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Why modern African women choose to be single
February 9, 2014 | 0 Comments

By Nana Darkoa Sekyiamah*

Contrary to received wisdom, there are lots of eligible and available men in Africa for today’s young, modern, educated African women. So why can’t some young women find a suitable match? Something else is going on: choice.

“You’re moving back to Ghana? You will be married within the year.” I smiled at my Uncle and said nothing in response. Marriage was the last thing on my mind. Or more accurately, getting married again was the last thing on my mind.

I thought about my Uncle’s words after living in Ghana for about a year and laughed, in all of that time I hadn’t met anyone whom I wanted to date let alone marry.   In subsequent years, women looking to move to Ghana or other parts of the continent would contact me seeking advise, and one of the questions they would inevitably ask would be, “So, what’s the man situation like over there?” Inevitably my response would be, “There are no eligible men available.” “What do you mean there are no eligible men available” would be their inevitable rejoinder. “Well in Ghana people tend to get married early, and they stay married no matter what, even if they are in unhappy marriages. So for women like us who are in their 30s the choices are to be a side chick or mistress to a married man, or to hook up with a guy in his 20s who is just looking for a bit of fun. When you meet a man who is his 30s and unmarried there is usually a very good reason why.” I deflated a lot of women who were previously excited about moving to the continent and dating a fun, educated African man who has a great job, holds progressive views about gender roles, and cannot wait to be matched up with a well educated African woman, who also has a great job, and can hold conversations about anything from the conflict in Syria to the latest trends in African fashion.

But recently I’ve had cause to change my mind. Last week I was reading a blog post that Afua Entsuah wrote titled ‘The Plight of the Single Returnee Woman’, and from the title alone I thought, “No, no, no”. She referenced a conversation with me where I had recited my “there are no eligible men” refrain as well as a twitter exchange a number of women including myself had held with the late Komla Dumor on the subject of a BBC Africa discussion, ‘Is it harder for an educated African woman to find a date?’ My co-blogger Malaka in response to this radio discussion topic later wrote a post with the title, ‘Wanted: Small Boys for Educated African Women’. All this concern about whether educated African women struggle to find suitable mates or not, and the small role I have played in creating that impression got me thinking again about the trite comment I have been regurgitating for years.

I thought back to my Grand Aunt, a woman I have interviewed a number of times as part of my personal project to learn more about the lives of older African women, especially those women who are not literate in English, and have no means of documenting their stories for posterity. I remember what she told me about her first husband, “I did not love him. I married him because he was my brother’s friend.” That marriage had been an unhappy one, and a second marriage to a husband of her choice had been the one to bring her happiness. I thought of how my Grand Aunt had felt she had very little choice about whom to marry initially, and about her fear that if she displeased her brother he would not intervene if she had any challenges in her marriage. Then I thought of how far apart I am from what had been my Grand Aunt’s reality. For a start, I do not have to marry anyone because that’s the man that my brother thinks will make a suitable match for me. I started to dig deeper into what I thought of as eligible – a good looking man, a man with a job that he enjoys and one that rewards him adequately for his labour, and someone with whom I share common interests. I realized how many of those men I have met, sometimes gone on dates with, and been uninterested in pursuing something long term with for any number of reasons.

Take Alex, the building contractor. He was a divorced man in his 40s with a 10-year-old son. We went to La Chaumiere for dinner one night, Golden Tulip for a buffet breakfast another day, and then a trip to Mount Afajato one Saturday. He insisted I choose the venue for each date, and insisted on paying each time. He asked me to order the wine because he didn’t know much about wines. He was happy to go along to the mountain because he knew I had an interest in local tourism. He called me ‘my heart throb’. Somehow he just did not light my fire and I concluded that he was not eligible enough.

Then there was Kofi the wannabe musician. We met in a club one night. We had drinks the following week, and he couldn’t stop telling me about how much he was into me. That was an instant turn off but I continued to see him for a short while. He sent me badly constructed text messages every night. One night in the back of my car he came when I was on the precipice of what I am absolutely sure was going to be an earth shattering orgasm. I don’t think I ever forgave him for that. And by then I had had enough of the sms speech texts. He was definitely not eligible.

And there have been plenty of single men between Alex and Kofi. Yet somehow they have all not been eligible enough. Sometimes I just don’t find them sexually attractive. Other times I think they are too traditional in their views of gender roles. Sometimes their conversations bore me. Sometimes they are brilliant in bed but have too little options in life for me to want to hitch my wagon to theirs. Other times they are just not that into me. Whatever the case is, I have realized that I am a single educated African woman because that’s who I want to be. I am happy and satisfied with my life choices. There are plenty of eligible African men out there who want to date women like me. I just haven’t met one that I would like to date … yet.

*Source This is Africa

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Amina Omusementi: The Somali woman building an empire in Kampala
November 12, 2013 | 0 Comments

By Eriasa Mukiibi Sserunjogi*

Ms Hersi gives the President a token of appreciation for his assistance in making Laburnam Courts a reality. She has managed to grow her business footprint in Kampala by making smart connections. PHOTO | FILE.

Ms Hersi gives the President a token of appreciation for his assistance in making Laburnam Courts a reality. She has managed to grow her business footprint in Kampala by making smart connections. PHOTO | FILE.

The President of the foreign country Amina Hersi Moghe now calls home speaks highly of her and he openly vows to offer all the assistance she requires and protect her from any roadblocks.

She has a rising real estate empire – having built Oasis Mall which houses Nakumatt Supermarket and the posh Laburnam Courts Apartments. And she has built alliances with the biggest politicians, businesspeople and banks in Uganda and beyond.

This cannot be bad for a daughter of a migrant Somali cattle keeper. Her father’s search for better fortunes took him from Somaliland to western Kenya in the second half of the 20th century.

Hersi thus grew up in the border town of Bungoma in western Kenya, from where she moved to Nairobi, before following in her father’s migrant footsteps when she relocated to Kampala in 1998.

She is a woman of average height and weight, not exactly as light as your usual Somali. Ms Hersi adheres to the Muslim dress code, complete with a head scarf and speaks English – not perfect English – with a heavy Somali accent.

An encounter with her may therefore not immediately suggest that she is a very successful businesswoman in Kampala, playing in the biggest league.

But she must fondly look back to the day she set off for Kampala, although it was forced by a heavy dose of sadness.

She had suffered a most gruesome incident, she says, when her two little daughters were killed in a motor accident. She took advice that she needed a change of address to start a new life.

In Kampala, Ms Hersi set up a cement dealership, first as an agent of Bamburi Cement in Kenya and later established relations with the nascent cement factories in Uganda.

“In fact most people know me as Hersi Omusementi,” she says.

 Building alliances

Hersi’s stamp of authority on the real estate sector in Kampala grew stronger when on October 3 her Laburnam Courts Apartments was launched with President Museveni as chief guest.

Also in attendance were prominent businesspeople – representatives of banks, cement factories and others. There were also politicians from Uganda and Kenya, including DP president Norbert Mao.

The High Commissioner of Kenya to Uganda, Maj Gen Geoffrey Okanga, presented Amina with an award – The Moran of the Burning Spear – from the government of Kenya, in recognition of her contribution to the Kenyan economy.

Hersi is the managing director of the Oasis Group of Companies, which owns Oasis Mall and Laburnam Courts in Uganda and is said to have interests in real estate in Kenya.

Hersi’s mother, Sarah Hersi Ali, and her siblings stayed back in Kenya to take care of the business that side when she moved to Kampala. Her mother, she says, laid the foundation for the family’s real estate empire from a modest restaurant and food store. Ms Hersi built on that foundation to ally with powerful people in Uganda, and it didn’t take her long to get to the core of Ugandan business.

Shortly after arriving in Kampala, she teamed up with Sudhir Ruparelia, who had embarked on building a business empire of his own.

She pitched camp in Ruparelia’s office at the then Crane Forex Bureau on Kampala Road, in the process benefitting from her association with quality business company. She had arrived driving a Mercedes Benz with Kenya registration plates, which she says led many of the people she dealt with believe she had a lot of money and this gave them ideas to rip her off. Sudhir solved her immediate problem by giving her a less sophisticated BMW car.

Her business relationship with Sudhir, perhaps now the richest person in Uganda, would only grow and when Hersi later embarked on bigger projects, Sudhir’s Crane Bank became one of her financiers.

 Enter Museveni

It is not clear how Hersi got in contact with Museveni and other powerful people in the government. But the President makes clear his admiration of her qualities, which he says is a far-cry from what most Ugandans exhibit.

“I have a problem with Africans,” the President started out at the launch of the apartments, “Africa is so rich but many of the Africans are not serious. That’s why I am always very happy when I see some Africans who wake up.”

Museveni said Hersi approached him asking for a then vacant piece of land just below All-Saints Cathedral in Nakasero to build apartments.

“If you saw this land, it was just a valley where those who go to church would park their cars and also come to relax; but see what she has done here.” Museveni said.

The Laburnam Courts Apartments comprise a triangle of lime green flats – 154 two-bedroom and three-bedroom serviced apartment units in all – with a swimming pool in the middle. The place also has health facilities, a children’s playing area, business centre and gym.

