr. Kelej has been previously recognized as One of 100 Most Influential Africans – 2019 by New African Magazine in UK for creating historic campaign “Merck More than a Mother” to break stigma around infertile and childless women in Africa and beyond.


Dr Rasha Kelej, the CEO of the Merck Foundation, is the brain behind the inspiring ‘More Than A Mother’ campaign – rallying call against female infertility stigma – for which she was recognized as one of the Most Influential Africans of 2019. The campaign, one of the most successful causes that have been taken forward by Merck Foundation, empowers childless and infertile women through access to information, health, change of mindset, and economic empowerment. More than 18 First Ladies rallied behind the campaign as ambassadors of Merck more than a Mother campaign, which is very impressive.

Some of Its and innovative initiatives include: Health Media Training, Media Recognition Awards, Fashion Awards, and Film Awards. Dr Kelej has also worked closely with local artists to develop local songs to break the stigma of infertility in their communities. More than 18 songs have been developed so far.

But that’s not all! Dr Kelej has in her capacity as CEO of Merck Foundation, also developed many other impactful programs such as the Merck Foundation First Ladies Initiative (MFFLI), Merck Capacity Advancement Program, Merck Cancer Access Program, Merck Foundation Diabetes Blue Points Program, and Merck STEM for women and youth. These programs are focused on building healthcare capacity and improving access to health and empowering women and girls through education in Africa and other developing countries.

In a challenging year that was 2020, Dr Kelej remained steadfast in her work, and led the Merck Foundation COVID -19 response in Africa in partnership with 18 African First Ladies and Miniseries of health, education and media and communication of more than 45 countries, with focus on four major areas: community support; online education for health-care providers in six different fields (diabetes, cardiovascular, sexual and reproductive health, endocrinology, respiratory and acute medicines); community awareness through “Stay at Home“ Media Recognition Awards; and community awareness through a children’s storybook The Right Choice.

Transforming Public healthcare sector and TRAINING DOCTORS:

In the midst of the pandemic, Senator Dr Rasha Kelej has also spearheaded an online training of more than 600 doctors from 25 African countries and 10 developing countries in Asia and Latin America – an important impact in a challenging time.

It has been more important than ever to build capacity and training of specialized doctors. In some of these countries, they have never had not even one oncologist, for example. They may have the general practitioner, but they don’t have specialized doctors, they simply made history in these countries such as The Gambia, Burundi, Guinea & Liberia.

During this difficult period, we have therefore provided a one year online Diploma and two year master degree in Respiratory Medicine, Acute Medicine, Endocrinology, Diabetes & Cardiovascular health and Sexual & Reproductive health,” she explains.

“Our strategy and our program have been crystal clear – to invest in professional healthcare capacity building through providing scholarship for health care providers. And helping train skilled doctors in the midst of this pandemic, has made a big difference,” she adds.

In the meantime, Dr. Kelej also produced and directed an inspiring pan- African song called My White Army’ as her personal contribution to thank the doctors and nurses fighting on the front lines of the COVID-19 battle. The song, featuring singers from 11 African countries in three languages Arabic, English, and French has been received to high acclaim across the continent.


In December 2020, Dr Rasha was among 100 Egyptian experts appointed to the Senate House by President of Egypt, H.E. Mr. Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi. She will be one of the advisers on economic, social and health development and partnership between Egypt and the rest of Africa.


“I think one of the most important factors that keeps the Merck Foundation strong and continuing with our programs even during this pandemic is that we establish very strong partnerships, and trust levels with our partners. And this has been the case long before COVID-19,” she says adding: “On a personal level, I can say that I transform under pressure, no matter the challenge. That is just my personality. I don’t break, I transform and I have this work/life fusion, in which my life and work are totally fused. With any challenge I face, I just keep the same energy levels. I transform to a different shape and mode. And for me, new challenges give me an opportunity to be innovative and be different. COVID-19 was unexpected and unpredicted, but it helped us to transform to a stronger mode and prepare ourselves to be innovative out of our comfort zone.”

As we enter into an uncertain 2021, Dr Kelej remains characteristically optimistic and hopeful, as she looks forward to breaking new ground. “I’m very optimistic. And with my new position in the Egyptian Senate and what great job our President El- Sisi is doing for  Egypt and Africa , I am hopeful that, while I continue with my work, I can utilize and capitalize on this opportunity of doing my job successfully as CEO of Merck Foundation and as a Senator  and continued making  an impact. There are lots of opportunities for bringing the Egyptian and rest of African youth together for achieving the sustainable development goals of our beautiful African continent, and I want to explore these opportunities with them, this coming year.”

“I am honored to be nominated the African Woman of the year 2020 by New African Woman Magazine, UK to acknowledge my efforts and dedication to advocate for women empowerment and healthcare capacity building specially during these challenging times of Coronavirus pandemic. Thanks to those who believed in me. I am also very honored to be appointed by The President of Egypt, H.E. Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, as a member of Egyptian Senate ( 2020-2025) to help strengthening  collaboration and partnership  between Egypt and rest of Africa with the aim to continue our contribution to the social , economic and health development of our beautiful  continent. Moreover, I will continue my mission to empower other women and improve access to equitable and quality healthcare in Africa and developing countries. It is my personal commitment”, said Senator Dr. Rasha Kelej CEO of Merck Foundation, Member of Egyptian Senate ( 2020-2025), Most Influential African (2019& 2020) and African Woman of The Year 2020.

Dr Rasha Kelej was recently appointed as a Senator by President Sisi of Egypt

The New African Woman (NAW) has listed 30 strong African women as Women of the Year 2020, chosen from various career backgrounds. The list includes many famous names like; Amina J. Mohamed: Deputy Secretary-General At United Nations; Fadji Maina: Earth scientist at NASA; Bozoma Saint John: Global Chief Marketing Officer of Netflix; Michaela Coel: Producer, Actor, Director; Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa, amongst others.

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Zimbabwe:Women remain at the receiving end .
December 7, 2020 | 0 Comments

By Nevson  Mpofu

Director of Pan-African Women Tendayi Westerhof

Pan-AFRICAN Positive Women Coalition PAPWC- has taken Zimbabwe by storm this year celebrating years of achievements towards ending HIV and AIDS by 2030. Yes, Zimbabwe has done it given the figure on ground. In felicity to this effective annual time event at Global level, the coalition cheers on this year’s theme ‘’Global Solidarity, Shared Responsibility.’’

Pan-African Positive Women Coalition took it in a strive action-pack with emotions to die-down on the prevalence of HIV in the country. In achievement to this the workshop held on 2 December a day after the World AIDS day carried the objective, promoting shared responsibility and involvement of families in EMTCT, [ elimination of mother to child transmission of HIV] address Gender-Based-Violence and promote up-take of viral load testing during pregnancy and at delivery.

