Should Gender Matter? Revisiting the Gender Question: Women as Agents of Change

As African countries develop, we are seeing a new generation whose greatest opportunity is creating societies where their gender and age is an asset to their personal and career development, and not a liability. We continue to see that growing the human capital of Africa presents the greatest challenge for business and political leaders. Yet new generations of women and young people throughout Africa are emerging and developing innovative strategies to overcome daily problems at a local and national level. Unfortunately, their combined capacities have not been fully harnessed nor realized.

  • Where are the pioneering efforts being made in education, training and skills development for both the youth and women?
  • What are the key barriers in both social and political spaces that hinder their full participation in development projects?
  • How do today’s leaders (corporate and government) incorporate both the youth and women in overall economic and political leadership?
  • How can we tap the full potential of women and young people?

This conversation was part of the 2014 CUNY Young African Leadership Symposium.

Below is a take from Ms. Mary Olushoga who served as the moderator:

8 Quotes from African Women Entrepreneurs at the CUNY Young African Leadership Symposium

Mary Olushoga, Founder of the AWP Network moderated the women’s panel at the 2014 CUNY Young African Leadership Symposium, which took place at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

On the panel were entrepreneurs: Funke Bucknor-Obruthe – owner and creative director at Zapphaire Events, Karen Nungari-Waweru – special education specialist,  and Mobolaji Akiode – professional basketball player and founder of Hope 4 Girls Africa.

Here are (8) memorable quotes from the event:

(1) “Support me because I am competent not because I am a woman.”

(2) “I don’t see myself as a woman, I see myself as a human being.”

(3) “I truly believe that success always transcends gender.”

(4) “Being an African woman in 2014 is still a stigma.”

(5) “Women need to be more forceful, and not laid back or passive.”

(6) “I want more African women and girls to know that you can be anything you want to be.”

(7) “Get out of the it’s not possible mode, everything is possible.”

(8) “Never underestimate the power of having a role model or mentor – find one.”

Should gender matter? what does it mean to be an African woman in 2014? Please share your comments, thoughts, ideas with us twitter – @Africwomenpower

Link to the Article: http://awpnetwork.com/2014/10/24/funke-michaels-hosts-entrepreneurs-roundtable-at-cuny/

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The Diaspora Returns: A Young Woman’s Journey to Running an NGO in Ghana

10419547_781736818531005_7629443650401715938_n In the six weeks since coming back to Ghana to oversee the Girls Education Initiative of Ghana, GEIG, I’ve had many joys and challenges living and working here. My greatest joy has been meeting the girls and being able to match their applications to their personalities. One of the first things I did was visit their schools again and reintroduce myself to school administrators and students.

I’ve now visited the schools of all 12 beneficiaries, met their heads of schools, teachers, and parents. Whenever I meet the students, they’re always surprised that I’m Ghanaian. When I transition from English to Twi (Ashanti language) it seems I earn more of their trust and they see me as one of them.

But, there are still challenges. Ghana politically, economically, and socially goes through ebbs and flows. Civilians are upset about the country’s direction – the general feeling is that the leadership in the country in unresponsive and inefficient. There have been many protests. Still, I’m excited to see civil society engaged around these issues.

Amidst Ghana’s current situation, it is reassuring to see the 12 GEIG students determined and excited about their education and futures. It is my hope that GEIG’s programs, specifically the mentorship and leadership development programs, will teach our students to informed citizens who have the tools to create the changes they’d like in our society.

In the first year of junior high school, students will be paired with mentors who are either professionals or of university age. Having these mentors will encourage the girls to aspire beyond heights they ever thought possible.10616682_680655712017255_2145901662624236258_n

In the following year, students will be tasked with developing sustainable solutions to issues plaguing their communities. GEIG will assist students with these ideas in community service projects. I hope GEIG can teach our girls to be socially and politically conscious and take action whenever it’s needed to advocate for their rights.

Overall transitioning to Ghana has been really good. I’m home and as a friend told me some time ago, I’m doing “God’s work”. In the difficult moments, I think back to a lunch meeting with the Greater Accra students where students met me for the first time. They were surprised I knew them by name and bits about them and their family. The students had heard of me and I knew them only on paper.

This informal meeting made GEIG real for all of us. Their excitement around meeting me humbled me. Having lunch and interacting with them assured me that I’ve made a good decision to come back to Ghana to work. They are what sustain me.