The proprietor says the apartments have attracted clients from oil and telecom companies. At the time of the launch, it was said that 95 per cent of the apartments were already occupied.

Museveni said Hersi was able to build these apartments, in addition to the Oasis Mall, because she is different from most Ugandans.

“If you go to Kabalagala now,” Museveni said, “they (Ugandans) are all in bars, every time drinking. How much money are you squandering? Lack of discipline, lack of initiative and lack of imagination, that’s the problem Africans must fight.”

Apart from offering the land on which Hersi built the Laburnam Courts and the Oasis Mall, Mr Museveni also ensured that she benefitted from other incentives, like importing building materials without paying taxes. Museveni said at the launch that he protected Hersi from officials of the Uganda Revenue Authority who were demanding taxes from her.

He said that Hersi had planned her project expecting tax exemptions on imported construction materials and that even if her project was a bit late, removing the exemptions would derail her project.

The President aimed a swipe at bureaucrats, who he said just sit in offices and “frustrate” investments.

“There is another project of hers they are trying to fight; we may now have to fight that war,” Museveni said to Hersi’s delight.

Hersi had earlier said that she is looking to embark on another project; one “in which so many women will be involved,” but she did not say exactly what she intends to do.

Museveni looks at women as a key constituency and the mention of a project that could further the women’s cause is likely to warm him up. Hersi was in 2008 named Best Woman Entrepreneur by the Uganda Investment Authority.

At the launch was a Somali choir which sang Museveni’s praises. A translation from one of the songs went: “You are the most educated among the people in the world. You are the wise of the times. You are the father of Africa. The Somali people are grateful to you. Museveni, you should know.”

 Tenacious Hersi

But whereas there can be no denying that Hersi has benefitted immensely from her association with politicians and big businesspeople, there must be something special about her.

Admassu Tadesse, the president of the PTA Bank, said at the launch of the apartments that Hersi “has a rare tenacity” which the bank looked to tap into by investing $16m in the $50m apartments project.

One of the synonyms of the word “tenacity” that pops up on my computer screen is “persistence”. And Tadesse is right if this is what he meant. Hersi refuses to give up when she is convinced that she is doing the right thing.

For example, she said at the launch of the apartments, she hopped from bank to bank seeking financing for two grand projects – the mall and the apartments – at the same time without substantial collateral.

Most banks advised her to pursue one project at a time, she said, but she rejected the advice. “I knew the two projects were different and they were both viable,” she said. She would move on to another bank until she got a positive response.

She was in bullish mood as she thanked the banks which “stood with me when I didn’t have anything,” all in the knowledge that she will find it easier to get financing for future projects now that she has seen grand projects through.

And she has guidelines in her dealings with banks: “Banks which have a lot of excuses; I don’t deal with them.” And, going by Hersi’s new profile, it is very likely that the banks won’t give her many excuses when she approaches them for future financing. If this prediction is true, then the story of the Somali woman who is taking Uganda’s real estate landscape by storm is just beginning to unfold.

*Source African Review

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My Appeal To Young women: Be the agents of Change Africa Needs
January 24, 2013 | 1 Comments

By Grace Ruvimbo Chirenje*

 I was recently reading a book about Africa Changers by Bishop Ed Bilong from Cameroon and it got me thinking about a Youth21 Forum I attended in 2012 hosted by UNDP and UNHABITAT. It was a very insightful meeting and I was inspired to return to Zimbabwe to do the most amazing possible things so as to transform not just my nation but Africa as a whole. What Bilong stimulated recently was the perspective of Africa and how as a young feminist leader I am able to make things happen from where I currently stand. As a result of this inspiration, I thought it worthwhile to share a few insights to fellow African sisters and us all so we can begin to take the necessary steps to transforming not just our lives but the lives of those around us. Knowing oneself and leaving a legacy will be the two aspects I will focus on.

Introspection is a painful yet very necessary journey. In Africa today, women and young women in particular occupy the periphery of leadership. The reasons are best known to the powers that be but one thing for sure is that nothing will be handed to women on a silver platter. In that regard, it is important that as young women leaders, we take a stance to get to understand ourselves better and recognize where our strengths lie and manage our weaknesses enough to ensure that we create opportunities and where they are presented to us we occupy them. It is therefore necessary that at whatever leadership level and with particular reference to governance where 50-50 representation lacks greatly, young women begin to take steps to empower themselves and lead as best as they can. It will not be an easy road but it is possible hewn we focus to know ourselves and what we can offer and do just that, lead!

Generally, Africans are known to want to acquire and do not have the heart to maintain and sustain. Young women of this generation who are faced by very high unemployment rates and education curriculums that do not match the requirements of the workforce industry need to wake up and face the reality that this is the time to create employment and not seek it. Looking at whatever is within our means so as to acquire what is already in existence or create what is possible, young women have to leave a legacy for generations to come. Be gone to this nationalist talk where some have decided to utilize it as an avenue to abuse power and follow selfish personal ambitions. Young feminist changers can ensure that today they can decide to leave a lasting legacy that will inspire generations to come so that they too can acquire, maintain and sustain whatever is trusted within their care.

As the continent continues to make slow and steady strides of progress, women have to been more assertive. Despite cultural barriers which keep doors of opportunity shut for women, there is the potential for things to change. The women have the numbers, there are getting more educated and in all spheres of life, there have been ample examples to show that there can fare as well as men if not better in the face of equal opportunity. It is inspirational to see two female Presidents in the continent in the person of Joyce Banda of Malawi and Sirleaf Johnson of Liberia. It is great to see that the President of the African Union Dr Dhlamini Zuma is a female. From sports, to entertainment, entrepreneurship et al, women are taking charge and the trend must continue.   Not to forget our very own Thokhozani Khupe, Joyce Mujuru and Priscilla Misihairambwi Mushonga who have braved the male dominated political sector in Zimbabwe to ensure that women’s voices are integrated into political leadership – what an inspiration!

Finally, a word of wisdom is that nothing will be handed to the younger female generation on a silver platter so now is the time to begin to ensure that we decide what we want and we go for it. Thabo Mbeki during the Forum mentioned earlier, urged the younger generation to make a difference to ensure that Africa becomes a force to reckon with and not just hang out waiting for the next best thing. If young women can stand as mothers, sisters, aunts and all sorts, it is very possible that they may know themselves better, create, acquire and leave a lasting legacy. There is no limit to our potential so let us go for it and make Africa worth the glory and change!

* Grace Ruvimbo Chirenje is a young feminist leader from Harare, Zimbabwe. Currently she is the Director of Zimbabwe Young Women’s Network for Peace Building (ZYWNP).  Grace is the Vice Chairperson of Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition and board member of Centre for Community Development in her efforts to contribute to the democratization process of Zimbabwe

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Black is beautiful
January 24, 2013 | 0 Comments

The Ghanaian woman who made millions fighting skin-bleaching

Grace Amey-Obeng

Grace Amey-Obeng

Ghana’s Grace Amey-Obeng, one of West Africa’s most successful businesswomen, made her fortune promoting products which emphasised the beauty of the black skin, at a time when many of her competitors were selling dangerous skin-bleaching formulas.

The business empire she started a quarter of a century ago with around $100 (£63) now has an annual turnover of between $8m and $10m.

Her FC Group of Companies – which includes a beauty clinic, a firm that supplies salon equipment and cosmetics, and a college – has eight branches in Ghana and exports to Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Togo, Ivory Coast, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.

Mrs Amey-Obeng has won dozens of accolades and industry awards for her skincare beauty products and marketing.

But one of the things that make her especially proud is her FC Beauty College which, since its opening in 1999, has trained more than 5,000 young people, mostly women.

“It’s like a family bond. I’m so proud that they have managed to go through the programme,” she told the BBC’s series African Dream.

Equally important to her is her role as a medical aesthetician and she cites seeing a skin condition resolved as something that gives her “joy”.

“I’m so happy that God has given me that talent and that touch to heal people,” she said.

‘Irreparable damage’

Mrs Amey-Obeng studied beauty therapy in the United Kingdom and after graduation, in the 1980s, returned to her native Ghana.

She knew that in her country women take great pride in their appearance and was convinced that there was a niche market she could “tap into”.

Working out of her bag and going from house to house she advised people on skincare.

Soon, however, she became aware that there was “a lot of skin-bleaching going on”, a trend she found “alarming” and something that is common in much of Africa.

“The women in the market had destroyed their skin with all this kind of beauty products, bleaching products, and so I saw the need for assisting them to reverse the process because otherwise it would become a social problem,” she said.

“The level of damage – in this climate – bleaching does is irreparable,” she added.

Not long after her return to Ghana, she opened her first beauty clinic with financial support from her family.

“I couldn’t access any funds from the bank. I didn’t even think about it because everybody said ‘In this country nobody will give you money'”.

Business loan offers came pouring in only after her business had been running for three years.

Although access to bank loans in Ghana might be relatively easier these days, she advises that budding entrepreneurs should take care not to borrow too much.

Made in Ghana

Mrs Amey-Obeng explained that, once her clinic was running, she realised that the imported products they were recommending often proved too expensive for their clients.

This was often a result of currency exchange rate fluctuations.