Taking a snap-shot from the ground Director of Pan-African Women Tendayi Westerhof says women voices must be amplified right from the grass-roots. This, done, captures all net-works from all walks of life.

‘’Let us amplify voices of women and girls living with HIV at all levels. This is done right straight from the rural community roots, in marginalized, vulnerable and poverty-stricken communities. Women remain on the receiving end. It means we have to network for that Health reason to address issues that matter most.’’

‘’The Women focused civil-Society build skills for women living with HIV in advocacy, Health Rights, Community monitoring and collection of evidence towards engagement in Unit-Health coverage.’’

‘’ As a country we are a bit step ahead because the prevalence rate of HIV transmission in adults is at 12 ,9% . It used to be far much high than that. Now that we have taken in Health interventions, prevention, treatment, care and support effort we are better than never at all.’’

‘’As an organization, we have looked at elimination of mother to child transmission of HIV in babies. Secondly on sexual and reproductive health rights looking at young girls exposed much to HIV and AIDS due to early forced marriages, early age of consent and lack of access to information. Also, we take a stretched looked out on factors fueling HIV that progresses to AIDS. ‘’

Doctor Mushavi , EMTCT  Elimination of Mother to Child Transmission  of HIV in Zimbabwe’s Ministry of Health and Child Care  takes the country down memory lane  and back to the current situation on the ground .

‘’We have come a long way ‘’ , she adds  taking into accountability that 86,8% adults are aware of their HIV status . 97,0% are on ART [Anti-Retroviral Therapy] . 90,3% achieved viral-load suppression. ‘New infections rate is at 0,38% , 0,54% in women and 0,20% in men  . We have 1,23 million adults living with HIV and AIDS. It is high in women 15,3% , 10,2% men ‘’.

‘’What we are saying is that we want to see and observe complete elimination of HIV and AIDS by 2030. This is in line with the UNAIDS Goals. Moving on as we reach 2030, we completely eliminate HIV in babies born, meaning that HIV will be close to total elimination even in adults.’’

Africa Remains a burden to HIV.

Sub-Saharan Africa remains a threat to HIV dating back from the initial start. The World currently with 36 million people living with HIV, 28 million are from Africa. Africa remains impacted by issues that are social, political and economic. Social factors relate to culture and tradition like on cases of early child marriages exposes young girls to sexual transmitted infections, HIV and spread of other communicable diseases like water and food bourn, respectively cholera and gastro-intestinal infections.

Sub-Saharan -Africa especially Southern Africa is invaded by HIV-1 caused and more fueled by retroviruses which are more and most virulent than lentiviruses which are part of HIV-2 found in west Africa, Western World and American Region. It has been concluded that Africa with a total population of 1,2 billion population, above half of the total population is in absolute poverty. Still, situational poverty impacts more causing severe vulnerability. This has been an experience in Zimbabwe as result of Cyclone Idai. On top of the mentioned there are disasters, floods caused by lanina and elinina leading to types of droughts like meteorological, hydrological and Agricultural drought, a menace in many land-locked countries.

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African Energy Chamber (AEC)’s Latest Top 25 Movers & Shakers Watch List 2021 Shows Strong Women Leadership in Energy
November 19, 2020 | 0 Comments

The latest list released this week by the Chamber demonstrates the growing role played by women in the fight against energy poverty.

The number of women within the African Energy Chamber’s Top 25 Movers & Shakers Watch List has made a significant jump from 3 to 8 between 2020 and 2021. Released annually, the list highlights the government officials, public and private executives whose work and decisions can profoundly impact the way Africans access and consume energy.

The latest list released this week by the Chamber demonstrates the growing role played by women in the fight against energy poverty, not only from the ground but also from African and global boardrooms where their leadership and decisions are shaping up the future of African energy.

Across the continent, the Chamber expects several women to make headlines in 2021 through key projects and actions. These notably include Rebecca Miano’s leadership in increasing geothermal production capacity by the Kenya Electricity Generating Company (KenGen), Khadija Amoah’s piloting of the Pecan field development in Ghana, or Ugandan Minister Kitutu’s ability in shaping up the development of an inclusive hydrocarbons industry in Uganda. Further north in Morocco, Amina Benkhadra is spearheading Morocco’s efforts to further develop its natural gas industry in her role as Director General of the National Office of Hydrocarbons and Mines (ONHYM).

Women are also positioning themselves to be at the centre of key financial and investment decisions. Vibhuti Jain at the US International Development Finance Corporation, or Hu XiaoLian at the Export-Import Bank of China, are both overseeing key investment programmes that could significantly support capital inflow into Africa’s energy sector in 2021. The same goes for Heather Lanigan, Regional Director for sub-Saharan Africa at the U.S. Trade and Development Agency (USTDA), which currently supports several important midstream gas and gas-to-power projects in West Africa.

The Chamber continues to believe that building an inclusive and sustainable energy industry that works for every African goes through the hiring and promotion of more women across the value-chain. From engineers to executives, women must be given more opportunities to participate in the continent’s fight against energy poverty. 2021 will tell if they continue to seize such opportunities and become the energy advocates the continent needs.

*African Energy Chamber

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FIFA Secretary General inducted into International Women’s Forum Hall of Fame
November 5, 2020 | 0 Comments
FIFA Secretary General Fatma Samoura
FIFA Secretary General Fatma Samoura
In joining the IWF Hall of Fame the FIFA Secretary General joins women who were inducted for their work on tackling urgent issues the world is facing.

FIFA Secretary General Fatma Samoura has been inducted into the International Women’s Forum (IWF) Hall of Fame as recognition for her transformative contributions to society.

Fatma Samoura, who worked on United Nations projects for 21-years before becoming the first-ever African, and woman to hold the role of Secretary General at FIFA in its 116-year history, was joined by fellow Hall of Fame honourees Mary Barra, Chairman and CEO of General Motors and Ginni Rometty, Executive Chairman of IBM, at the online 2020 IWF Hall of Fame Awards Gala.

The gala was held online this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic and featured interviews with each of the three inductees about the paths they took to lead them to their current roles, the advice they have for young women and the causes that motive them in their daily work.

The FIFA Secretary General’s interview touched on her 21-year career working on United Nations projects, her work at FIFA under the leadership of President Gianni Infantino, her six-month mission as FIFA General Delegate for Africa to assist CAF on its reform journey, her zero tolerance for racism and racist behavior and her advice for women.

In a video interview with FIFA’s first-ever Chief Women’s Football Officer Sarai Bareman, Fatma Samoura said: “In my 21 years as a development and humanitarian actor I met people from different backgrounds, whether religious, ethnic or also based on gender and I could see how they were reacting in the face of difficult and stressful situations… so this wealth of experience I brought in definitely to FIFA where, as I said, the human being is a key aspect of everything we do. Whether you are a coach, a football player or a fan, you deal with human beings. The core values I brought along with my 21 years at the UN are respect of diversity, fighting discrimination, fighting for equal opportunity and a world that is more just and fair to everybody.”