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How Africa Is Challenging Marketing

Harvard Business Review:

NOTE: “After all, the emerging affluent African consumer is as connected as the rest of the world, smartphone always in hand. As this untapped market captures global attention, it also offers marketers a chance to leapfrog the legacy of mass marketing and reinvent the field from the ground up. The insights that marketers currently rely on, such as what consumers value in a product price and how to best reach them, drawn from decades of consumer research and studies on buyer behavior, don’t necessarily apply to the fragmented African markets.”
Therefore, for anyone in media, PR, Marketing, Branding- the challenge is not to create gimmicks of selling a continent’s brand” that happens not to be for sale, the challenge lies in studying and understanding the saturated dynamic market, and finding a happy medium for supply & demand that lies outside the western-biased marketing norms.

Originally posted on HBR Blog Network - Harvard Business Review:

For the first time, Western stereotypes associating Africa with death, disease, poverty, and war are being replaced by the reality of demanding, brand-conscious consumers who happen to live in a challenging environment. For too long, “Africa” has been considered a homogenous mass rather than a multicultural continent of diverse citizens. The media-generated image of passive beneficiaries of international charity and financial aid is now giving way to one of active customers voicing their opinions on product performance, service quality, and advertising.

After all, the emerging affluent African consumer is as connected as the rest of the world, smartphone always in hand. As this untapped market captures global attention, it also offers marketers a chance to leapfrog the legacy of mass marketing and reinvent the field from the ground up. The insights that marketers currently rely on, such as what consumers value in a product price and how to best reach…

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#DONTBETHATPERSON- Round 2 for 2014

I recently became a blogger at ElleAfrique, an online portal for women and by women.  I off course got so busy, one thing led to another, and found myself not committed to that once-a-month post.  But Now I am going to take my own advise. #commitment. And to do that, I recycle back to the first blog I wrote for them- which pretty much gave me the courage to kick myself back into gear.

You see, I found myself falling into category one. You know, the person whose life was all about other people. That is until I found myself with a calendar full of appointments, and I couldn’t find time to even read a book. Which for someone who is a bookworm- is a shame.

So here is part two of 2014. And here is my advise to MYSELF- and to you as you will find it in the ElleAfrique’s article on “How to Improve Your Chances of Success”.  Here are the 5 Challenges:

  1. BE YOU:  They say that no one can impose their ideals on you without your permission. That stands true especially since it always seems that those around you have an opinion on what you should eat, wear, and what career is best for you. .  #DONTBETHATPERSON who ends up living everyone else’s dreams but their own! The truth of the matter is that no one knows how to be the best you, but yourself. So here is the challenge to you, BE THE BEST YOU!  Take everyone’s opinions, weigh them, and at the end of the day, do what is best for you. If you are like me, you find yourself engaged with people on so many levels and it is so LOUD that it can overwhelm you. In marketing, we call this the “clouding factor”. The trick is  to sift through all the noise and find your voice, and then make sure your voice is loud enough for you to hear it
  2. BE AN ACHIEVER:  Have you ever tried to employ someone and looking at their resume, you see a list of things that they have DONE, but fail to see what they have ACHIEVED?  In 2014, #DONTBETHATPERSON!  Be the person that plans to achieve their goals.  Be the person who doesn’t live a life as a doer.  The problem with being a doer is that you go about life doing things for the sake of doing them with no specific goals, therefore no way to see what you have achieved. So the challenge to you this year is to make S.M.A.R.T (Specific, Measurable., Attainable, Realistic, Timely) goals.  This way, you have ways of setting benchmarks that you can track by the end of the year.
  3. BE ALIVE:  By now, you know the saying- #YOLO – You Only Live Once! So make it count.  Life is too short, but even in the worst of moments, life is beautiful and worth exploring.  Make sure that you step out of your comfort zone, explore new things, meet new people, take on new projects, (unless you are a workaholic), and most importantly take every chance to celebrate life at its best. #DONTBETHATPERSON living within the constraints of their routine and refuses to step out of their comfort zones to see what else life has to offer.
  4. PARTICIPATE: This goes hand in hand with the above point. Participate in your community. #DONTBETHATPERSON who lives in a community and has no idea what is going on in your neighbourhood or community. More importantly, participate in building your community. In Africa, we are used to being told that we are not doing enough to make sure we get the leaders we desire. Why not start with 2014? Whatever your interest, be it education, youth empowerment, social entrepreneurship, childhood development, politics…etc, find a way to be involved. Imagine an Africa where we all embody that spirit of “Ujamaa” and work together to the betterment of our continent?
  5. PAY IT FORWARD: The Last three challenges really work together. In paying it forward, this is to simply use your skills and your resources to the betterment of others. Whether it is time, energy or money, we all need to find a way to give a leg up to others. I believe that God gave us skills and resources not only for our benefit, but for other as well.  In 2014 #BETHATPERSON who finds a way to use their resources to help others. Volunteer, mentor, and if time is a factor, donate to your favourite organizations, or an organization that speak to your personal mission.