“It was a challenge. They would come back with worse conditions, and so we said: ‘OK, why don’t we start our own line that we can sell to our people?'”.

Her skincare line, which she started in 1998, would soon have a huge success not only because of the products’ prices – which currently range from $3 to $15 – but also, in her opinion, because they were made taking into account black skins and the West African climate.

In view of her concerns about skin bleaching, the name of her brand, Forever Clair (Clear), may seem controversial to some.

However, she argues that “clair” there refers to “light, hope and strength”, not skin colour.

“Light shows the way. It’s not about complexion, it’s about the heart,” the entrepreneur said.

And she seems indeed bent on helping others to gain hope and strength. She is well-known in Ghana for her philanthropic work, especially through the Grace Amey-Obeng International Foundation.

Women leaders, she says, should offer a helping hand to less fortunate women, encourage them and share expertise.

“The joy of putting smiles on the faces of people that this business offers, that’s what makes me want to do it forever.”

African Dream is broadcast on the BBC Focus on Africa radio programme every Thursday afternoon, and on BBC World News throughout the day on Fridays

*Source BBC

 

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Viewpoint: Are Africa’s women on the rise?
October 21, 2012 | 0 Comments

By Jessie Kabwila*

 

Does having a female president benefit ordinary women?

Does having a female president benefit ordinary women?

The past 12 months have seen a series of notable successes for African women – with two Nobel Peace prizes, a second president and the first female head of the African Union Commission. For the BBC’s Africa Debate programme, Malawian women’s rights campaigner Jessie Kabwila asks ifAfrica’s women are on the rise.

It is easy to believe that women are on the rise in Africa, especially when one considers that Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is the president ofLiberiaand Joyce Banda that ofMalawi. From July 2012,South Africa’s Nkosazana Dhlamini-Zuma took over the leadership of the African Union. Indeed, the list of women occupying spaces of power is growing.

However, a few questions need to be asked before we can say women are on the rise or not.

Firstly, what is the main source of oppression for women ofAfricaand can they rise from it, by becoming president of a country?

What constitutes women being on the rise inAfrica? Who are the women ofAfrica? More specifically, are the women who are “rising” representative of women inAfrica?

Research clearly illustrates that the principle of male supremacy is the engine of the oppression of many African women.

For women to be on the rise, the ideology of seeing men as people who are superior to women has to be brought to an end.

In the context of such gender relations, one wonders if one woman’s joining of the nation state – especially given its sexist character – really makes a difference?

I would argue that unless one changes the male-privileging structure that has produced that woman, both in and outside the state, the one she has have risen through and become master at, her joining of the state is often a cooptation, a process that demands her to become a “man”.

In fact, her very survival in the position depends on her ability to perform this manhood and assure the status quo that she will continue to privilege men and manhood.

‘Laughable’

Another factor that is crucial to remember is that right now, only two out of 54 African countries are being led by women.

This pathetically imbalanced proportion is being read by some as women being on the rise.

This is laughable, particularly when one remembers that women constitute over half of the population in most countries inAfrica.

Imagine if after the independence struggles only two out of the 54 countries were being led by Africans – I do not think that would be read as Africans being on the rise.

For women to be on the rise, whatever the woman leader does must trickle down to the other women.

This means we have to change and transform the colonial structures imposed on the African social landscape such as the modern state, organized religion, global capitalism, reinvent male privileging institutions that oppress women at personal and communal levels such such as marriage.

When we say African women are on the rise, we need to be sure if we are talking about leadership or structure.

What needs to change is the structure to enable women to emerge from the base, instead of being appointed.

Transformation is needed but this can only occur with the transformation of the whole system.

Political power has a lot to do with the people who surround the leader, it comes from the structure. The women in power are often surrounded by men in a system that is constructed to serve men.

It is also sad that many times, women are appointed into positions stereotyped to be for women.

A good example is Joyce Banda’s choice for minister of gender.

In order to change the patriarchal gender ideologies and show that women are fit to be leaders, it would be good to appoint them into ministries such as defence.

This can help contest the political culture and tradition.

Elite women

The majority of African women are poor, living in the rural areas and illiterate.

The bulk of the women who are “rising” are not from this class.

Ms Zuma, Sirleaf and Banda are card-carrying members of the ruling elite, socially and politically.

One could ask how do we ensure women truly rise inAfrica?

This is where one needs well-researched, effectively implemented and monitored affirmative action programmes.

These need to be home-grown and owned.

BotswanaandRwandaare examples of African countries that are registering significant gains in women’s participation in political power.

Affirmative action is what addresses structural imbalances, not having one woman running government.

Women need to be in leadership positions in various board rooms, political parties and spaces of knowledge production such as the university, just to mention a few.

If we can get 50% of boards and parliaments to be “womaned” by women, then you have opened space bottom up, instead of just having one woman up there, in a structure that is hostile to women.

A female-friendly state

A female president can make a huge difference in her country and this can be in increasing women’s participation in democracy, making sure that the state is accessible to women.

She will make sure that their voices, especially that of the uneducated, the rural illiterate, are taken into consideration and not belittled by being assumed or spoken for.

A woman president can champion issues concerning women.

But the woman leader has to remember that the male supremacy principle is used to control resources and power and when threatened, it mutates and reinvents itself, reminding the woman leader that she will be punished by those peddling and benefiting from this male privileging, if she does not maintain and reproduce it.

So the woman president has to be an organic leader – one who takes gender justice as a principle.

She has to be someone whose political capital resides in having integrity, truth and justice, not populist loyalty.

Because of the globality and interconnectedness of indigenous, colonial and capitalist male privileging ideologies, an African woman president must be prepared not to be voted back into office but focus on standing for what is right.

Such a stand will most likely be costly politically and its fruits take time to be registered.

They are not short term, yet politics is built and thrives on short term results.

Such a leader knows that change is not an event, it is a process and the benefits of a woman-friendly stand will most likely be harvested in the long run and by other people.

This kind of a woman leader is committed to the greater good, the collective vision, not the next election or the ability of her post materially benefiting herself and those surrounding her.

Such a woman president would not use and depend on recycled politicians as they are clear products of a “boys club” that has survived on mastering and playing the political field, an entity that has historically been modeled on corrupt male forms of power

The woman president would handle issues of the economy in an astute, mature, meticulously informed manner because she knows that poverty informs issues that produce and propel women’s oppression such as gender-based violence, maternal death, HIV and Aids, and the impact of adverse climate change.

This woman would demonstrate that she is aware that many African women are in the informal sector and they live in situations rife with power relations skewed against them locally and globally at race, gender and class levels.

The way she handles issues such as devaluations would illustrate that she knows that such things are lethal to the poor, uneducated and those living with HIV and Aids, the majority of whom are women.

One could ask what a non-male dominated state would look like.

Firstly, the state would prioritise female participation in various institutions, bottom up, top down and horizontally, especially in issues that concern women.

Structures that produce political power would be reconfigured to invite and accommodate women in their large numbers, starting by deconstructing ways of running the state that favour male forms of power.

Such a state would adopt a feminist approach to development and fighting poverty, maternal death, HIV/Aids and climate change

In such a state, a woman would not be a second-class citizen and women’s empowerment and personhood would be an issue of priority.

Issues that oppress women would take centre stage in state-sponsored programmes.

Women’s labour would be recognised and rewarded, including what is done at home and in private and informal spaces.

It is good that the number of women in positions of authority in Africa is increasing but for this to constitute a rise in the definition and lives of women in Africa, the structure that produces what is called a person, man, woman and power has to change.

After that, you can begin to ask if the emergence of women like Joyce Banda means a rise for women ofAfrica.

*The author is a Malawian women’s rights campaigner. Source BBC

 

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Africa, Dismantling Bad Faith: Ben Okri And Biko
September 17, 2012 | 0 Comments

By Claudette Carr

I am more than certain that we have witnessed one of the most transfixing speeches delivered thus far, for the 13th Steve Biko Memorial Lecture, magically crafted by Nigerian author, and public intellectual, Ben Okri, some few days ago at the University of Cape Town . It’s worth mentioning again here – that along with Emperor Haile Selassies address to the United Nations in 1963 ( which, incidentally, was later translated into the powerful anti-racist anthem, ‘War’ by Bob Marley), and Martin Luther King’s, “I Have a Dream” Speech, addressing equality and discrimination, also in the same year; we are in danger of staring a gift horse in the face. Okri’s five-part talk, entitled “Biko and the Tough Alchemy of Africa”, embraced the spirit of Pan-Africanism, providing a stirring blueprint for Africa’s much talked about renaissance. I argue further on, that this malady of “Bad Faith,” ensconced in many of the philosphical  and provoking questions raised in Okri’s speech, are indeed endemic to current modes of political thinking and discourses on development in relation to Africa. Like Dr Martin Luther King, Okri ascends the mountain top, and descends with a speech so majestic, that includes an encyclopedic knowledge – and a Solomonic wisdom second to none: so wide, you can’t get around it, so deep you can’t get under it, and so high you can’t get over it. I am somewhat surprised he is still with us, having not been translated, or transfigured somewhere in the process of this oratory masterpiece. African leaders, intellectuals, activists, and development professionals, would do well to take heed, that we are indeed standing on the shoulders of Giants. Ben Okri, is truly what the African-American intellectual Cornel West has described as a “race transcending intellectual,” but organic enough an intellectual to recognize the potential of the “balm in gilead” remedy, Biko’s Black Consciousnes movement provides for healing the wound of the daughter of his people through out the Continent of Africa. Let me start with a quote about Steve Biko from Okri:

“You have no idea what you mean in the historic consciousness of the world. Sometimes it seems that awful things in history happen to compel us to achieve the impossible, to challenge our idea of humanity. Your struggle mirrored around the world, is one of the greatest struggles of our times. It poses and continues to pose the biggest questions facing humanity; massive philosophical questions that have never really been tackled by the great thinkers of the human race. These are some of the questions which your history posed: Are human beings really equal? Is justice fundamental to humanity or is justice a matter of law? Is there evil? Can different races really live together? Is love unreal in human affairs? Why is there so much suffering? Why do some people seem to suffer more than others? Can the will of a people overcome great injustice? Can a people transform their lives and their society through the power of a new vision? Does God exist and is God unfair?

