Malawi’s former president Joyce Banda deemed it an ‘absolute obligation’ for women’s participation to be part of the continent’s strategy and blames the traditional belief systems that prevent women from serving as active citizens and leaders. “We need to strengthen the Women’s Movement. We need to encourage and support fellow women when we get into leadership. We must realise that there is a growing concern globally regarding violence against women in politics. This is the reason why Former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who is currently the Chair of National Democratic Institute, is spearheading the Campaign to Stop Violence against Women in Politics, launched at the ‘#NotTheCost’ Conference.
A key message coming out of the New African Woman Forum is that gender is an issue that needs to be embraced as much by men as by women, otherwise the outcome will not change. In a candid discussion about her life and how she has come to be who she is today, Ghana’s Foreign Minister HannaTetteh mentioned the key role her father played in her life. She also mentioned the lead role played by two heads of state – Ghana’s late president John Atta Mills and the country’s current president John Mahama – in giving her high level ministerial positions, trusting her competencies and making a case for her in a field still dominated by men. Men, therefore, are key actors in furthering women’s empowerment.
Education was also a central theme of the discussions. If Africa is to achieve the goals of Agenda 2063, we need a quantum leap in women’s economic empowerment. And this can happen by investing in women’s and girl’s education. Moderator Moky Makura from the Gates Foundation said that education is a matter of survival in Africa, as statistics show that children under the age of 5 are more likely to survive if their mother has a secondary education.
And the media can also play a bigger role. Right now too many senior positions in media and technology are occupied by men. It is imperative to eliminate gender-biased programming, and therefore women need to be involved in decision-making in the leading media groups in Africa. Women should also be instrumental in the development and adoption of new technologies in order to optimise fuller participation and impact.
It was acknowledged that women entrepreneurs and employers face significantly greater challenges than men in gaining access to financial services. However that is not the only barrier to entrepreneurship. Women need to encourage each other more in the workplace and be more supportive of each other. Olajumoke Adenewo, the New African Woman in Business Award winner spoke about inclusiveness of growth with job creation, saying that this should be targeted at women and youth who are our present and future. “A leader is someone who has a voice and can deploy it. Women need to be told it is possible.”
The forum concluded with women game-changers in the audience telling their stories, not only to raise awareness about the work that they are doing to uplift their own communities, but also to inspire future generations to emulate innovative and exciting approaches to making a difference to their societies.
Distributed by African Media Agency (AMA) on behalf of the New African Woman Forum Awards.
The first edition of New African Woman Forum and Awards was held in London on 10-11 March 2016 and saw participation from over 150 high profile, respected decision-making women who discussed and examined key issues pertaining to the status of women across the continent, and came up with a comprehensive plan of action to present as a contribution towards the African Union’s Agenda 2063 vision. The Forum was accompanied with an Awards gala ceremony to recognise and celebrate women achievers and excellence on the continent and in its diaspora.