Whats your vision? How do you plan to make it a reality?

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What if Africans Were Their Own Advocates?

What would it look like if Africans were their own advocates? What would it look like if young Africans believed- and truly believed- that the future of Africa was in their hands?

by Divine Muragijimana

These were the questions that I was asking myself while I was working with ONE in Washington D.C. During that time, the organization was heavily involved with schools and there were chapters all over the country all connected to the mission of the organization, and very active. It was inspiring, but then I realized that the African youth were not involved in these campaigns. I didn’t ask why, but a couple of years later while working with a group of Africans putting together celebrations for “Africa at 50″- I saw the same void. Young Africans were spoken of but not heard of.  This is when I decided that something had to be done. As a CUNY student, I saw a large number of young Africans who seemed to want to be engaged with matters relating to their communities and Africa and did not know how to do so.

It was not long after that I met my co-founder Okenfe Lebarty at an event for students at City University of New York.  I spoke of my desire to create a platform where young people could engage with each other, get resources for their career and academic advancement and mostly importantly contribute to the ongoing development in Africa. Three hours later, we had decided that we needed to plan an event that would kick off this platform and with the blessing of CUNY’s Vice Chancellor for Student Relations Dr. Frank Sanchez, the CUNY Young African Leadership Symposium (YALS) was born.  As one would say the rest is history…

Except we just began. At the core of CYAL’s vision, mission and objective was the truth that any engagement with the youths of Africa had to involve both the youth in the Diaspora and those in the continent. If two heads are better than one, then surely, thousands of united young African voices were better than fragmented voices across continents. Thus CYAL became committed to make its way to Africa. We were convinced and still are convinced that our skills are our best assets. We would therefore use these resources to partner with youths in Africa in capacities that would involve exchange of skills for greater human capital development.

So here we are. After three years of programming in the US, we are finally making a dream come true for us. We are headed to Africa. The trip to Cameroon is monumental for us. With near misses, and a lot of work into finding the right partners, we are finally moving beyond that fear of failure, and aiming for success. This trip is really about partnering with young people to move Africa forward. If we have to do it block by block, we are rolling our sleeves up and dedicating our time to make sure this becomes a reality. In the coming years, the program that we are implementing in Cameroon will be adopted across the continent. We hope to bring more people into the program to participate in the exchange- in the nearby future.

I am particularly excited for the third day of the conference where it will be all about sharing ideas. Even though I will be involved in most of the training sessions, it will be exciting to hear about the ideas of the participants. CYAL will be able to work with individuals to help them formulate their idea, and one lucky person will get some $$ to help them realize their dream. To see that what Okenfe and I envisioned is becoming a reality is a blessing

I have always believed that anyone brave enough to be in a leadership position is crazy. Thankfully, I am in good company! I have been there since the beginning and have seen the organization grow.  I am really proud of the CYAL team, and particularly honored to be working with young people who believe in our vision, and are dedicated to carrying out our organizations mission.

We invite you to join us for our journey to Cameroon: http://www.gofundme.com/8hs62o

CYAL Team - Cover-3

 

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BE AWARE: World Cup Season Has Arrived

This is a rewrite of long-standing list of rules that were created by men for their significant others. Now its reversed to cater to the needs of women who are football fanatics.


Dear husband, partner, boyfriend,

1. From June 12 to July 13, 2014, you should read the sports section of the newspaper so that you are aware of what is going on regarding the World Cup and that way you will be able to join in the conversations. If you fail to do this, then you will be looked at in a bad way, or you will be totally ignored. DO NOT complain about not receiving any attention.

2. During the World Cup, the television is mine, at all times, without any exceptions. If you even take a glimpse of the remote control, you will lose it (your eye).