~~Ben Okri~~

DISMANTLING BAD FAITH

The question so poignantly poses are key in grappling with this notion of “Bad Faith” in relation to the African condition. In ‘Fanon and the Crisis of European Man’, Lewis R.Gordon provides a good reference point, from which we can begin to think critically about dismantling the syndrome of “Bad Faith” that persists in development discourse concerning Africa. I use Bad faith here to describe the kinds of epistemic violence reinscribed in postcolonial discourses on Africa, which are dependent upon Western intellectuals speaking for the subaltern’s [the poor/marginalised] condition rather than allowing them to speak for themselves. I use Gayatri Spivaks formulation of epistemic violence here, where the subaltern is silenced by both the colonial and indigenous elites. Fanon, observed that one major stumbling block

pertaining to the African condition, was the national bourgeosie, who simply had as their plan – having fought for national independence struggles in Africa – to move into the masters mansion. It is not particularly surprising then, as the Ghanian economist George Ayittey has noted why we have so many corrupt “hippo” leaders turning several African countries into corrupt banana republics? I would apply this thesis to the black bourgeosie today. Africa needs more than a “Cheetah” generation who merely constitute a bunch of Professional careerists, or technical rationalists whose desire for their nation are difficult to disentangle from that of their colonial masters. Where is the platform for Africa’s new intellectual leaders? What do we really mean by “Empowering African Women? Where are the African women intellectual leaders?

“Institutional bad faith discourages human recognition. It is an effort to construct collectives and norms, “inert” practices, that militate against sociality, against human being. Although its goal is the elimination of the human in human being, its route of legitimation may be humanity-in-itself. Institutional bad faith some times takes the form, then, of an attack on humanity in the name of humanity. Segregation in the name of order, which in turn is in the name of peace, which in turn is in the name of the public good, which in turn is in the name of protecting the innocent, and so on. The appeal is familiar. there is a discouragement of choice through the presentation of ossified values.” (Gordon, 1995:22)

Some key concepts in developmentalist discourse aimed at “empowering” and “giving voice” to the poor, as if the poor had no voice in the first place to tell their own stories are tools used to perpetuate bad faith. It is only when we begin unpacking some of these concepts and the ‘spirit’ behind them, that we begin to see how they have become what I refer to as “broken cisterns that hold no water” – acts of false generosity in the face of continued suffering and poverty within the African context. What are the contours of this bad faith that keep Africa in this sate of poverty in perpetuity?

“All across the continent and everywhere where human love responds to the suffering of others, these questions were nagging kind of music. All across Africa these questions troubled us – and among the voices that articulated a profoundly bold and clear response to these big questions of fate, injustice and destiny, one big voice pierced our minds was that of Steve Biko. One of my points of affinity with Biko is with his rigour and his high-standards of expectation of the human and the African spirit. He asks fundamental questions like: Who are you? What are you? Are you what others say you are? What is your selfhood? What makes you a man or a woman? He asks questions which will be relevant in hundreds of years time, questions which are an inevitable part of a free society. We need to reincarnate Biko’s rigour, his high-standards and his forensic questioning of society and of all of his assumptions. We need to keep alive Biko’s fierce and compassionate truthfulness. In fact, we need Biko’s spirit now more than ever. If he were here today he might well ask such questions: Is the society just? Are we being truthful about one another? Has there been a real change of attitudes and assumptions on both sides of the racial divide? He might have expressed concerns about the police reaction to the striking miners of Marikana. He would have said that it does not need to be said that the murders and the use of apartheid law to try the miners are shocking to the international community and that it has disturbing resonances with his own death. He might well ask: Has there been reconciliation without proper consideration? He might ask whether the things that he fought against have merely mutated like certain cancerous cells. It is a strange kind of fate for Biko to have suffered for in being so unjustly cut down so early, he remains for us perpetually poised in the stance of his difficult questions.”

MESSAGE TO A LIBERAL WHITE DEVELOPMENT ECONOMIST

This message was written in response to a liberal white economist, who in the course of several online exchanges, had dismissed African intellectuals such as Steve Biko – and on this occasion, Chinua Axhebe as being irrelevant to Africa’s Development.

“The most potent weapon of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed.”- Steven Biko

“Paradoxically, a saint like [Albert] Schweitzer can give one a lot more trouble than King Leopold II, villain of unmitigated guilt, because along with doing good and saving African lives Schweitzer also managed to announce that the African was indeed his brother, but only his junior brother.”― Chinua Achebe

Dear Liberal [white Economist]The above is a quote – Chinua Achebe is making this point.I post many critical quotes about the Black African existential and human condition in relation to development – you choose to misconstrue/discredit them in the way you do, which is a testament to how effective they obviously are . I will not be silenced or derailed by your defensive comments each time I post a quote or a piece that stirs your soul.You may have gathered by now, that I am beyond obsfucatory platitudes; my modus operandi for getting beyond the good intentions that beset much of development practice, is CHANGE [NB. not the ‘Like’ button’]. You need to get beyond making personal attacks because you disagree with a comment I have posted on my wall. Let me be clear, as Machiavelli very poignantly notes, “I am not interested in preserving the status quo, I want to overthrow it.”I think that is what paradigm shift might actually mean.The art of good development practice is for development professionals – soon and very soon, to make themselves redundant.As an Economist you should empathise or know, that this, at the very least, is what will go some way towards constituting genuine human growth. We pay homage to those who have gone before us in the quest for transformative justice: Chinua Achebe, Steve, Biko, Nelson Mandela, Sojourner Truth, Frantz Fanon, Patrice Lamumba, Samora Machel, Julius Nyerere, Kwame Nkrumah, Harriet Tubman, Walter Sisulu, Walter Rodney, Oliver Tambo, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, May Angelou, Angela Davies….Shall I go on speaking more uncomfortable truths? We would still have Jim Crow, and women would still be chained to kitchen sinks….and blacks still infantilised, subject to the brutal and ignoble regime of Apartheid in South Africa, had Biko not courageously announced: “I Write What I like!” I make the posts, I do to ensure that Africa for this new generation of “do-gooders” as you put it, do not decontextualise, dehistoricize or dehumanize the f1act that they are standing on the shoulders of GIANTS, of which Chinua Achebe and Steve Biko are such. (Signed, FrankTalk)

 

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Building Rwanda
September 15, 2012 | 1 Comments

By Paul Kagame*

Today, 56 percent of the Parliament of Rwanda is made up of women. Some believe this is a consequence of the women left in the population after many men were killed in the genocide. Others attribute it to a cultural view unique to Rwanda. Still others believe it is due to a conscious leadership commitment you have made. What is responsible for this progressive state of gender equality?

Things begin in one’s consciousness and then progress over time to policies. I grew up in the refugee camps of Uganda in the late fifties and early sixties when families survived with nothing but our wits. My mother, and all of the women of the camps, learned to do things they did not know how to do. They guarded our traditions and values. They told us the stories of our country when we were too young to remember it. They never complained.

During the struggle to return to our country and to stop the genocide, women took very responsible positions in collecting information, fundraising, and even fighting. By then, it was not a policy of gender equality; it was born of commitment and pragmatism. The women wanted to contribute, and it was their right. They were good at it; sometimes they were better than men. One of the songs we used to sing, which we sing even to this day in our national celebrations, says, “Thank you to all the women who (as mothers) carried warriors on their backs.” Sometimes the warriors were women.

Today Rwanda is known for what others call our progressive gender policies. And we do consciously reflect on the right thing to do. Our ministers of foreign affairs, health, and agriculture, the speaker of parliament, our former chief of justice, our first post-genocide mayor of Kigali, the founder of our airline—they are all women. But we don’t do these things because the world appreciates our gender equality policies. We do them because we could hardly fight for our freedom, and have women fight just as hard, and then deny them the rights to govern. We do it because we are working for development and prosperity, and leaving half our population out of this task just doesn’t make sense.

You have been called “the entrepreneur president” because of your business-oriented solutions to poverty. Rising within the military, from serving in the National Resistance Army and Ugandan military to receiving training at Fort Leavenworth, how did you find this entrepreneurial direction?