In joining the IWF Hall of Fame the FIFA Secretary General joins women who were inducted for their work on tackling urgent issues the world is facing including: Maya Angelou, American poet and author; Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, United Nations Under-Secretary-General; Rosa Parks, mother of the American civil rights movement; Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, President of Liberia; Nawal El Moutawakel, first Moroccan and first African Muslim woman to win Olympic gold; Ella Fitzgerald, American jazz artist; Ruth Bader Ginsburg, US Supreme Court Justice; Louise Arbour, Chief Prosecutor, International Criminal Tribunals in the Hague; Hillary Rodham Clinton, former US First Lady, US Senator, Secretary of State; Mary Robinson, President of Ireland; Wilma Mankiller, Chief of the Cherokee nation; Audrey Hepburn, international film star and Shirley Temple black child star and US Diplomat.

Referring to advice for women Fatma Samoura said: “Ladies you have to remember this, if you have been trusted enough to be given a position it’s because you have the skills and qualifications necessary to do the job. Look to your sisters for support and count on them.”

The IWF was founded in the US by Elinor “Elly” Guggenheimer – chair of the New York City Planning Commission, in 1974. Its aim is to bring together women of diverse accomplishments and provide them with a forum for the exchange of ideas and experiences, as well as advancing women’s leadership globally and locally. It has over 7,000 members worldwide.

*SOURCE Fédération internationale de football association (FIFA)
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Malawi First Lady partners with Merck Foundation to build healthcare capacity and strengthen COVID 19 response in Africa
October 26, 2020 | 0 Comments

Merck Foundation will enroll the selected Malawian doctors by the First Lady office and Ministry of Health to their various training programs for the next 10 years.

LILONGWE, Malawi, October 26, 2020/ — Merck Foundation appoints Malawi First Lady as the Ambassador of Merck More Than a Mother to empower infertile women; Merck Foundation in partnership with Malawi First Lady and Minister of Health to provide speciality training to Malawian doctors in various fields such as; Oncology, Diabetes, Fertility, Embryology, Respiratory Care, Acute Medicines, Sexual and Reproductive Medicines to transform public healthcare sector in Malawi.

Merck Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Merck KGaA Germany announced their long-term partnership with The First Lady of Malawi, during their first Video Conference Summit of Merck Foundation First Ladies Initiative (MFFLI).The MFFLI VC Summit was attended by 13 African First Ladies to discuss their joint efforts to build healthcare capacity and strengthen the response to COVID-19 in the country and Africa at large.

Appreciating the programs of Merck Foundation, H.E. Mrs. MONICA CHAKWERA, The First Lady of Malawi emphasized, “I am very happy to be appointed as Ambassador of Merck More Than a Mother. I will be fully supporting this campaign as The First Lady of Malawi, as a woman, this cause is very close to my heart. I will work in collaboration with our ministries to sensitize our communities, particularly in rural areas to better understand infertility hence to break the stigma around infertile women and to empower them through access to information, education, health, and change of mindset. Moreover, I am looking forward to building healthcare capacity in the country, through the programs of Merck Foundation, as it will contribute to the social and economic development of Malawi”.

Dr. Rasha Kelej, CEO of Merck Foundation and President, Merck More Than a Mother expressed, “We are very happy to partner with The First Lady of Malawi, and underscore our long term commitment to build healthcare capacity, empower girls in education and break the stigma of infertility in Malawi. We are also very proud to appoint The First Lady of Malawi as the Ambassador of Merck More Than a Mother. We are going to work very closely with her and the Government of Malawi to make history together by providing training for the First Specialists in many fields such as; Fertility, Sexual and Reproductive Medicines, Oncology, Diabetes, Endocrinology, and Respiratory and Acute Medicines with the aim to improve access to quality and equitable health care in the country”.

Merck Foundation will continue their important program “Educating Linda” together with Malawi First Lady to sponsor the education of 20 best performing girls in their secondary schools till they graduate.

“I truly believe that Education is Power and educating girls is empowering them to make their own decisions, stand up for their rights, and help them to access economic opportunities”, added Dr. Rasha Kelej, One of 100 Most Influential Africans (2019, 2020).

Merck Foundation will enroll the selected Malawian doctors by the First Lady office and Ministry of Health to their various training programs for the next 10 years.

Moreover, Merck Foundation also celebrated three winners from Malawi for their “Stay at Home” Media Recognition Awards from Southern African Countries to raise awareness about COVID 19 in the country.

About Merck Foundation First Ladies Initiative Summit – MFFLI:
Merck Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Merck KGaA Germany conducted their first Video Conference Summit of Merck Foundation First Ladies Initiative (MFFLI) to define and follow up on different joint programs that aims to advance public healthcare sector capacity and strengthen the response to COVID 19 in their countries.

The MFFLI VC Summit 2020 was hosted by Prof. Dr. Frank Stangenberg Haverkamp, Chairman of the Executive Board of E. Merck KG and the Chairman of Merck Foundation Board of Trustees and Dr. Rasha Kelej, CEO of Merck Foundation and President, Merck More Than a Mother and One of 100 Most Influential African (2019 & 2020) and attended by 13 African First Ladies, who are Ambassadors of Merck More than a MotherH.E. AUXILLIA MNANGAGWA, The First Lady of Zimbabwe; H.E. ESTHER LUNGU, The First Lady of Zambia; H.E. FATIMA MAADA BIO, The First Lady of Sierra Leone; H.E. AÏSSATA ISSOUFOU MAHAMADOU, The First Lady of Niger; H.E. MONICA GEINGOS, The First Lady of Namibia; H.E. ISAURA FERRÃO NYUSI, The First Lady of Mozambique; H.E. MONICA CHAKWERA, The First Lady of Malawi; H.E. REBECCA AKUFO-ADDO, The First Lady of Ghana; H. E. FATOUMATTA BAHBARROW, The First Lady of The Gambia; H.E. BRIGITTE TOUADERA, The First Lady of Central African Republic; H.E. ANGELINE NDAYISHIMIYE, The First Lady of Burundi; H.E. NEO JANE MASISI, The First Lady of Botswana; H.E. ANA DIAS LOURENÇO, The First Lady of Angola.

The MFFLI VC Summit, special edition aims to share experiences, discuss challenges, and define solutions to further strengthen healthcare capacity to better respond to this global pandemic in Africa.

About Merck Foundation:
The Merck Foundation , established in 2017, is the philanthropic arm of Merck KGaA Germany, aims to improve the health and wellbeing of people and advance their lives through science and technology. Our efforts are primarily focused on improving access to quality & equitable healthcare solutions in underserved communities, building healthcare and scientific research capacity and empowering people in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) with a special focus on women and youth. All Merck Foundation press releases are distributed by e-mail at the same time they become available on the Merck Foundation Website.