3. If you have to pass by in front of the TV during a game, I don’t mind, as long as you do it crawling on the floor and without distracting me. If you decide to stand nude in front of the TV, make sure you put clothes on right after because if you catch a cold, I wont have time to take you to the doctor or look after you during this month.

4. During the games I will be blind, deaf and mute, unless I require a refill of my drink or something to eat. You are out of your mind if you expect me to listen to you, open the door, answer the telephone, or cook….It won’t happen.

5. I WILL NOT COOK. Therefore, it would be a good idea to have plenty of food in the fridge at all times, and please do not make any funny faces to my friends when they come over to watch the games. In return, you will be allowed to use the TV between 12am and 6am, unless they replay a good game that I missed during the day.

6. Please, please, please!! If you see me upset because one of my teams is losing, DO NOT say “get over it, its only a game”, or “don’t worry, they’ll win next time”. If you say these things, you will only make me angrier and I will love you less. Remember, you will never ever know more about football than me and your so called “words of encouragement” will only lead to a break up or divorce.

7. You are welcome to sit with me to watch one game and you can talk to me during halftime but only when the commercials are on, and only if the halftime score is pleasing me. In addition, please note I am saying “one” game; hence do not use the World Cup as a nice cheesy excuse to “spend time together”.

8. The replays of the goals are very important. I don’t care if I have seen them or I haven’t seen them, I want to see them again. Many times.

9. Tell your friends and colleagues NOT to have any events or any other child or gatherings that requires my attendance because: a) I will not go, b) I will not go, and c) I will not go.

10. But, if a friend of mine invites us to their house on a Sunday to watch a game, we will be there in a flash.

11. The daily World Cup highlights show on TV every night is just as important as the games themselves. Do not even think about saying “but you have already seen this…why don’t you change the channel to something we can all watch?” because, the reply will be, “Refer to Rule #2 of this list”.

12. And finally, please save your expressions such as “Thank God the World Cup is only every 4 years”. I am immune to these words, because after this comes the Champions League, Italian League, Spanish League, Premier League, FA Cup, etc. Thank you for your cooperation.

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A River Blue Bringing Hope to North Uganda

For a society to move forward, reconciliation and forgiveness are integral in building a future for any society that has faced conflict. Sometimes, justice is not about punishing the perpetrators, but in the ability to rehabilitate the society as a whole.

This is a lesson that the communities in Northern Uganda are learning well. After more than 20 years of conflict, the community is coming together to rebuild and restore their society.  Invisible Children might want to catch Kony, but the people of Northern Uganda want to rebuild their lives. Community members have established grassroot projects using resources available to them in order to socially and economically empower the community.

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One such project is “ A River Blue” – ARB, which is one of the most innovative projects that aims to empower the internally- displaced persons camps in Northern Uganda through the arts.  A River Blue is entirely run by community members who came together in order to restore hope for their children and save their future. North Uganda has faced years of turmoil, and the communities have been caught in between politics that have left them devastated and emotionally wounded.  While punishing perpetrators is important, it has become even more important to rehabilitated the young children who were caught in crossfire and forced to fight a war that was not their own.  The children are the future of Uganda. While they have endured some of the worst hardships imaginable, they have the ability to survive, to overcome, and to succeed.

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ARB began in 2006 when Barefoot Workshops launched A River Blue Arts Festival that included music, dance, drama, and art. The festival was hugely successful and it gave birth to the development of A River Blue Vocational Training and Rehabilitation Center in Alebtong in Northern Uganda.  Recognizing the need for vocational training, and the power of the arts in the process of healing, ARB’s center offers a hybrid curriculum that mixes counseling, tailoring, agro-forestry, agriculture, animal husbandry, painting, MDD (music, dance & drama), English and basic business.  To foster continued development and growth for young people across North Uganda, the program sponsors about 30 youth who are either in secondary school, or in various vocational training programs.

With the help of international donors, the ARB team has been able to provide economic empowerment for young girls, some of them young mothers who had no place to go. In some instances, it has been as simple as teaching the girls how to sew, and providing them with a sewing machine.  In other instances it has been the simple act of providing a safe space where these young people can speak about their past and express this through the arts.  In either case, A River Blue has become instrumental in fostering community growth and giving young people an alternative to violence.  Furthermore, the program has provided a model that many post-conflict regions in Africa can adopt and implement in building their communities.

NOTE:  This article was published on ElleAfrique. http://elleafrique.com/revisiting-hope-and-justice-in-northern-uganda#sthash.3WOgWoi4.dpbs

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