The essence of both military and business culture is strategy—understanding advantage and taking action. So, we are not that far apart sometimes. We saw early on that competition in the private sector fosters innovation. We seek to build an environment where every child wants to go out into the world and compete, learn, and represent Rwanda. As a consequence, we have grown at an 8 percent average during the last ten years. I am told that puts us in the top ten in the world, with the likes of China and Singapore. Of course we are not them. They have different challenges and opportunities. Our challenges are to invest in our children, to build great products, to find new distribution systems, and to build our national brands. Africa is quickly becoming a place where young people see their future in the private sector, not in government jobs. And that is right.

Increasingly, more of the world’s economic growth and trade is happening between poorer nations, such as Brazil, Russia, China, and countries in Africa. Because of their heightened statuses as places of growth, should African nations be given more representation in intergovernmental organizations like the World Trade Organization and the United Nations?

Yes, of course. We are going to see it. The G8 is giving way to the G20. More trade, foreign investment, and exports are coming from the BRICS and the so-called “pivot” nations like Turkey and Ukraine than the West. And the traditional powers should not mistake the impact of China and Brazil on this dynamic. They have changed the global commodities dynamic. They will also change the global governance systems. I am not one of those who say, “The West had their chance,” but I think that we have more choices in Africa with whom to trade, with whom to partner. This is a good thing for everyone.

In the years following the genocide, Rwandan troops have been held responsible for massacres in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The Rwandan government has repeatedly resisted these accusations, dismissing them as offensive. Who do you believe is responsible for the violence in the Congo?

You know, the violent history of Congo began long before I was born. It is a matter of public record that the royalty of Europe and the colonial powers decimated the people and stole their vast underground wealth for a century.

For our part, we chased those who caused the genocide into the Congo. We did this to ensure the security of our country and to bring back the millions of ordinary Rwandan men, women, and children whom the génocidaires had coerced into running across the border, where they were held hostage in disease-ridden refugee camps. Few of the Harvard International Review’s well-informed readers will know this, but we succeeded in bringing back over three million of our people. These are the same Rwandans who are now working hard to rebuild their communities and forge a new Rwanda. Since 2003, we have invited those who want to come home, even perpetrators of the genocide, to return and be a part of rebuilding our nation.

A few thousand armed ex-génocidaires remain in the DRC, causing suffering to the local population. However, we are working closely with the government of DRC to ensure that this threat is removed completely. We have also noticed a fresh spirit of cooperation from the international community to focus on the root cause of conflict in the DRC, and I am confident that soon we will have long-lasting stability in our region. This will allow us to focus on economic development, which is what our people want.

You have distinguished between different types of foreign aid. In particular, you have championed Chinese investments that you say have harbored sustainable independence in Africa instead of Western distributions that led to dependency. From what you have seen, how does a country’s own interest play a role in the effectiveness and type of foreign aid it provides?

No nation, even the ones who supported the genocide, owes us a favor. I have said many times to our people, “Why should the taxpayers of another nation put food in our mouths and for how long?” Look, we appreciate the help we receive, but our goal is less aid over time. Permanent aid can make a person become useless. We have cut in half the portion of aid in our national budget over the last ten years. We have developed more productive partnerships with donors, particularly by encouraging them to channel support through our national systems, to allow for better coordination, effectiveness, and accountability. This way of working has produced tangible results: one million Rwandans have lifted themselves out of poverty in the last five years.

This experience has taught us that when foreign aid comes in to support clearly articulated national priorities, as opposed to externally imposed plans, both the recipients and the donors benefit. This goes for all aid, no matter where it comes from.

The Chinese certainly have a different view than the West. They are what they are. They have clear objectives; they do not export their values together with assistance. They make decisions faster. They offer a new choice for African nations. But we are under no illusions. Some in the West think we are being fooled and they claim they are there to look after us, to warn us about the Chinese. I think they are more concerned with themselves.

Ultimately, it is up to African countries to decide what we want from our development partners and to work to get the most out of this collaboration for the benefit of our citizens who need and deserve better than what they have had in the past.

Today, 56 percent of the Parliament of Rwanda is made up of women. Some believe this is a consequence of the women left in the population after many men were killed in the genocide. Others attribute it to a cultural view unique to Rwanda. Still others believe it is due to a conscious leadership commitment you have made. What is responsible for this progressive state of gender equality?

Things begin in one’s consciousness and then progress over time to policies. I grew up in the refugee camps of Uganda in the late fifties and early sixties when families survived with nothing but our wits. My mother, and all of the women of the camps, learned to do things they did not know how to do. They guarded our traditions and values. They told us the stories of our country when we were too young to remember it. They never complained.

During the struggle to return to our country and to stop the genocide, women took very responsible positions in collecting information, fundraising, and even fighting. By then, it was not a policy of gender equality; it was born of commitment and pragmatism. The women wanted to contribute, and it was their right. They were good at it; sometimes they were better than men. One of the songs we used to sing, which we sing even to this day in our national celebrations, says, “Thank you to all the women who (as mothers) carried warriors on their backs.” Sometimes the warriors were women.

Today Rwanda is known for what others call our progressive gender policies. And we do consciously reflect on the right thing to do. Our ministers of foreign affairs, health, and agriculture, the speaker of parliament, our former chief of justice, our first post-genocide mayor of Kigali, the founder of our airline—they are all women. But we don’t do these things because the world appreciates our gender equality policies. We do them because we could hardly fight for our freedom, and have women fight just as hard, and then deny them the rights to govern. We do it because we are working for development and prosperity, and leaving half our population out of this task just doesn’t make sense.

You have been called “the entrepreneur president” because of your business-oriented solutions to poverty. Rising within the military, from serving in the National Resistance Army and Ugandan military to receiving training at Fort Leavenworth, how did you find this entrepreneurial direction?

The essence of both military and business culture is strategy—understanding advantage and taking action. So, we are not that far apart sometimes. We saw early on that competition in the private sector fosters innovation. We seek to build an environment where every child wants to go out into the world and compete, learn, and represent Rwanda. As a consequence, we have grown at an 8 percent average during the last ten years. I am told that puts us in the top ten in the world, with the likes of China and Singapore. Of course we are not them. They have different challenges and opportunities. Our challenges are to invest in our children, to build great products, to find new distribution systems, and to build our national brands. Africa is quickly becoming a place where young people see their future in the private sector, not in government jobs. And that is right.

Increasingly, more of the world’s economic growth and trade is happening between poorer nations, such as Brazil, Russia, China, and countries in Africa. Because of their heightened statuses as places of growth, should African nations be given more representation in intergovernmental organizations like the World Trade Organization and the United Nations?

Yes, of course. We are going to see it. The G8 is giving way to the G20. More trade, foreign investment, and exports are coming from the BRICS and the so-called “pivot” nations like Turkey and Ukraine than the West. And the traditional powers should not mistake the impact of China and Brazil on this dynamic. They have changed the global commodities dynamic. They will also change the global governance systems. I am not one of those who say, “The West had their chance,” but I think that we have more choices in Africa with whom to trade, with whom to partner. This is a good thing for everyone.

In the years following the genocide, Rwandan troops have been held responsible for massacres in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The Rwandan government has repeatedly resisted these accusations, dismissing them as offensive. Who do you believe is responsible for the violence in the Congo?

You know, the violent history of Congo began long before I was born. It is a matter of public record that the royalty of Europe and the colonial powers decimated the people and stole their vast underground wealth for a century.

For our part, we chased those who caused the genocide into the Congo. We did this to ensure the security of our country and to bring back the millions of ordinary Rwandan men, women, and children whom the génocidaires had coerced into running across the border, where they were held hostage in disease-ridden refugee camps. Few of the Harvard International Review’s well-informed readers will know this, but we succeeded in bringing back over three million of our people. These are the same Rwandans who are now working hard to rebuild their communities and forge a new Rwanda. Since 2003, we have invited those who want to come home, even perpetrators of the genocide, to return and be a part of rebuilding our nation.

A few thousand armed ex-génocidaires remain in the DRC, causing suffering to the local population. However, we are working closely with the government of DRC to ensure that this threat is removed completely. We have also noticed a fresh spirit of cooperation from the international community to focus on the root cause of conflict in the DRC, and I am confident that soon we will have long-lasting stability in our region. This will allow us to focus on economic development, which is what our people want.

*Source http://hir.harvard.edu .Paul Kagame is the president of the Republic of Rwanda. President Kagame is a recipient of the Most Innovative People Award for Economic Innovation by the Global Leadership Team (2009), and has received recognition for his leadership in a number of regional and global issues including peace building, human rights, and development.

 

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African women won’t wield political influence without cultural change
September 8, 2012 | 0 Comments

By Sarah Jackson *

Women elected to African parliaments courtesy of candidate quotas are too often marginalised by a lack of respect once there

The elections taking place across Africa this year present an opportunity for a rising tide of women to take political office. An enouraging precedent was set a few weeks ago, when the proportion of women in Senegal’s parliament swelled from 22% to 43%. But without action to tackle the barriers that keep women out of power, the great wave of equality may amount to no more than a trickle.

