All protocols duly observed
Ladies and Gentlemen
This year’s International Youth Day is peculiar because it is happening at a point in time when the world is recovering itself from the global shock of the coronavirus pandemic. Indeed, the theme “The Role of Youths in Promoting Peace and Nation-building through Entrepreneurship and Innovative Leadership” cannot be more timely and relevant because, without the impact of the youth, this global recovery process cannot be effective. Also, without the impact and contribution of the entrepreneur, the economies of nations cannot regain their momentum and return to their glory days.
Certainly, without the promotion of global peace, the world’s religious, racial and economic crises may not witness stability. At this very point, it becomes increasingly clear, the words of Aristide Briand, that the world should “Draw back the rifles, draw back the machine guns, draw back the cannons – trust in conciliation, in arbitration, in peace! …A country grows in history not only because of the heroism of its troops on the field of battle, it grows also when it turns to justice and to right for the conservation of its interests.”
The solutions and resolutions at this time rest with the global youth community. This is the critical moment when the world holds the contributions of youth sacred to education, the economy, politics, and business, and as their sign period of maturity, when the physical forces begin to flag, and equally sacred to ease and agreeable relaxation. For the AWLO youth, we recognize that it is only natural that old people would have to go at some point. That is what age does. But the problem is that there are too many youths who are too impatient to wait for time to have its course.
Therefore, it is my most candid advice and admonition that the AWLO youth shine as a beaming example in the context of global peace-building, nation, and world-building through their contributions to national, regional, and global peace, economy, and politics by developing their entrepreneurial skills and business acumen.
As you celebrate and commemorate the 2021 International Day of the Youth, I implore you to keep these words in mind and make them your compass for navigating your path into the future that approaches. Congratulations for making it through. The very level of energy and resilience that brought you this far will take you farther. See you all at the top!
Long live AWLO!
Long live AWLO Youth Council!Long live our world!
Dr. Elisha AttaiFounder/Global President of AWLO
The Organisers at UNICAF
Eminent Special Guests of Honour
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen
I begin by acknowledging the honour that it is for me to deliver this Keynote address to the UNICAF and AWLO network, spread across different continents of the globe. Indeed, it has been a rather long time of journeying on this path as far as creating educational opportunities is concerned. If you ask me, I would say that it has been challenging but worth it. Many, including men and women, have had the privilege of equal opportunities to access higher education wherever their countries or continents are on the globe.
That is the very substance that leaders are made of – challenges! As the American business executive, Raymond W. Smith, has rightly observed ‘Administrators are cheap and easy to find and cheap to keep. Leaders – risk takers: they are in very short supply. And ones with vision are pure gold.’
Certainly, it should be no surprise that, on this global occasion, one begins on the note of leadership and gender equity. It interests me to state that the African Women in Leadership Organisation, which I founded and have represented for the past thirteen years, is one that hinged upon a vision of leadership, especially the vision to support women and the female folk at large whatever their areas of endeavour.
Notably, the 2021 International Women’s Day, in the wisdom of the United Nations, is themed ‘Women in Leadership: Achieving an Equal Future in a COVID-19 World’. The immediate implication of this is that the world recognizes the functional and strategic place, placements and roles of women in driving the wheels of social engineering in different spheres of work across the globe.
The advent of the novel coronavirus pandemic more than a year ago, no doubts, took the global world by storm. Global public health systems came under the weight of an unprecedented outbreak of a viral infection of a far-reaching impact. According to a report and statistics, women have been at the forefront of the battle against the COVID-19 pandemic, risking their lives to save others. Indeed, this global crisis has shown that many decision-making bodies, including those established specifically to manage the pandemic, have not adequately reflected a gender balance between women and men.
Today, women are said to account for 70% of the health and social care workforce and deliver care to around 5 billion people. Nonetheless, they remain largely segregated into lower-status and lower-paid jobs and are still under-represented in leadership and decision-making processes. 70% of executive directors of global health organizations are men and only 5% are women in low-income and middle-income countries. Additionally, women health workers are regularly subjected to discrimination, abuse and harassment, a situation that has worsened with COVID-19.
As we have observed, women have made landmark contributions in different fields of endeavors during the global coronavirus pandemic. These evidently include women in leadership, whether in public or corporate governance; in business, trading and micro-enterprises; in agriculture, women have contributed to securing food production and distribution both in rural and urban environments; and in the healthcare frontline they have served actively as nurses, physicians, paramedics, and as pharmaceutical scientists. Still, in the course of the global outbreak, women in ICT have made significant contributions as web and business developers, providing interventions in the fintech sub-sector. Indeed, women have made active impact in the entertainment industry in spite of the obvious difficulties, and in other fields such as teaching and learning, research and development and, of course, in the media sector women have served as gatekeepers, watchers and custodians of normative standards, while contributing to social evolution as necessitated by the global pandemic.