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Merck Foundation partners with Burundi First Lady to build healthcare capacity, empower girls in education and break the infertility stigma
October 22, 2020 | 0 Comments
Dr. Rasha Kelej, CEO of Merck Foundation & President, Merck More Than a Mother during her meeting with H.E. Madam ANGELINE NDAYISHIMIYE, The First Lady of Burundi and Ambassador of Merck More Than a Mother
Dr. Rasha Kelej, CEO of Merck Foundation & President, Merck More Than a Mother during her meeting with H.E. Madam ANGELINE NDAYISHIMIYE, The First Lady of Burundi and Ambassador of Merck More Than a Mother

The First Lady of Burundi was also appointed as the Ambassador of Merck More Than a Mother during the meeting.

Merck Foundation , the philanthropic arm of Merck KGaA Germany partnered with The First Lady of Burundi, H.E. Madam ANGELINE NDAYISHIMIYE, during a high-level meeting held between Dr. Rasha Kelej, CEO of Merck Foundation and Burundi First Lady. During the meeting, Merck Foundation underscored their long-term commitment to continue their efforts to build healthcare capacity, empower girls in education and break the infertility stigma in Burundi. The First Lady of Burundi was also appointed as the Ambassador of Merck More Than a Mother during the meeting.

H.E. Madam ANGELINE NDAYISHIMIYE, The First Lady of Burundi and Ambassador of Merck More Than a Mother expressed, “I am very happy to partner with Merck Foundation and excited to capitalize on their valuable programs in our country. These programs will create a very significant impact on our people’s advancement, as health is very critical to our social and economic development. As the Ambassador of Merck More than a Mother, I will work closely with Merck Foundation to sensitize our communities to better understand infertility and empower women through access to education, information, health and change of mindset and also empower our girls through education”.

Dr. Rasha Kelej, CEO of Merck Foundation and President, Merck More Than a Mother emphasized, “I am very proud of our partnership with Burundi First Lady and welcome her as the Ambassador of Merck More Than a Mother and new member of Merck Foundation First Ladies Initiative-MFFLI . We have discussed our long-term collaboration and partnership with her Foundation and Ministry of Health & Ministry of Education to build healthcare capacity in Burundi, by providing training to doctors in the fields of Cancer, Fertility, and Diabetes care. With the outbreak of the global pandemic, building healthcare capacity is more significant than ever, and through our long-term partnership we are looking forward to creating a strong medical army in Burundi.

The Burundi First Lady had also attended Merck Foundation’s first Merck Foundation First Ladies Initiative (MFFLI) VC Summit held last month, which was attended by a total of 13 African First Ladies and introduced her development programs in Burundi”.

Merck Foundation has conducted their capacity building programs in Burundi for the past three years through their partnership with Burundi government and Former First Lady of Burundi, H.E. MADAM DENISE NKURUNZIZA 

Merck Foundation has provided specialty training to more than 31 doctors from Burundi and will continue doing so for the next 10 years plan.

Merck Foundation made history by providing training to the first oncologist and fertility specialists and embryologists in Burundi.

So far 10 doctors have completed the fertility and embryology training, and together with Burundi First Lady, more doctors will be trained to improve access to quality and equitable fertility care in the country.

Merck Foundation has also trained the first Oncologist in Burundi and will continue enrolling doctors for oncology fellowship program as a contribution to improve cancer care in the country.

Moreover, Merck Foundation has provided Diabetes care training to twenty doctors and is going to train more doctors, one from each province. After completion of the training, these doctors should be able to establish a diabetes clinic in his/her Health Centre or Hospital with the aim to help prevent and manage the disease in their respective communities.  

“We will continue our new important Program “Educating Linda”, in partnership with the First Lady of Burundi together with the Ministry of Education. Under this program, we have sponsored 20 girls in 2019 and will sponsor the education of 20 best performing girls in their secondary schools this year and fir the next 10 years. We strongly believe that Education is one of the most critical areas of women empowerment”, added Dr. Rasha Kelej, One of 100 Most Influential Africans (2019, 2020).

Merck Foundation also announced a winner from Burundi for their “Stay at Home” Media Recognition Awards from French speaking African Countries.

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

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

The Ambassadors of “Merck More Than a Mother” are:
H.E. NEO JANE MASISI, The First Lady of Botswana
H.E. FATOUMATTA BAH-BARROW, The First Lady of The Gambia
H.E. MONICA GEINGOS, The First Lady of Namibia

The First Lady of Burundi
H.E. REBECCA AKUFO-ADDO, The First Lady of Ghana
H.E. BRIGITTE TOUADERA, The First Lady of Central African Republic
H.E. CONDÉ DJENE, The First Lady of Guinea Conakry
H.E. AISHA BUHARI, The First Lady of Nigeria
H.E. HINDA DEBY ITNO, The First Lady of Chad
H.E. CLAR WEAH, The First Lady of Liberia
H.E FATIMA MAADA BIO, The First Lady of Sierra Leone
H.E. ANTOINETTE SASSOU-NGUESSO, The First Lady of Congo Brazzaville
H.E. MONICA CHAKWERA, The First Lady of Malawi
H.E. ESTHER LUNGU, The First Lady of Zambia
H.E. DENISE NYAKERU TSHISEKEDI, THE First Lady of Democratic Republic of Congo
H.E. ISAURA FERRÃO NYUSI, The First Lady of Mozambique
H.E. AUXILLIA MNANGAGWA, The First Lady of Zimbabwe
Merck Foundation launched new innovative initiatives to sensitize local communities about infertility prevention, male infertility with the aim to break the stigma of infertility and empowering infertile women as part of Merck More than a Mother COMMUNITY AWARENESS CAMPAIGN, such as;
‘Merck More than a Mother’ Media Recognition Awards and Health Media Training
‘Merck More than a Mother’ Fashion Awards
‘Merck More than a Mother’ Film Awards
Local songs with local artists to address the cultural perception of infertility and how to change it
Children storybook, localized for each country
About Merck Foundation:
The Merck Foundation , established in 2017, is the philanthropic arm of Merck KGaA Germany, aims to improve the health and wellbeing of people and advance their lives through science and technology. Our efforts are primarily focused on improving access to quality & equitable healthcare solutions in underserved communities, building healthcare and scientific research capacity and empowering people in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) with a special focus on women and youth. All Merck Foundation press releases are distributed by e-mail at the same time they become available on the Merck Foundation

*SOURCE Merck Foundation
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Report: Violence against women costs Lesotho economy $113 million annually
September 30, 2020 | 0 Comments

Commonwealth report has revealed violence against women and girls costs Lesotho more than $113 million (about 1.9 billion Lesotho loti) a year.

