At 26 years of age, starting a business was the furthest thing from my mind. I was into my third year as a Research Analyst at the World Bank Group, surrounded by a diverse group of powerful decision makers who, like me, are passionate about Africa.
I was privileged enough to attend meetings with key business leaders, presidents and prominent policy makers from the continent. I was right where I wanted to be. I had found the perfect balance of work hard/play hard. My future was clear and secure. I was going to wait out my contract, pursue a doctorate degree, return to the World Bank in my thirties and begin the long climb through ranks to senior management.
Then something interesting happened….
President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf last Wednesday joined hundreds of women at a program marking the celebration of International Women’s Day (IWD) 2012, in Tubmanburg, Bomi County. At the event, President Sirleaf launched the Liberian Chapter of the African Women Entrepreneurship Program (AWEP) and the Adolescent Girls Unit at the Ministry of Gender and Development.
The African Women Entrepreneurship Program, which was started in 2010, based on the recognition that African women are so often the engine of national growth and development, is the brain-child of United States Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton. The first chapter of AWEP was formed in Zambia, and since then dozens of African countries have followed. AWEP aims to empower African businesswomen through training, strengthening public-private partnerships, and expanding business capacities and relationships.
In remarks, the President indicated that the themes for this year’s IWD celebration were very appropriate because they support Government’s initiatives to develop and empower women and girls.
She acknowledged the growing number of Liberian women entrepreneurs who are making positive contributions to the country’s economy and other sectors, and appealed for support not just from Government but all Liberians and other nationals within our borders. We must encourage these entrepreneurs to develop by purchasing their products, President Sirleaf said.
The need for the Adolescent Girls Unit at the Ministry of Gender and Development stems from the fact that girls are generally overlooked by many existing structures addressing youth and women issues in Liberia, the President indicated. This Unit will address the issues, needs, and concerns of girls, ages 10-12, with special emphasis placed on girls ages 10-15. Its purpose is to ensure national programs and policies are optimized to work better for girls in order to accelerate growth and reduce poverty.
An Executive Mansion release quotes President Sirleaf as saying that the global theme for this year’s celebration, “Connecting Girls, Inspiring Future” and the national theme “Connect, Reconcile and Empower Girls and Women for the Future,” give Government the opportunity to look at the challenges, opportunities and potential for the younger generation of Liberian women. She described the population of Liberia today as one of the world’s youngest populations, with more than 50 percent under the age of 35, half of whom, she pointed out, are girls.
First Lady Michelle Obama meets with Ernestina Mills, First Lady of Ghana, at the State Department in Washington, D.C., March 8.
(Photo by Sonya N. Hebert)
African women making a change
Hadeel Ibrahim, Executive Director, MO IBRAHIM FOUNDATION
Hadeel Ibrahim is the daughter of Mo and Hania Ibrahim (a former consultant radiologist ). The Ibrahim family is of Nubian descents.
Hadeel Ibrahim is the founding executive director of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, which was established in 2006 to support great African leadership.
Among her achievements, she is a board member of Refugees International and UNESCO’s LEAP programme, which fosters local effort and preservation of cultural heritage.
Prior to this, she spent time with the Africa section of Actis private equity investors, and with the private equity fund management group EMP Africa. Hadeel has a degree from Bristol University in politics and philosophy.
“This is an opportunity for young Africans to hear and see good things about themselves. My parents grew up with the heroes of independence, but half the continent wasn’t alive then. There hasn’t been a lot to inspire confidence since the early 80s. People internalise what they hear and see about themselves - and this is a night that celebrates excellence and achievement.”
- Hadeel Ibrahim at the Mo Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership , Alexandria.
The 2011 Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Liberian peace activist Leymah Gbowee and Yemeni women’s rights advocate Tawakkul Karman.
The Norwegian Nobel Committee made the announcement Friday in Oslo, saying the three women will split the coveted award for “their nonviolent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s rights.”
Committee Chairman Thorbjoern Jagland praised the work of the three recipients, saying that “we cannot achieve lasting peace in the world unless women obtain the same opportunities as men.”
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, 72, became Africa’s first democratically elected female president in 2005. The Nobel Committee praised the Liberian leader for her efforts to secure peace, promote economic and social development and strengthen the position of women.
In an exclusive VOA interview with James Butty, Sirleaf said she is humbled by the award. She said it is an award for all the Liberian people, given what they’ve gone through - 13 years of civil war, the peace process, and democratic elections.