Those barriers are many and varied: economic dependency; limited access to education and information; discriminatory cultural and social attitudes, and negative stereotypes; the burden of domestic responsibility; and intimidation, harassment and violence.

Any step change in women’s political representation in the past decade has usually been down to the use of candidate quotas. This made the difference in Senegal, and it has made a difference elsewhere. In 1995, just seven parliaments had reached the “critical mass” of 30% female representation, but in 2010 that figure stood at 44. Tellingly, 20 of the 26 most equal parliaments used electoral quotas or reserved seats. In 2009, almost 50 countries held elections; in those that implemented quotas, women took 27% of the seats on average, compared to 14% in countries that didn’t.

Quotas are an effective way of levelling the playing field. Compensatory rather than discriminatory, they help women overcome structural inequality. It’s also about reaching a tipping point where women’s voices are loud enough to influence decisions and set the agenda, something virtually impossible for a token woman in a male-dominated political system.

“Little drops of water make an ocean,” says Hannah Koroma, national co-ordinator of Woman Against Violence and Exploitation in Society (Waves) in Sierra Leone. Koroma emphasises the practical benefits of critical mass: “Women have been terrified by senior male authorities in some constituencies in past elections, and in the end those women have had to step down for fear of their lives. This new system, if actualised, will ensure women’s security and safety to exercise their franchise.”

Waves and other women’s organisations across Sierra Leone are campaigning to get the government to approve a law that would reserve 30% of seats for women candidates. They feel this is the only way to address the fact that only 13.2% of the seats in the national parliament are held by women. But as Koroma explains, there’s a risk that the gender equality bill won’t be passed in time for November’s elections. In addition, the National Election Commission of Sierra Leone has proposed raising candidate fees from 250,000 leones (approximately £36) in 2007 to 25m leones (about £3,687). The Human Rights Commission has condemned the move, as widespread poverty means many men and women will be excluded from office if these changes go ahead. But women will be hit hardest, since they are less likely to have access to financial resources.

Lowering nomination fees can have an enormous impact on female representation at local and national level. Thanks to advocacy by, among others, Womankind Worldwide‘s partner, Women in Law and Development in Africa (Wildaf), Ghana’s five main political parties have this year reduced nomination fees for women by 50%; the number of women standing in political party elections and primaries has already increased.

Female parliamentarians add vital perspectives to the democratic process, and can stimulate a step change for the advancement of women’s rights, bringing attention to issues affecting women in their constituencies and proving that women are more than qualified to act as decisionmakers.

In some west African cultures and traditions, women have exercised power and even become chiefs. But often their influence has been symbolic and restricted to the upholding of tradition. Traditional female leaders have often not had the same access to education as their male counterparts, making the transition to formal politics more difficult.

And female chiefs are by no means widely accepted. In 2009, Elizabeth Torto stood in a chieftancy election in the Kono district of Sierra Leone. The intimidation and harassment she received from the powerful all-male “poro” society in her village eventually meant she had to be flown to safety in a UN helicopter, which was pelted with stones.

As the backlash against female MPs in Senegal shows, it’s not plain sailing once women have reached parliament. Women in public positions are frequently sidelined and undermined by their own parties and colleagues, subject to misogynist attacks in the press, verbal harassment, and even physical violence.

It’s not enough to push a wave of women into politics, they must be supported by cultural change, and women’s organisations are using innovative approaches to make this happen. As an example, Wildaf in Ghana has found that educating the whole community about representation and accountability has improved openness to what female candidates have to say.

Quotas are just the start. As Koroma says: “A journey begins with a footstep – give women in Sierra Leone a chance to start this journey.”

*Source: http://www.guardian.co.uk/

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“Sierra Leone is recovering from lingering effects of the war and needs help”
September 8, 2012 | 0 Comments

-Carol Sallymatu Bangura

By Ajong Mbapndah L

Despite the lingering effects of war, there are strong signs the country is on the path to recovery and needs help. This is the assessment of Carol Sallymatu Bangura who not only made the appeal but matched words with actions by making a donation of learning material to several schools and Institutions in the country. Working through the African Center for Education and Sustainability, Inc, (ACES) Ms Bangura says the books she donates are screened for context and condition to ensure proper standards. The initiative is warmly embraced by the people she meets across the country says Bangura who  has  been donating books to Sierra Leone since 2008.. Although she refrained for discussing anything political, Ms Bangura says her focus is solely on education and was willing to answer questions about her recent trip to Sierra Leone and the work of ACES.

PAV: You were recently in Sierra Leone with a donation of books to various institutions, may what inspired this action on your part?

Sallymatu Bangura:I was born in Sierra Leone and wanted to give back to the children there in addition to aiding in the country’s development.

PAV: What criteria did you use in selecting the Institutions that benefitted from your donation?

Sallymatu Bangura: There isn’t a criteria per se as all the schools are in need of learning materials for the children. While I have given books to schools and children outside of Freetown, my focus has been in the Western area of Sierra Leone and I am now expanding to the other 13 constituencies in the country.

PAV: There have often been complains about the obsolete nature of some the books donated to the continent, how relevant or contemporary are the books that you took to Sierra Leone?

Sallymatu Bangura: All the books that I donate are age appropriate and are new or gently used. The books are screened for context and condition. I do not give a child a book that I wouldn’t give to my child.

PAV: Could you also tell us more about the African Center for Education that you lead?

Sallymatu Bangura: The African Center for Education and Sustainability provides education and social programs for African and Caribbean immigrant children. It has expanded to include children from Iraq, Vietnam, and Puerto Rico just to name a few. I still recall how difficult it was for me to acclimate into the American school system.  The curriculum was different and I was teased profoundly because of my accent and dark skin. I founded the Center to assist children in bridging the education gap, improve academic achievement, and social development in children coming from countries with low literacy levels.

PAV: We understand that the Center will be initiating a new project at Goderich in Freetown called “Learning through Play” may we know more about the initiative and when it goes operational?

Sallymatu Bangura: The project was launched July, 2012 through a series of summer school workshops. Its aim is to incorporate play into learning by providing children with academic games. We will continue to offer Learning through Play during the summer months to minimize the brain drain that often occurs during summer breaks.

PAV: What is it you found out about Sierra Leone that the rest of the world should know considering that the country was for long engulfed in a civil war?

Sallymatu Bangura: Sierra Leone is recovering from lingering effect of the war.  It is developing on a continuous basis and anyone that can help, should.

PAV: Did you have the opportunity to interact with political authorities and what was their reaction to the donation from your organization?

Sallymatu Bangura: Everyone that I encountered embraced my work in a positive manner. I have been donating books to Sierra Leone since 2008 so I didn’t just “arrive” on the scene. The social media movement has allowed me to share my work with others on a wider scale.

PAV: Sierra Leone has elections billed for November, how was the political atmosphere and from what you observed were there pointers towards a hitch free elections?

Sallymatu Bangura: I refrain from commenting on anything political. My focus is strictly on providing learning materials for the children of Sierra Leone.

PAV: So what other activities does your Organization has in mind for the rest of the year?

Sallymatu Bangura: I am expanding my program areas and am focusing on more advocacy in terms of programs for African and Caribbean children equal to their Hispanic and Asian counterparts. It’s an exciting time for ACES and I am grateful for the opportunity to answer my calling.

 

 

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South Sudan’s Atong Demach is Miss World Africa!
August 22, 2012 | 0 Comments

The finals of this year’s Miss World beauty pageant have been held in the northeastern Chinese mining city of Ordos, Inner Mongolia, located on the edge of the Gobi desert.

True to pre-event predictions, China’s Wenxia YU, was crowned Miss World 2012 at a thrilling ceremony held on the weekend of Saturday August 18. She takes over from Miss World 2011 Ivian Sarcos of Venezuela.

The post-event debate about whether China truly deserved the crown is to be expected, as it follows the tradition of a global showpiece that has gone through some phases since its inception, but remains the world’s most patronized beauty pageant.

This year marked the 62nd edition, and saw some 116 countries taking part, including the newly independent African nation South Sudan.

Represented at the world stage this year by the ever gorgeous and stunning Atong Demach, South Sudan managed to create history by winning the coveted Miss World Africa prize, also known as the “African Continental Queen of Beauty”, on their first ever shot at the world title.

Demach, who turned 24 this year (16th June, 1988), also won the “Miss World Top Model” prize, a feat that contributed to her gradual progression into the list of top finalists.

At the Dongsheng Fitness Center Stadium venue, Atong mesmerized the wide array of global audience seated, as well as million others who watched through a syndicated worldwide broadcast, with her class-act stage craft, alluring and striking poses, and stunning looks.

After making it into the list of Top 15 countries, which also included contestants from Kenya, Indonesia, Netherlands, USA, Philippines, Spain, Brazil, England, Wales, China, Jamaica, Australia, Mexico, and India, Demach subsequently made it into the Top 7.

The Top 7 also included contestants from Jamaica, India, Australia, Brazil, China PR and Wales. Demach cruised into the finals of what was a night of pure fun for her, with cheeky ease, placing a respectable fourth position, and bringing the world’s attention to the country she represents.

Africa continues to make giant strides at the global event, held every year since its first edition. The continent has and continues to make a strong case at that stage.