The report estimates the total cost, including loss of income and expenses associated with medical, legal and police support, equates to around 5.5 per cent of Lesotho’s gross domestic product (GDP). The cost of $113 million means each Lesotho citizen loses at least $50 every year to violence against women and girls.

The cost of $113 million means each Lesotho citizen loses at least $50 every year to violence against women and girls.

The bulk – $45 million – is attributed to legal protection, healthcare, social services and learning loss. This is more than twice the amount – $21 million – Lesotho spent on health, education and energy in the last fiscal year.

The report sets out policy recommendations for the health, education, legal and private sectors to better meet the needs of victims, which include: 

  • Updating the forms used for collecting data on violence against women and girls;
  • Using digital services to collect and share the data with stakeholders;
  • Training staff responsible for recording, analysing and sharing data;
  • Developing a broad approach involving all sectors to prevent the abuse; and
  • Making strategic shifts to allocate resources to carry out these recommendations.

Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland said: “This report proves once again that ending violence against woman and girls is not only the right thing to do but it is also the smart thing to do and beneficial to us all.

“Tackling this issue will prevent immense pain and suffering for individuals and communities and will also end the damage this violence does to our economies and prosperity.

“As the first report of its kind to focus on Lesotho in this way, our intention is that it should provide the basis for designing more clearly focussed national policies and programmes, and help ensure that adequate resources are allocated for priorities such as training service providers.

“The findings put a price tag on the endemic scourge of gender-based violence, and demonstrate that the consequences of ignoring the problem are far higher than the cost of taking preventative and remedial action.

“By providing the baseline for a series of periodic costing studies and practical intervention, we hope the report will help pave the way towards significant progress on eliminating violence against women and girls, thereby saving many lives.”

The loss of income for women who experience violence due to missed days of work and lost productivity comes to $22 million annually. Income losses result in less spending which triggers a negative impact on commodity demand and supply of goods and services.

Lesotho’s Minister of Gender and Youth, Sport and Recreation Mahali Phamotse said: “Violence against women and girls is a problem in Lesotho which affects national development.

“The report will help Lesotho come up with appropriate strategies that will help eradicate violence against women and girls as we are now aware of its causes and economic implications.

“The report calls for immediate action through which my ministry will embark on a project to ensure the protection of women and girls.”

In Lesotho, about one in three women experience sexual or physical violence in their lifetime, similar to the global prevalence rate. 

The Commonwealth worked with Lesotho’s Ministry of Gender and Youth, Sport and Recreation to conduct the study and produce this report.

This is the second country report completed by the Commonwealth. The first was produced for Seychelles in 2018.

Read: The Economic Cost of Violence Against Women and Girls: A Study of Lesotho


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Centurion Law Group’s Oneyka Cindy Ojogbo receives African Legal Awards’ Private Practice Rising Star award
September 24, 2020 | 0 Comments
Oneyka Cindy Ojogbo
Oneyka Cindy Ojogbo
Presented by Legal Week, the annual ceremony aims to celebrate Africa’s legal talent and recognize the legal community’s achievements each year.

South Africa, September 24, 2020/ — Centurion Law Group (Centurion) was also nominated in the categories International Law Firm of the Year and In-House Rising Star; Centurion attorneys have previously received awards and been nominated by the African Legal Awards.

Last week Centurion Law Groups (Centurion) Senior Attorney and Business Lead, Oneyka Ojogbo was named the Private Practice Rising Star by the African Legal Awards (ALA) 2020.

Presented by Legal Week, the annual ceremony aims to celebrate Africa’s legal talent and recognize the legal community’s achievements each year through presenting categories such as International Law Firm of the Year, African Law Firm of the Year, General Counsel of the Year and Legal Department of the Year.

“I am honored to be recognized in this category with the other nominees who are by all account heavy hitters. I am grateful for a firm that really allows one discover themselves and grow and for the most supportive team ever; they make all things possible. I can only hope to continue the good work that has brought us this far,” said Ojogbo.

“We are delighted once again to have one of our attorneys be recognized by the ALA, with a prestigious recognition” said NJ Ayuk, CEO of Centurion Law Group. “ While I am not surprised, this is yet another testament to the work Oneyka and her team does on a daily basis, we are extremely proud of Oneyka and I can’t wait to see where she will be in five years,” he added.

Oneyka Ojogbo is a Senior Associate Attorney at Centurion’s Equatorial Guinea, Nigeria and South Africa offices with significant experience in banking, energy, infrastructure and projects financing. She holds an LL.M. from the Columbia Law School and an LL.B. From the University of Ibadan.

View the full list of awards at The African Legal Award here 
About Centurion:
Headquartered in Johannesburg with offices in Equatorial Guinea, Ghana, Cameroon and Mauritius, Centurion is an all-African law firm transforming the way law is done on the continent.

Our internationally trained lawyers (the UK and the US) are renowned for advising governments, foreign investors, local companies, other law firms and the private sector, and are able to draft and negotiate deals in English, Spanish, French and German.

Our team has unrivaled oil and gas expertise across Africa – advising on a number of first-of-a-kind deals in our core jurisdictions and with our affiliate firms in South Sudan, Uganda, Chad, Congo-Brazzaville, Angola, Nigeria, Zambia, Gabon and Senegal.

Ask us about services:
*SOURCE Centurion
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Cameroonian granted humanitarian release from US Immigration after revealing her fallopian tube was forcibly removed in ICE custody
September 22, 2020 | 0 Comments

By Amos Fofung

Pauline Binam, 30, has been in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody since 2017. Courtesy of the Binam family
Pauline Binam, 30, has been in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody since 2017. Courtesy of the Binam family

Pauline Binam, a Cameroonian lady was almost deported last week by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, ICE if not for the intervention of members of US Congress.

Pauline who has been in the US since when she was 2 years old was on the tarmac when members of Congress say they intervened. Pan African Vision has gathered that she was granted humanitarian release.

“It felt like ICE was trying to rush through her deportation,” said Rep. Pramila Jayapal, a Democrat from Washington state. “I can’t say that for certain, but all of this is extremely troubling.”

Binam, now 30, says she was involuntarily sterilized while held at the privately owned Irwin County Detention Center in Georgia, has been granted humanitarian releaseafter intervention by congress.

Attorney Vân Huynh says Binam’s fallopian tube was removed without her knowledge by the same doctor who is accused of performing forced hysterectomies on several other prisoners, and who is reportedly not a board-certified OB-GYN. Last week, Binam’s deportation was halted at the last minute after pressure from immigration rights advocates and members of Congress.


Members of Congress are demanding an investigation into allegations from immigrant women who say they were subjected to medical procedures without their consent while detained at an ICE facility in Georgia. Some women say they underwent hysterectomies or other surgeries that left them sterile.