Women have also played key roles at every level of the food industry, where there is a strong gendered vertical division of labour. Most women occupy low-revenue jobs while men work on higher paid management jobs. And with schools closed down, even with both parents working from home, it is the women who are largely dealing with their children’s care, education and house chores, in parallel with their other paid job.
It is therefore timely indeed that the United Nations has chosen to broach the question of the need to ‘Achieve an Equal Future in a COVID-19 World’. There is no questioning that this move for a new debate and conversation on gender equity has been long overdue and women are more deserving of an equitable world today more than ever before. Needless to say, women continue to suffer low pay at jobs they are as equally qualified to do as their male counterparts. They are often seen to suffer stigmatization as they undertake unskilled jobs that succeed to glue together the human societies during the pandemic.
Truly, if only one critical lesson should be learned from the COVID-19 crisis, it would be that women are crucial to quench the world’s population vital needs: health, food security and caring. That is why women’s organizations on the frontline of the response should be represented in decision-making bodies. It is thus instructive to encourage the UniCaf network to also continue to make it a super mantra and a point of commitment to remain at the vanguard of championing this social idea. This is because, as the American educationalist and writer, Warren Bennis, once noted, ‘Managers have their eyes on the bottom line; leaders have their eyes on the horizon.’ This is exactly the point at which the UniCaf network must continually position itself – that is, having its eyes on the horizon of social and gender change and prospecting for a world of gender balance beginning in the field of education.
The subject of ‘women and the economy’ has been on the front burner of international development. It gained prominence when Japanese prime minister, Shinzō Abe embarked on an ambition to boost Japan’s stunted economy, and coined the term “womenomics” to “capitalize on the power of women” whom he called “the most underutilized resource”.
African Women in Leadership Organisation continues to narrow down, in areas of high leverage, for the advancement of women’s leadership. Hence, the goal of the virtual town-hall meeting on Economic Empowerment of Women & Girls held on the 17th July 2020 was to pool the skills of AWLO’s international network; to exchange ideas, and tailor solutions to increase women’s economic participation and opportunities.
Please download full Communiqué
A Keynote Address by H.E. Mrs. Francess Virginia Anderson, Sierra Leone High Commissioner to the Republic of Ghana and Ambassador to the Republic of Togo and the Republic of Burkina Faso, at AWLO Induction 2020
Founder of AWLO Dr. Elisha Attai, Executive of the African Women in Leadership Organisation (AWLO), Your Excellencies, esteemed organisers of this auspicious event, fellow inductees, awardees, distinguished ladies and gentlemen, good evening.
I wish to first and foremost register my pleasure and honour to be here today, and to convey my profound thanks and appreciation to the organisers of this programme. Permit me to heartily congratulate, in advance, deserving and worthy awardees and inductees as well as those who, in diverse ways, contributed to their respective success.
I am immensely grateful and I feel privileged to be here tonight as both an inductee of AWLO and above all the keynote speaker for this memorable event. And I wish to appreciate and thank the authorities of AWLO for bestowing upon me this great honour.
Admittedly, not many have been so blessed to materially and socially achieve what most of us here present today have achieved. And we give thanks and praises to the almighty God for His infinite mercies and favours. Not that we are more deserving, but I am convinced that having us in the positions we find ourselves is for us to create space and opportunities for others not so fortunate as us. This notwithstanding, I wish to salute all the women who have contributed so much to society but whose contributions are sometimes overlooked, diminished or undervalued.
If child rearing were monetised and added to GDP in our patriarchal societies, arguably, women’s contribution would have been far greater. In our African societies, a woman gives birth, but the community, especially women rear the child. They make them the fine men and women they eventually become.
The topic of my address is Creating the Opportunity and Space for Women Through Unity and Togetherness.
For centuries women have fought for their basic rights, ranging from the right to education, to access to quality healthcare services, to voting rights, to inheritance, to employment and equal pay. The struggle for women’s emancipation continues in all spheres of human endeavour. For so long we have been and continue to be marginalised, overlooked and underappreciated. But radical change is in the air and hope continues to stay alive.
Whilst we graciously acknowledge that notable, and in some instances unimaginable, progress have been made, there is still a long way to go to achieve both equity and equality between the sexes. Sadly, a single top job given to a woman often tends to disguise the massive inequality and extreme marginalisation in our societies.