South Sudan joins a tall list of other African countries, who have won the Miss World Africa prize. South Africa is the country with the most Miss World Africa titles, winning 11 in all, the most recent being last year when Bokang Montjane who was also in the top 7, won it. Emma Wareus of Botswana won Miss World Africa in 2010.

Other prizes that were up for grabs at the August 18 finals included Designer Award, Beach Fashion, Sports and Fitness, Performing Talent, Multimedia Award and Beauty with a Purpose Award, which Ghana’s Stephanie Karkari jointly won last year.

Demach is a final year student of the Juba University, located in Juba, the capital and largest city of the Republic of South Sudan and which also serves as the capital of Central Equatoria, the smallest of the ten states of South Sudan.

Her future ambition she says is “to be involved in helping all needy children while I also hope to help work towards protecting our precious environment”.

The unassuming but intelligent young lady from Bor, a town located on the River Nile, says she is … “honoured to represent my country for the first time at Miss World and proud to stand for Beauty with a Purpose. All of us, who will compete, stand for the values of humanity, the beauty and strength of women in our world”.

With a little over 8 million people, South Sudan is poised on defining herself away from the Sudan of old, which for a very long time, was stained and bedeviled with attrocities of war crimes against innocent civilians, looting, greed and insensitive corruption.

Blessed with enough natural resources, it is expected that Africa’s new nation will rise and shine. Demach’s winning of the Miss World Africa prize, is just one of several successes the country looks forward to achieving in the coming years.

In its 62nd year, the Miss World beauty pageant was founded by Eric Morley in 1951 as part of the Festival of Britain celebrations. Some 26, young, beautiful ladies took part in the maiden edition.

The event is now being run by Julia Morley, wife of the deceased founder, who died in 2000. The Miss World franchise is available to some 130 countries.

In 2001, Nigeria won the overall Miss World prize, an accomplishment that also saw the African country host the world event the following year, in Abuja.

Considered the world’s most successful beauty pageant, the Miss World event continues to offer hope to young, beautiful and brilliant ladies, who are keen on impacting lives and changing society.

“The first Miss World, Sweden’s Kiki Haakonson, was the first and last winner to be actually crowned in a two-piece swimsuit. During the first decade of the pageant’s success, the outfits of contestants continued to raise eyebrows and grab headlines,” the Miss World organization has said.

“The first Miss World contest of the decade, hosted by the legendary Bob Hope, was marred by feminist protesters”.

“By 1979 the show was topping 500 million viewers world-wide”.

“Miss World reached its half-century in the year 2000 and the contest returned to London, to the Millennium Dome, for the 50th anniversary show.

“A massive television audience of 2.3 billion witnessed India retain the Miss World crown and in the UK alone, more than 8 million people tuned in during the two-hour broadcast on Channel 5”.

The maiden edition in 1951, “welcomed a global audience greater than international events like the World Cup and the Olympic Games”.

 “At its peak, the show claimed an audience of 27.5 million in Britain alone, a figure comparable to that of a royal wedding.

“Fifty years on from the first pageant, Miss World still pulls in the crowds and can boast an annual audience of over a billion”.

*Source african.howzit.msn.com

 

 

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Africa’s Top 20 Young and Powerful Women
August 11, 2012 | 0 Comments

By Obed Boafo*

Women empowerment is an over flogged subject across Africa. It has travelled quiet a journey from the days when the continent’s female gender could barely compete with their male counterparts in any endeavour of life to a point where most women now call the shots, and are able to see their dreams come to life.

Various talk shops including the very famous Beijing Conference really defined the borderlines, and shaped what would later go on to become a reminder to most women that they matter.

Today, across Africa’s 50-something state, there is that general feeling of contentment amongst women that, dreams do come true. So sharp and piercing is the chord that it has defeated theories and projections of hard-lined chauvinists who seek to suppress women and pin them down to play second fiddle.

These days, it is hard to find an African woman who is not making it in one field or the other. The ratio of success is so high that ten out of eleven women are either heading a big corporation or running their own affairs.

Most important is the fact that the successes being chalked are products of young, lively and witty women, who went from nothing to something. And a finer aspect of their successes is that, they wield considerable influence that impacts society positively.

All under the age of 45, we take a look at 20 of Africa’s young and powerful women named by Forbes as shaping the fortunes of the continent in one way or the other.

Yolanda Cuba – South Africa

Arguably one of South Africa’s most respected and highly-revered business heads, Yolanda Cuba perfectly fits the description of a global corporate leader. From very humble beginnings she was able to make a name for herself at a time when most of her compatriots hadn’t thought of what to do with their lives.

An alumnus of the Universities of Cape Town and Kwazulu Natal, Yolanda became one of the youngest Chief Executives in South Africa when she headed the Mvelaphanda Group, a JSE-listed company in her late twenties. Still bubbling with energy, Yolanda continues to be a shining example to Africa’s youth.

Yolanda, who is a member of the Investment and Endowment Committee of the Nelson Mandela Foundation, has and continue to serve on a lot of South African companies including SAB Limited, Reunert Limited, Steinhoff International Holdings, Absa Group Limited and Health Strategic Investment Limited.

Funmi Iyanda – Nigeria

Funmi Iyanda

Funmi Iyanda

Born Olufunmilola Aduke Iyanda, she is an Africa Leadership Institute Fellow and also a fellow of the ASPEN Institute’s African Leadership Initiative. Funmi is one of Nigeria’s most popular journalists. She is the CEO of Ignite Media, a content driven media organization.

The 41 year-old has won almost everything journalism in Nigeria and continues to bag in more. She is Hostess of the ever popular Talk with Funmi, a syndicated magazine programme of everyday life in Nigeria, and which engages artists, writers, celebrities and politicians among other members of the Nigerian social basket. She is seen as a powerful force in Nigeria, and wields a considerable amount of influence amongst opinion leaders and decision makers.

Her love for television started when she produced and presented “Good Morning Nigeria”.

With years of practice as a broadcaster, columnist and blogger, Funmi always bring her sense of purpose and direction to bear in her field of endeavour, and this has propelled her to heights other young Nigerians admire.

Elsie S. Kanza – Tanzania

Recently named by the World Economic Forum (WEF) as a Young Global Leader, Kanza continues to shine in every sphere of life. Currently, she is Director, Head of Africa at the WEF.

Elsie S KanzaBefore joining the WEF, she was with the Tanzania government as an assistant and economic advisor. She also worked with the Central Bank of Tanzania.

Kanza worked with the Ministry of Finance from 2002 to 2006, where she served as Personal assistant to the Permanent Secretary.

She is credited for being instrumental in the successful preparation of Tanzania’s proposal for the Millennium Challenge Account, as well as in the development of government credit guarantee schemes.

She holds a BSC in international business administration from the U.S International University, a Master of Arts in Development Economics from the Center for Development Economics, Williams College, U.S.A. she also hold a University of Strathclyde MSC Finance certificate.

Kanza is a fellow of Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s Leadership Fellow and a member, Honorary Committee, 1x1Microcredit.org.

Magette Wade – Senegal

Wade was born in Senegal, spent her early years of education in Germany and France but later found herself on the streets of San Francisco in the United States of America, where the idea to start Adina World Beverages came up. Wade is a proud TED Fellow. In 2011, Forbes listed her as one of Africa’s most powerful young women.

Ignited by the success stories of some Silicon Valley start-ups, which led to the birth of Adina, Wade has seen her dreams come true. Today, Adina World Beverages’ products are sought after across the world.

She speaks the traditional Wollof language of Senegal as well as English and French.

Projections put her company’s value at USD 3.2 million dollars. She is said to be starting a new company, Tiossano, which would be “a contemporary lifestyle products brand that integrates the experiences of all three cultures,” she picked up during her stay in, Dakar, Paris, and San Francisco.

Ory Okolloh – Kenya

Always fighting for the general good of the Kenyan people, Okolloh makes open-government activism in the East African country an interesting case study for the generation yet to come.

She is a lawyer, blogger and writer of repute.

Okolloh co-founded the parliamentary watchdog site Mzalendo (Swahili: ‘Patriot’), in 2006, to increase government accountability by systematically recording bills, speeches, MPs, standing orders. Around the same time in 2006, she was recognized as one of the most influential women in technology, globally.

A graduate of the Havard Law School, Okolloh, is also the founder of Ushahidi, an open source platform for crowd sourcing crisis. She works as a consultant for NGOs and operates her personal blog KenyanPundit.

Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu – Ethiopia

Famed worldwide for her dust to glory shoemaking story, Ethiopia’s Alemu was last year named a global leader by the World Economic Forum.

In what started as child’s play in the poor community of Zenabwork, in the outskirts of Addis Ababa where she was born, Alemu has become a giant in the shoemaking business.

Her SoleRebels brand, which would soon become the first fair trade green footwear firm fully licensed by the World Fair Trade Organization (WFTO), is one of Ethiopia’s most successful business entities.

Currently, Alemu’s shoes sell in some 55 countries, mostly through retailers, who are helping her to shape what has become a dream well, lived.

The 32 year-old employs some 75 full time employees and also engages the services of over 200 local suppliers. This year Forbes listed her as one of Africa’s Most Successful Women.