Jayapal, a member of the House Judiciary Committee, wants Binam in the U.S. so that she can tell her story to investigators. More than 170 U.S. lawmakers have signed a letter calling for an investigation by the Homeland Security inspector general and want investigators to report back on the status of the investigation by next Friday.

According to NPR, ICE denies any link between her allegations and her scheduled deportation saying she was pulled off the plane because of a paperwork snafu with the Cameroonian government — not because of congressional intervention.

In a statement, ICE says that all female detainees receive routine gynecological care and that “a medical procedure like a hysterectomy would never be performed” without informed consent.

Binam’s lawyer, Vân Huynh, says her client sought treatment for an irregular menstrual cycle and thought she was getting a routine procedure known as dilation and curettage to remove tissue from her uterus last year.

“When she woke up from the surgery, the doctor informed her that they had to remove one of her fallopian tubes,” says Huynh, with the non-profit Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights, which also helped prepare the whistleblower complaint.

“Of course, Pauline was very upset and sort of appalled that this had happened without her consent,” Huynh says.

The long-term medical implications are not clear, but that the procedure could prevent Binam from conceiving a child, Huynh says.

“Detention itself takes so much away from a person’s life,” Huynh says. “And then for her to have gone through this experience while she was in immigration detention just robs her of so much more than her time.”

Huynh says Binam complained to the staff at the detention center, but those complaints went nowhere. Binam is one of a growing number of over 17 immigrant women complaining about care they received while they were held at the privately-operated Irwin County Detention Center in Ocilla, Georgia.

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Gambia:Banjul Mayoress Shortlisted to Contest for Presidency of Mayors of Africa Capital Cities
September 22, 2020 | 0 Comments

By Bakary Ceesay

Banjuk Mayor Rohey Lowe-Saidykhan
Banjul Mayor Rohey Lowe-Saidykhan

The Mayor of Banjul, Rohey Lowe-Saidykhan has been shortlisted to contest the presidency of mayors of 54 Africa capital cities. 

She will contest the prestigious position against three others, Muhamed Sidiq of Rabat Morocco, Madam El Wardani of Dakar, Senegal and Juliana Kaduya of Lilongwe, Malawi. The election will be held in three week’s time.

A preamble announcing the nominations said the nomination of the Banjul mayor by ULCD to contest the presidency is based on the trend of development that has been delivered to the citizens of Banjul barely two years after her election as the first female mayor in Gambia’s history.

The person elected to the presidency of the African Capital Cities Sustainability Forum (ACCSF) will, apart from being the main promoter of the ACCSF to institutions such as AU and during summit or conference if elected, will be in charge of the strategic direction and development.

He/she will also represent entire 54 African capital cities mayors and governors of ACCSF.

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Cameroon:Women Groups Call for six month ceasefire in conflict-ridden Anglophone Regions
September 21, 2020 | 0 Comments

In honour of the International Day of Peace, September 21, five women’s organizations in Cameroon have joined their voices to call for a ceasefire in the conflict-ridden Anglophone regions. Below is the statement.


In early 2020, the United Nations characterized the situation in the English-speaking regions of Cameroon as a complex humanitarian emergency with 2.3 million people in need. This is a dramatic increase from 2019’s 160,000 persons in need of humanitarian assistance. Although estimates of persons killed as of 2019 by the UN stood at 3000 people, this number has since risen, and could today even be doubled or tripled. UNHCR estimates over 600,000 people have been internally displaced, and a further 60-70,000 refugees are seeking asylum in neighboring Nigeria. UNICEF estimates that more than 855,000 children are out of school due to the conflict. The situation since has been worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic; an escalation of violent clashes; and continued human rights violations as well as the perpetration of many dehumanizing acts on the civilian population. As such:

-Alarmed by significant human rights abuses committed by both security forces and separatist armed groups in Cameroon—including summary or arbitrary killings, forced disappearances, torture, arbitrary detention, repression of fundamental rights, and violence against women and children, as cited in the Department of State 2019 Country Report on Human Rights Practices for Cameroon;

-Recognising the loss of thousands of human lives, massive destruction of properties, and displacement of persons occasioned by the conflict;

-Considering the damage to livelihoods, disruption of peace and security to the entire Cameroonian nation and most especially within the North West and South West Regions (former British Southern Cameroons), the loss of human dignity, and:

• Four years of no schooling,

• Increased child and maternal mortality,

 • Absence of primary health care,

 • Increased food shortages and other basic necessities;

-Determined to encourage and engage parties to the conflict to arrive at a peaceful and lasting settlement through negotiations;

-Convinced that as women, we bear the brunt of this violent conflict irrespective of our historical background, cultural, linguistic and political affiliation;

-Focusing on the provisions of the United Nations Security Council Resolution UNSCR 1325 on Women, Peace and Security, and basing our call on the AU’s decade of ceasefire in Africa: Silencing the Guns in Africa 2020 as well as the UN Secretary General’s global call for a ceasefire and United Nations Security Council Resolution UNSCR 2532 on cessation of hostilities in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic;

We provide a thoughtful suggestion for stakeholders to engage in a ceasefire and eventual peace negotiations.

We, the women, urge parties to the conflict to:

Ø Respect human life and dignity and protect the population to stop the alarming death toll.

-Cease all hostilities by all armed actors immediately. We expect all parties to announce a cessation of hostilities within the next 30 days.

Ø Sign a written ceasefire agreement by November 2020, with each party clearly stating its commitment to making the process a success.

Ø Agree to a pilot ceasefire for six months, during which the parties improve their technical and security policies, with the contribution of civil society representatives. This agreement whose terms are borne out of a mutual respect for each faction must be binding on all parties with a local/international monitoring committee, composed of at least 50% women peacebuilders and religious women groups, put in place for follow up.

Ø Work toward a peace agreement and negotiation that is inclusive and sincere where all stakeholders, and not only those with political interest, are involved. A gender-balanced, inclusive commission should be set up to make the peace negotiation gender-responsive. Each faction should make provision for female participation of at least 50%, while civil society and other interest groups should also ensure gender balance for effective representation.

Ø Cooperate with all the humanitarian agencies in their efforts to provide relief and assistance to the ailing population.

Ø Form a think tank with members of the government of Cameroon and separatists armed factions as well as civil society to serve as a monitoring taskforce, aligned with other local/international bodies, to ensure all parties respect the ceasefire. Local women peacebuilders and women leaders should be prioritized.

We call on the Government of Cameroon to:

• Contribute to confidence-building among the parties to the conflict by releasing all arrested in relation to the armed conflict;

• Agree to a 6-month ceasefire to allow for political space to discuss these points with separatist groups and representatives of Anglophone civil society;

• Speed up an inclusive and sincere peace negotiation to address the root causes of the conflict with all factions for the sake of the ailing population within the conflict-affected areas.