In the recent past we have seen so-called glass ceilings broken across the globe. A growing number of women are now heads of state and government in Europe, Asia, and New Zealand. And America is about to have its first number 2 in a woman of diversity and its first Secretary of the Treasury a woman. What is so striking is that most of these women are young, energetic and committed to the cause of women’s liberation, empowerment and inclusion. In addition, many more, the world over, are leading both public and private sector organisations with remarkable successes. The Board rooms are now experiencing what I would describe as “women’s invasion”. Our top quality representations across the world and in different spheres have outperformed their male counterparts in many areas and have exceeded the expectations of many.
Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, make no mistake the best is yet to come.
Africa has also witnessed the accession to the presidency by two eminent women leaders in the persons of Nobel Laureate H.E. Helen Johnson-Sirleaf of Liberia and H.E. Joyce Banda of Malawi. Other prominent women continue to show strong leadership and play their part, with distinction, in the global governance system. We have seen the likes of Zainab Bangura of Sierra Leone, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and Amina Mohammed both of Nigeria, Winnie Byanyima of Uganda, and Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma of South Africa demonstrate top quality leadership, steering the ship of their respective organisation or department. They are role models for many of us and have inspired many others to take up the challenge for women’s inclusion, participation and contribution towards sustainable progress and development. And in their own rights, these individuals continue to promote women’s empowerment and fight for greater representation of women in regional and global decision-making. We commend their efforts and urge them to soldier on.
All of the above developments are a stark reminder that there is no limit for women. However, many of these great and historic achievements came at great sacrifices to these individuals and their loved loves. In the course of their professional lives they have faced and endured discrimination, disappointment and despair. Despite these, they had the drive to overcome these challenges and achieve success. Many persevered in the face of innumerable rejections, but perseverance and resilience prevailed. Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, I believe the same can be said of most, if not all, ladies present here tonight and countless others out there.
Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, be under no illusion that women will continue to face formidable challenges from time to time as they strive for inclusion and equity. Many of these challenges will come from male chauvinists and equally so from our women folks. But perseverance, hard work and dedication to result and excellence will enable us surmount these challenges and other frustrating setbacks we will face. With God on our side, we shall prevail.
The world has witnessed unprecedented levels of development progress in the last half century with increased enrolment and school completion rates for girls, better educated women population, greater access to maternal and healthcare services, increased job opportunities, and accession of women into top jobs in business, government and politics. Africa has had its own share of progress, but far less has been achieved comparatively.
In the past decade, many countries on the continent experienced reduction in poverty levels and substantial investment in infrastructure and human capital. These notwithstanding, hunger and disease continue to blight our progress, and women and children have been disproportionately affected.
Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, governments across the continent are taking active steps to further the cause of women through the promulgation of statutes to protect their fundamental human rights and the implementation of programmes to support women’s economic and financial independence as well as political liberation and inclusion. Whilst we acknowledge the strides made so far, implementation challenges continue to undermine the success of such endeavours. And we urge governments on the continent to do more to dismantle these barriers and create a level playing field for all actors, whilst protecting the underprivileged and the disadvantaged. Where positive marginalisation holds a true promise, every effort must be expended to harness the benefits.
For Africa to accelerate and sustain growth for poverty alleviation and development, leadership at the political, legislative, judicial and administrative levels must be inclusive, accountable, strong, visionary and committed to the wellbeing of all people. And accelerating and sustaining women’s advancement must be the trust of our strides for human progress.
Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, AWLO was created to bring together, for a common purpose, women who have served and continue to serve society at higher levels. This course they have pursued so well and we are proud to be part of it as well as take it to the next level. And this brings me to the fundamental issue of what women can do to support each other and advance the cause of women’s liberation and personal and professional fulfillment.
The key question is, how do we utilise this opportunity given to us as catalyst for financial, economic and social emancipation of women and girls and for the development of our continent and the world at large? These and many more will exercise our minds and shape our thoughts about what we can offer society in the face of the growing challenges in the world. There are many ways we can leap forward in the right and sensible direction, and I have attempted to highlight a few.
First, we must endeavour to identify and nurture the talents of women in our society if women are to continue providing top quality leadership across all endeavours.
Second, we can transform our society for sustainable economic and political progress by providing education, health care services, and income-generation knowledge and support to women. This will facilitate the transformation of our economies into modern entrepreneurial nations.
Third, in order to preserve and ramp up the modest gains we have made, it is imperative that we continually reinvent ourselves to meet new and emerging challenges at the local, regional and global levels. And this reinvention strategy will be critical to the continent’s ongoing success and women empowerment and inclusion.