The Liberian leader, in a close re-election campaign leading up to Tuesday’s voting, said the Nobel is recognition of “many years of struggle for justice, peace and promotion of development” in her country. She said “credit goes to the Liberian people.”
Thirty-nine year-old Leymah Gbowee, also from Liberia, helped to end her country’s civil war by encouraging Christian and Muslim women to participate in a series of sit-ins and non-violent demonstrations. In 2002, Gbowee mobilized Liberian women to participate in a “sex strike” until the violence ended.
She said the award is “a Nobel for African women," adding that there is "no way that anyone can minimize our role anymore."
Meanwhile, 32-year-old activist and journalist Tawakkul Karman was praised for playing a “leading part in the struggle for women’s rights and for democracy and peace” in Yemen. A leading “Arab Spring” activist in her country, Karman told reporters after winning the prize that she dedicated it to the “youth of the revolution in Yemen,” saying it was a victory in her country’s uprising against President Ali Abdullah Saleh.
The committee said it hopes the prize will help bring an end to the “suppression of women that still occurs in many countries.”
The three women will share an award of nearly $1.5 million, which they will receive at a ceremony in Oslo on December 10.
Last year, the Nobel committee awarded the peace prize to imprisoned Chinese dissident writer and activist Liu Xiaobo, angering the Chinese government. Liu is serving an 11-year prison sentence for what China says is “subverting state power.”
Past winners include U.S. President Barack Obama in 2009, former Vice President Al Gore in 2007 and former President Jimmy Carter in 2002. The 2001 prize was split between the United Nations and then Secretary-General Kofi Annan.
The prize was created by Swedish scientist and industrialist Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite.
by Sarah Mukasa
Philanthropy in Africa has become an area of increasing interest in the past 10 or more years. A key focus for interrogation is the manifestation of philanthropy in the African context – its areas of strength and weakness. Another is how to build on the traditions of philanthropy in Africa to attain stronger institutional processes that scale up localized forms of giving and ground these in principles of social justice, equality, peace and sustainable development. Africans are challenging the notion that Africa is purely a ‘donor recipient’ continent and instead are pointing to the rich traditions of giving and philanthropic practice in Africa – which in many instances have been the mainstay of entire communities.
Whilst it is known that philanthropy is an age-old practice in Africa, there is little recognition of the contributions it has made in developing and sustaining communities. In Africa today, much of the giving takes place in familial and informal community networks responding often to immediate/ welfare concerns. Burial societies, individual support to the payment of school fees and, building of community facilities are examples of philanthropy that can be found in many variations on the continent. Religious organizing has also formed a critical avenue for much of the more formal and institutionalised mechanisms for philanthropy, with programmes driven by local actors providing a range of services including education, health services and feeding programmes.
More recently, a number of African philanthropic actors and organisations seeking to address social, economic and political inequalities and disparities have emerged. In addition there has been an increase in the number of high net worth individuals in Africa establishing their own, more formalised philanthropic initiatives and organizations. At the same time, the private and corporate sectors in Africa are increasingly developing corporate responsibility programmes. These developments have raised the visibility of philanthropy in Africa, highlighting its critical role in our societies and communities. Initiatives such as the African Grantmakers Network- a network developed by African grant makers to promote and strengthen philanthropy in Africa- are testament to the shifts in thinking and organisation on the continent. Increasingly Africans on the continent and elsewhere are seeking to make a difference as collaborative and organised donors to the kinds of change they wish to see.
This is both evident and urgent within the feminist movement. The role of women within the growing field of philanthropy in Africa- their contributions, successes and challenges – remain largely undocumented and unrecognised. Yet the establishment of organizations such as the African Women’s Development Fund and Urgent Action Fund –Africa amongst others, has concretised the central nature of African women’s participation and influence in philanthropy, especially social justice philanthropy.
Within the feminist movement, there is a growing body of thought on the need for us as women to fund our own movements. This partly reflects an increasing unease with external donor practice in support of short term, project based approaches- which do initiate some change, but which are in the long term difficult to sustain, since often they can only address symptoms, and not root causes. Mounting pressure to demonstrate immediate results or face the risk of losing funding has driven many to develop projects that are all SMART but have little in the way of substance and relevance.
Poverty Porn - any type of media which exploits the poor’s condition in order to generate sympathy for selling newspapers or increasing charitable donations or support for a given cause.
You will find none of that here :)