We call on separatists armed groups to:

§ Agree to a 6-month ceasefire to allow for political space to discuss these points with the Government of Cameroon and representatives of Anglophone civil society;

§ Engage in sincere talks to identify measures that will return peace to our land.

This call is put out by women in the affected regions and beyond who—as mothers, aunties, sisters, and daughters—ache for a peaceful resolution to this deadly, violent, and traumatic conflict. It is piloted by the following organizations:

  1. South West North West Women Taskforce SNWOT
  2. Southern Cameroons European Women SCEW

3. Christian Women Fellowship CWF (PCC)

 4. Cameroon Baptist Convention Women’s Department CBCWD

5. United Methodist Women Association in Cameroon UMWAC

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Gambia’s Stylish Female Singer Releases Lovers Music Video
September 19, 2020 | 0 Comments

By Bakary Ceesay

Stylish golden Sarah Joy, Gambian female singer has slammed music fans with amazing love music video called ‘Du Teey’ featuring the rap star of Bakoteh (BK) Tam-50.

‘Du teey’ harmonics translate from wollof language meaning ‘the love is not today’, capturing the overall sense of footage gave prolong novel story of relationship between two lovers that shared strong love for each other but could not settle together as couple.

It takes courage to love, but pain through love is the purifying fire which those who love generously know.

Speaking to Sarah Joy in an exclusive the singer said she was inspired by people who complained and regret spending lot of time that will later be term as a waste. She said some relationships, some people spend decades together only to realised that they are not meant for each other. At some point they felt is a waste of time, energy and investment. Many instances you see your younger ones settling down which make the whole issue dramatic.

She said that kind of long waiting relationships frustrate both parties involved because is hard to continue life without the person you pictured yourself with, but however sometimes all they need is little motivation and incentives which will either make them stay or leave yet there is a point when you have to give ultimatum to act on.

“Basically the song is to encouraging them to give alternative to the person either to leave or get it official (marriage).”

The song is recorded, mixed and mastered by leading production house in the Gambia, Stylzz Records.  Produced by KAINAWA Beats and shapely video shoot by Ultimate Media.

Already the video geared 4, 081 views on YouTube and still counting the streams. 
Sarah Joy is not only known for her beautiful melody singing but also a TV and radio mogulist who has won the hearts of many follower. She often used her platforms to champion Joy house entertainment/promotion, identified as music advocacy group established with the primary objective of empowering female musicians in the music business.

In same exclusive she added that very soon her team (Joy House Entertainment/ promotion) will embark on the famous Girl Power project which entail a bundle of things but the basic idea aimed at creating opportunity and using music to empower the women.

Below is the link of the music video Du Teey

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September 1, 2020 | 0 Comments
BBC Komla winner 2020
BBC Komla winner 2020

Today, the BBC announced that Kenyan TV presenter, Victoria Rubadiri, has been awarded the BBC World News Komla Dumor Award. She is the sixth winner of the award, following in the footsteps of Solomon Serwanjja, Waihiga Mwaura, Amina Yuguda, Didi Akinyelure and Nancy Kacungira. Victoria is the fourth East African, and second Kenyan, to win the award.

Victoria is a features reporter and news anchor with Citizen TV in Kenya where she hosts the channel’s prime-time news. A well-rounded, multifaceted journalist in East Africa, she has interviewed some of the leading names in politics and current affairs, including UN Deputy Secretary General, Amina Mohamed and former Liberian President, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.

Victoria will begin her three month placement at the BBC by attending a training course with the BBC Academy before joining BBC News teams – across TV, radio and online – which will provide her with the opportunity to gain skills and experience across BBC News platforms.

Following the training and placements in Nairobi, Victoria will work alongside a top BBC producer, to report on a story for a global audience. The story will then be broadcast on BBC platforms, which reaches audiences of 426 million across the world each week.

Victoria said, “Komla was a well-rounded journalist whose style, though authoritative, was also compassionate, empathetic and uplifting. His ability to give the facts comprehensively, and yet still be attuned to his audience, was something I admired and a skill I seek to emulate. The media industry in Africa is growing, with a plethora of content providers and changing consumption trends, and the complexities of reaching audiences in a meaningful way has also evolved. I am excited at the prospect of learning new skills at the BBC to be able to connect with audiences locally, regionally and internationally, no matter on which platform the story is being told.”

Victoria impressed judges with her eloquence and passion for telling African stories on both traditional media platforms and social media. Her passion for connecting with audiences on a myriad of platforms had led to over half a million followers on her social media accounts, and she continues to pursue this engagement on social media. Through her storytelling, Victoria has brought people’s extraordinary experiences to life, a key journalistic trait that resonates with the BBC’s global audiences.

Jamie Angus, Director of BBC World Service Group, said, “We’re delighted to have Victoria on board to bring her insights and passion to the BBC. There’s never been a more significant time for our global audiences to hear grassroots stories from Africa, and it’s really important that we tell these stories with integrity and authenticity. Komla had the incredible ability to give stories from the continent global resonance, and also deliver it with familiarity and understanding. We’re looking forward to seeing Victoria embody that by bringing her perspectives to life.”

The award was set up in honour of presenter Komla Dumor, who died in January 2014, and aims to continue Komla’s legacy by celebrating African journalism and finding exceptional talent. The judging panel included Sam Taylor, Head of Live and Breaking News at the BBC; Miriam Quansah, Assistant Digital Editor at BBC Africa; and award-winning Nigerian journalist, Idris Akinbajo of the Premium Times.

Victoria will be interviewed on Focus on Africa on Tuesday 1st September at 1730 GMT, BBC World News (DStv 400).

For more information go to


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Covid-19 Pandemic Reversing Humanitarian Gains of African Women and Children
August 26, 2020 | 0 Comments

By Nevson Mpofu  

Director of Gender Commission  Zimbabwe and Fiona Magaya of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Union
Director of Gender Commission Zimbabwe and Fiona Magaya of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Union

The Global up-surge of Covid-19 leaves sad stories told on the side of women and children now facing the social and economic injustices. These according to ZIMCODD [ Zimbabwe Coalition On Debt And Development ] Report posted to Media leaves gaps currently created beyond repair by covid-19 if stronger Global solutions at country levels are not put practically in place.

The Report plunges on issues of good governance, transparency and accountability exercise to be raised on the sidelines of equitable gender 6mainstreaming, equity and equality. Gender justice woven by equality and equity in women during this pathetic era empathy women and children at most for their survival in alleviation of poverty and vulnerability.

However, despite the concerted effort put across by women and children organizations, much that flows carried on by covid-19 effects erodes on women and children’s rights more imp actively. These are on the edges of poverty and vulnerability. Earlier on during the 21 days of lockdown, bevy of women like Virginia Muwanigwa , Director of Gender Commission  Zimbabwe and Fiona Magaya of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Union among others on the fore-front reiterated  on the increase of gender based violence  , gender- in-justice and lack of equality exposed to affect  women ..