Fourth, we must recognise and appreciate the fact that opportunity is good and sustainable if it is “opportunity for all” irrespective of gender, belief, political orientation, race, education, and social class. Where this is insufficient or absent, there has to be a redistributional mechanism that ensures benefit for the greater mass of society, if not everyone.
Fifth, to sustain women’s personal growth and development efforts and aspirations, women and men alike must continue providing needed support and mentorship to our women folks across the continent.
Sixth, promoting fairness and transparency will assist us build a solid foundation for a viable, progressive and stable society. This is not only limited to government, but it is a responsibility for all irrespective of the sector we find ourselves.
Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, strategic and deliberate choices have to be made to support our colleagues, and this is where we can, and must do better. This is a sure-fire way for sustainability and equitable economic and social progress. The benefits of opportunities accorded us should be spread and no one should be left behind. Our governments’ development strategies must ensure that women and the poor expand their choices and opportunities.
Citizens must be accorded the space to meaningfully engage and participate in shaping decisions which affect their wellbeing. If we are to attain this, politics in Africa must evolve and be more consultative and inclusive. Marginalisation in whatever form is pointless, without merit, and unsustainable. Non-inclusion and persistent and widening inequality can only sow the seeds of discord and chaos.
Both regional and sub-regional institutions like the AU, SADC, ECOWAS, EAC, etc. must take the lead in bringing women together to discuss emerging challenges affecting them so as to prescribe durable solutions to holistically address them. This cross fertilisation of ideas and experiences will help build synergy in all aspects of our quest for growth, inclusive and sustainable development.
To all women present here and across the globe, we have seen situations wherein women fail by design or default to fulfill their sacred obligation of supporting each other. This must be discouraged and frowned at, at every level and in every circumstance. We must be each other’s keeper. We must not only make a place for ourselves at the high table, but we must create extra space for others to join us. We can achieve more by expanding opportunities for our girls and women. And we can make this happen if we renew our commitment to this ideal for the benefit of all and not the insignificant minority.
You can be the change you want to see. And that starts rights now and with you.
Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, let me conclude by stating that governments must endeavour to raise living standards through accelerated and inclusive growth. And the contribution of women themselves would ensure multiple wins that would build resilience and lock in women’s advancement and development gains.
Let me re-echo the sentiments of some of our inspirational and great women leaders:
“If you want something said, ask a man; if you want something done, ask a woman.” – Margaret Thatcher
“Amazing things happen when women help other women.” – Kasia Gospos
“There is no limit to what we, as women, can accomplish.” – Michelle Obama
“The day will come when man will recognize woman as his peer, not only at the fireside, but in councils of the nation. Then, and not until then, will there be the perfect comradeship, the ideal union between the sexes that shall result in the highest development of the race.” – Susan B. Anthony
“We need women at all levels, including the top, to change the dynamics, reshape the conversation, to make sure women’s voices are heard and heeded, not overlooked and ignored.” – Sheryl Sandberg
“Never limit yourself because of others’ limited imagination; never limit others because of your own limited imagination.” – Mae Jemison
“In the future, there will be no female leaders. There will just be leaders.” – Sheryl Sandberg
The wisdom in their assertions is glaring, and without an iota of doubt, I completely agree as common sense and equity fundamentally require.
Africa needs women in leadership positions for balanced and sustained growth and development; and this can be achieved through mutual support for each other in both our professional and private lives.
I wish you all a merry Christmas and a fulfilling and happy 2021.
God bless our beloved Continent, Africa!!!
Thank you all!! Merci a tous!! Obrigado!! Gracias!!
The Founder, African Women in Leadership Organisation, Dr. Elisha Attai
Eminent Members of AWLO
Friends of AWLO
Gentlemen and Ladies of the Press
Ladies and Gentlemen
As we gather here tonight for the unique 2020 Induction Dinner of the African Women in Leadership Organisation, it is an obvious fact that the world around us is not exactly the same that we left behind at the conclusion of the 2019 Induction Ceremony. Between December 2019 and now, one year after, many events have unfolded across the globe which has left many countries, their economies and travel protocols altered permanently.
The outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic saw much destabilisation in the public health system of most countries of the world. For the African Women in Leadership Organisation, this had meant that many scheduled programmes, including conferences and outreaches, were either postponed, put on hold or outright cancelled. The African Women in Leadership Conference (AWLC), scheduled to hold in Sierra Leone in the first week of April, was forfeited to the harsh onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Our Atlanta Summit was equally not speared in this case.
To keep our community and global networks together, the African Women in Leadership Organisation had alternately made recourse to webinars and digital townhall meetings where we shared ideas and interacted with special guests of global repute. In spite of the pandemic, the African Women in Leadership Organisation facilitated many of these online sessions covering a wide array of themes and focus, including gender inclusion, women and girl-child economic empowerment and indeed the almighty rape scourge.