She is also a recipient of the 2012 Social Entrepreneur of the Year Award from the World Economic Forum on Africa.

Dambisa Moyo – Zambia

Respected for her strong stance on “Foreign Aid” to Africa, Moyo is one of the continent’s most heard voices on the very controversial and touchy subject.

She’s been named by Time Magazine as one of the “100 Most Influential People in the World”. Moyo’s work regularly appears in publications such as the Financial Times and the Wall Street Journal.

She holds a doctorate in Economics from the Oxford University and a Masters degree from Harvard University. Moyo, who also sits on the boards of some well known global brands, has also completed an undergraduate degree in Chemistry and an MBA in Finance at the American University in Washington D.C.

Saran Kaba Jones – Liberia

Jones is founder of FACE Africa, a non-for-profit organization that provides access to clean, safe and portable drinking water for rural communities in Liberia, using an inventive social enterprise model to fund water projects.

Thousands of Liberians continue to benefit from this project.

Jones’s story is an uplifting one most young Liberians connect to. After fleeing Liberia just before what would later on become a 14-year civil war, she returned in 2008 to make life pretty comfortable for some of the faces she left behind for the United States.

Her first project was in Barnersville, located in a community of about 600 people in Liberia. Working with local organizations, FACE Africa helped to install handpumps and built wells. They also constructed latrines. Currently, the Barnersville project supplies some 20,000 liters of clean drinking water each day to hundreds of homes in the West African country.

Today, she is an inspiration to the Liberian people.

Juliet Ehimuan – Nigeria

Last year, in a much talked-about talked about corporate announcement, global online giant Google named her as Country Manager.

Heading what is widely known as the company’s largest internet community in Africa; Ehimuan represents Google at that level and also handles its business development projects and partnership opportunities.

Her experience in technology spans global markets, mainly in Europe, Middle East, (EMEA) Africa and United States.

She started her career at Shell Petroleum Development Company as Performance Monitoring and Quality Assurance Supervisor, and worked as Program Manager at Microsoft UK for six years, managing Strategic Projects for MSN EMEA.

She later became Business Process Manager for the MSN Global Sales and Marketing Organization.

She left Microsoft in 2005 to start SI Consulting Ltd UK, providing collaborative programs that connect African Business leaders with their global counterparts.

Prior to joining Google, Ehimuan worked as General Manager, Strategic Business Units at Chams Plc.

Ehimuan holds an Executive MBA from the London Business School, and a Bachelors degree in Computer Engineering from the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, and a Post Graduate degree in Computer Science from the University of Cambridge, UK. She is a recipient of the London Business School Global Women’s Scholarship, as well as two scholarly awards – Selwyn College Scholar and Malaysian commonwealth Scholar – Cambridge University. She is a Fellow of the Cambridge Commonwealth Society.

Khanyi Ndhlomo – South Africa

Call her the darling of South African media; Ndhlomo has made a name for herself.

Owner of Ndalo Media, publishers of the very popular Destiny Magazine and Destiny Man, she is what you would ask for in a successful young woman.

Prior to starting Ndalo, she worked as Editor for True Love Magazine for eight years. In 2003, she was named the Most Influential Woman in South African media by the Media Magazine.

Her success also dates back to age 20, when she made history as the first black newscaster for SABC.

Julie Gichuru – Kenya

Largely seen as the face of Kenyan television, Gichuru has almost built a following that is almost becoming religious.

She doubles as an anchor and executive of Citizen TV, one of Kenya’s most popular media establishments.

She is a fellow and trustee member of the African Leadership Initiative, which is part of the Young Global Leaders of the World Economic Forum. A recipient of the Martin Luther King Salute to Greatness Award, she’s participated in projects for UNICEF, the Aspen Global Leadership Network and Africa Global Leadership.

Chimamanda Adichie – Nigeria

One of Africa’s most celebrated writers, Adichie’s exploits at home and abroad has conspired to give literature a good standing in Africa.

At 45, she continues to excel in her chosen field. In 2006, her second novel Half of a Yellow Sun, named after the flag of the short-lived nation of Biafra, won the Orange Prize in 2007.

Adichie’s first novel, Purple Hibiscus, was released in 2003. It was shortlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction (2004) and was awarded the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best First Book in 2005.

The Thing Around Your Neck, her third book, is a collection of short stories published in 2009. In 2010 she was listed among The New Yorkers “20 under 40” Fiction Issue; and her story, “Ceiling”, was included in the 2011 edition of The Best American Short Stories.

Olga Kimani-Arara – Kenya

Until recently Google’s local spokesperson in Kenya, Kimani-Arara is an astute corporate woman.

In his home country Kenya, she is well respected by her peers especially in the sectors she’s worked in before.

She left Google this year to pursue other interests. Prior to joining Google, she was a senior executive at Safaricom. “She has vast experience in engineering combined with strong commercial and marketing knowledge with several years experience in marketing and product management gained in the Telecommunications, Retail and IT industries,” its been suggested.

A Microsoft Certified System Engineer, Kimani-Arara holds an MBA in Engineering Business Management from Manchester Business School. She also holds a B.Sc. Electrical and Electronics Engineering.

Phuti Malabie – South Africa

CEO of the black-owned and managed Shanduka Group of South Africa, Malabie was in 2008 named by the Wall Street Journal as one of 50 women in the world to watch.

In 2007, the World Economic Forum chose her as a Global Young Leader, in a list that also saw her rub shoulders with other young achievers across the world.

Before joining the Shanduka Group, Malabie, 41, was head of the Project Finance South Africa unit at the Development Bank of Southern Africa.

In 2009, she was awarded the “Most Influential Woman in Government and Business by Financial Services”. She was Vice President of Fieldstone from 1997 to 2003.

Isis Nyongo – Kenya

The affable and lovely Nyongo is Vice President and Managing Director of the world’s largest independent mobile advertising network, InMobi.

She’s held senior management positions at MTV, Kenya’s leading Job site MyJobsEye, and Google. She is an alumnus of Harvard and Standford.

Ndidi Nwuneli – Nigeria

Founder of LEAP AFRICA, a “leadership training and coaching organization which is committed to empowering, inspiring and equipping a new cadre of leaders in Africa”, Nwuneli is one of Nigeria’s most successful entrepreneurs.

A pioneer executive director of FATE Foundation, a non-profit organization which promotes entrepreneurial development among Nigerian youth, she has received numerous honors and awards including one at the World Economic Forum in Davos in 2003 and an Excellence Award from the Africa Business Club at Harvard Business School in 2007.

Stella Kilonzo – Kenya

Kilonzo is the immediate past Chief Executive of Capital Markets Authority, Kenya. After a four and a half year sojourn in the USA, Kilonzo returned to Kenya and worked at accounting giant Pricewaterhouse Coopers, as a Senior Associate in the Corporate Finance Advisory Services Department.

Jonitha Gugu Msibi – South Africa

Msibi’s corporate life at Ernst & Young coupled with her impressive leadership strengths, has earned her a lot of respect amongst her peers. She is considered one of South Africa’s most respected young and successful women. She is a Fellow of the Aspen Institute’s African Leadership Initiative

June Arunga – Kenya

Arunga is founder and Chief Executive of Open Quest Media LLC, a New York-based multimedia production company. She serves on the advisory boards of Moving Picture Institute and Global Envision as member, and is a fellow at the International Policy Network (London, UK), as well as the Istituto Bruno Leoni (Milan, Italy).

Lisa Kropman – South Africa

Prior to setting up her own firm, Kropman worked as an Associate at Werksmans Attorneys. Currently, she is founder of a group of business support centres that support start-ups operating in Johannesburg, Alexandra, Soweto, Cape Town, Philippi, King Williamstown and Botswana, Swaziland and Rustenburg.

The Business Place, as it is widely known across Southern Africa, is offering hope to new and ready-to-roll businesses.

Since 1997, she has held various positions in Investec Limited including Head, Employment Equity Forum; Head, Corporate Social Investment Division; and Catalyst for the Group developing CIDA City Campus.

She also assisted in operationalizing the black empowerment Entrepreneurship Development Trust.

She holds a Bachelor’s in Social Sciences from the University of Cape Town and a Bachelor’s in Law from the University of the Witwatersrand.

*Source african.howzit.msn.com

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African Union urged to do more for Protocol on rights of Women
July 31, 2012 | 0 Comments

Protocol on rights of Women – The Working Group on Gender Justice in Africa Tuesday called on the African Union (AU) to encourage member states that are yet to ratify the protocol on the rights of women in Africa to do so.

In a statement made available to PANA, the Working Group said the AU should ensure that states which have ratified the protocol domesticate it and ensure its implementation.

So far, 32 states have ratified the protocol: Angola, Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, The Comoros, Cote d’Ivoire, Djibouti, Democratic Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Seychelles, South Africa, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

The group also commended the AU and its leaders for the election of the first female Chairperson of the AU Commission, Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.

“The emergence of Dr. Dlamini-Zuma exhibited the commitment of the AU to gender equality within the AU, RECs and member states as provided for in the AU Constitutive Act and in the African Union Gender Policy by ensuring that there is equal representation for men and women in decision making, good governance and politics,” it said.

Source:Pana

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