‘’During this time of covid-19, women remain impacted by gender-based violence which has been exacerbated by the pandemic world-wide. The erosion of family income exposes women to violence. This comes with divorces, separations. Poverty is likely to increase, vulnerability affecting women and children if immediate action is not taken.’’

Fiona Magaya adds that women have at most become discriminated, this widening the gap of gender inequality in families already hard hit by poverty. We have to take collective action to fight these in-equalities at family and community levels. Reducing inequalities is vital and critical as we move on towards the inside of this pandemic.

These in-equalities have increased in many African countries. Women are facing all forms of abuses ranging from physical, economic, social and intense domestic violence. Cases have grown in number in countries like South Africa, Botswana, Namibia and a few I have to confirm with. A number of women have as well moved out of marriage, go away with children whom they care for without maintenance or any support in terms of food.

In-equalities are driven by culture, tradition and African customs.  There are other issues of concern like Patriarchy , meliorism and male domination. This has prevailed for long in Africa, especially South of the Sahara in countries with strong African customs like Nigeria, Ghana, Malawi, Tanzania, Kenya, Namibia, Lesotho, Swathini and South Africa. In-Equalities increase as well fueled by modernism, industrialization and Globalization.

‘’Because of inequalities there rises wide gaps of discrimination in women. Poverty increase opens way for violence in marital relations. This leads to further gender in-justice which results in women and children marginalization. We stand by women at this hour in time using several International protocols like the Convention on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women [CEDAW] , laws and policies at regional and national levels .’’

Sally Dura of Zimbabwe Women Coalition
Sally Dura of Zimbabwe Women Coalition

The report from ZIMCODD further states that women are on the frontlines of Health provision. This means they take care of family members, children and themselves. . Vulnerability comes with the role they take to provide health services. As they strive to bring sanity at homes and in communities, family incomes are eroded, creating chances of gender-based violence, gender injustice, inequity and in equality due to low levels or not at all of the flow of gender mainstreaming. Taking a voice high pitched up in response, a nurse by profession at Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals Clara Nyoni said women provide the most health services.  she hits up the subject,

‘’Women are on the frontline in terms of health service provision to populations. It is therefore imperative to hold Public Health and Population Health accountable above all Community Health at community, family and national levels. Therefore, Primary Health Care is vital now. There is no doubt women do all the work right like now.   Most of our patients are women vulnerable due to covid-19. There is less doubt to say.’’ she poses.

World Health Organization reports that from 8 June 2020 187,875 cases of corona had been documented in 54 countries of the African Region.  This means strong commitments in Health budgets at Global, regional and country levels.

A Child Rights Activist and Expert in Children humanitarian well-fare, Father Reverend Nyanhete has ideas that Governments working with Civil Society, Non-Governmental Organizations, churches and Chiefs must take time to look at issues of our past culture and tradition. He says if covid-19 is left alone to affect children, then the Convention on Children’s Rights is then not respected because past practices will turn evil to humanity.

‘’remember children have been victims of our African values, culture, customs and tradition. As long we forget these in this era we hurt and shoot ourselves in the foot. We need to push Governments to re-look at the customs and see to it that we are not being found un-aware by issues that have long time back reversed gains.’’

‘’Cultural and customary marriages have done the worst on the girl child. Girls used to be married to older man under betrothment, a custom that undermines the right of the girl child further with education. Girls are now given house hold chores at home since they have nothing to do. They are not in school. Most of their time is being at home.  They are chances of them taken for a ride by men, sexually abused, economically strained they turn to prostitution under these hard times ‘’

Speaking on the same line of though, Sally Dura of Zimbabwe Women Coalition said women are facing gender-based violence that was no-more in African countries but now it is almost back because of the pandemic we have. She added that unless countries in Africa take holistic measures as fast there are thorny new emerging issues.

‘’Gender-Based -Violence has increased during covid-19 meaning to say, women are being sexually, economically and physically abused at the expense of children whom they take care of. What do you think happens? There are huge implications, divorce, separations, child poverty increase, vulnerability, increase in theft, deviant behavior and emerging health issues related to food-insecurity comes with malnutrition’’.

‘’There are growing cases of early marriages as well with the girl-child a past occurrence that we start to experience in the shadow of the disease.  Women are turned into more growing poverty. This is true that children are affected as well. ‘’

With the voice for children more at cost of the gained now reversed gains, Pascal Masocha another Child-Rights activist notes with deep sorrow on the increase in Child Labour and prodigy on many farms in Zimbabwe. The Increase is almost rising to 30% a figure which tells more to be done.

‘’The increase of child-labour has increased almost 30% high since the end of last year, worse now with covi-19 issues making children lose on education. Families are unable to cope up with food security, a scenario that throws children into child-labour ‘’

‘’Organizations are not in full swing at work fearing for their lives because corona stigma and discrimination is growing as well. It means then there are some children somewhere under child-lab our, prodigy, where-by they carry heavy loads at the expense of their weight, energy and bodies ‘’

A Health Expert in Nutrition working with ZICOSUNA [ Zimbabwe Civil Society Organizations Scaling Up Nutrition Alliance] Kudakwashe Zombe recommends Governments to increase budgets in Health provision at this point in time. Besides, Infrastructural development helps countries prevent covid-19. He advises countries to follow up on the World Organization guidelines so as to meet Global standards. He concludes by making a point on the Abuja Declaration

‘’The Abuja Declaration recommends countries to make effort to come up with 15% amount of budget so as to fight this pandemic. It means then countries need to increase their budgets in covid-19, increase nutrition levels of finance flows so as well to curb malnutrition. This is enshrined in Article 16 of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights’’

‘’In order to reduce in-equalities during this time Investments in Health reduces challenges faced by women and children. During this Health crisis nutrition levels decrease. This is a bite of poverty and vulnerability on women and children. Gender injustice follows with impacts on women themselves’’.

A Legislator Dubangani Mpofu standing for Zvishabane- Runde Constituency says there is need to lift people out of poverty by addressing social -economic opportunities at community to national level. He adds that there must be full representation in political spheres by all women without fear and favor, with transparency and accountability.

‘’There must be social and economic opportunities created for women so as to curb gender injustices, inequality and marginalization of women and children. Increase in health budgets makes countries address as well challenges faced by women.’’, he said

Above all, a number of Politicians and Members of Parliament asked to comment advises the Government working with the Anti-Corruption Commission to curb corruption, illicit finance flows and capital flight. Curbing corruption puts women and children on the safe side during these hard times of covid- 19, experts, academicians, policy makers and implementers note.

*Nevson Mpofu a renowned multi-awarded winning journalist is as well a development studies lecturer at Chartered Institute for purchasing and supply at midlands state university campus in Harare . he is advancing in sustainable development ..

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