But, happily, here we are tonight, converged as a body of gender advocates and gender parity campaigners. This is not a sheer coincidence. We have been among the lucky ones to be alive and active today. Much gratitude is due to the almighty God. Many would have wished to be alive but they were not as fortunate. It is in this very sense that this year’s Induction Ceremony is dedicated to giving thanks to God almighty for all that we have been through as persons in our individual rights, as African Women in Leadership Organisation, and as citizens of the globe. As the researcher Ruth Benedict once said, ‘A man’s indebtedness…is not virtue; his repayment is. Virtue begins when he dedicates himself actively to the job of gratitude.’
In the same spirit, I like to acknowledge the creative leadership of the Founder of the African Women in Leadership Organisation, who also doubles as my husband and life companion. I like to commend his grits, good spirit and fortitude through the trying moments of AWLO’s journey, and for being able to put together great teams to work with from time to time. For the African Women in Leadership Organisation under Dr. Elisha Attai, there has never been a scarcity of leadership as everyone is either a leader or a leader in the making. This singular fact has kept us going as AWLO, and I believe it is also worth being grateful for. As William Faulkner the novelist once wrote, ‘Maybe, the only thing worse than having to give gratitude constantly all the time, is having to receive it.’
Over the years, I have found myself at the receiving ends of gratitude from my husband. But, this time around, I think it only decent and decorous to really give honour to whom it is due. As it was once said, ‘Gratitude, like love, is never a dependable international emotion.’ So, as we receive gratitude, we must be able to return gratitude to those for whom it is due, including people and indeed God almighty. Therefore, I commend the Membership of AWLO for demonstrating a rare doggedness, commitment and strong faith in the leadership of the organisation. Distinguished AWLO members, your consistency through the years have been commendable and we use the platform of this occasion to appreciate you all for being the great and committed followership that you are. Kudos to you all!
It is in this very reflective mood and in the spirit of appreciation, that I welcome you all, ladies and gentlemen, to this auspicious occasion. I remain hopeful and positive that the convocation of tonight will serve as a springboard to launch us into the new and more promising moments in our experience as African Women in Leadership Organisation.
Once again, welcome to the 2020 Induction Ceremony of the African Women in Leadership Organisation. I wish you all a great, refreshing and unforgettable positive experience.
Long live the African Women in Leadership Organisation!
Long live African Women (and their men)!
Long live the world!
An African proverb says “If you educate a man, you educate an individual. But if you educate a woman, you educate a nation.” As women around the world, who continue to strive for equal rights and opportunities in career and in society, have been hit the hardest by the economic effects of the pandemic, access to affordable and flexible higher education has become essential to help more female leaders climb to high positions in the corporate world, and in government.
The Unicaf organisation, always ready to support equal access to higher education for all, is taking real steps to help more women study for internationally recognised undergraduate or postgraduate degrees. Under an agreement, signed this month between Unicaf and the African Women in Leadership Organisation, fifty 75% scholarships will be awarded to an equal number of members of the AWLO, in all countries where AWLO is present, to enable them to pursue degree programmes online, with any one of Unicaf’s partner universities. Unicaf’s partners include the University of Suffolk, Liverpool John Moores University and the University of East London in the UK, plus multi-campus Unicaf University, which is accredited by the British Accreditation Council in the UK (Zambia and Malawi campuses).
An exciting range of Bachelor, Master’s and Doctoral degrees in a variety of modern disciplines are offered by Unicaf’s partner universities, who award the respective degrees. Online study is facilitated by Unicaf’s cutting edge digital platform, hosting the Virtual Learning Environment. Through the VLE students have 24/7 access to study materials and an expansive e-library, they can communicate with tutors and network with fellow students in 156 countries across the globe.
The African Women in Leadership Organisation (AWLO) is a non-profit organisation with a membership that is open to all women leaders across Africa and the African Diaspora. Its flagship programme is the annual African Women in Leadership Conference. The AWLC aims to harness and enhance the leadership potential of women in Africa as a whole and to channel them towards the unity and development of the region.
This agreement is seen by both parties as the beginning of a closer collaboration aiming to increase affordable and flexible higher education opportunities for African women, to allow them to combine higher academic studies with their other important roles as women in leadership. The aim is to help women acquire the knowledge and skills necessary to compete equally with men in the professional arena and rise to higher positions in the corporate world and in government.
For more information about the Unicaf Scholarship Programme you can visit http://www.unicaf.org/awlo
For more information about the African Women in Leadership Organisation you can visit http://www.awlo.org/