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/
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The global HeforShe Community, of African Women in Leadership Organisation, held its first men-only summit on Building a Value-oriented Family.
The summit which was held on 19th September 2020, had in attendance Heforshe ambassadors from 11 countries. HeforShe is a UN Women Solidarity Movement for Gender equality. AWLO is a UN Global Compact leader committed to promoting the UN Women’s goals.
The task of child care, discipline and values-development has been, sadly, left mostly to the mothers and nannies, with the fathers concerned mainly with the duty of providing for the financial needs of the home.– Excerpts from AWLO HeforShe Men-alone International Smmit
The discussion was led by Mr. Mungai Mfi; Leadership and Strategic Management, Cameroon. The panelists were; Deji Adenuga Consultant, DY Relationship Clinic (Dublin), Arc. Ezekiel Nyaetok; DG, Nigeria First Project, Keorapetse Carl Kalaote; Entrepreneur/Speaker/Consultant (South Africa), Mr. Bren Inyang; CEO Ekido Press (Nigeria), Guy Murray-Bruce; President Silverbird Group (Nigeria), Coach Oscar Emetuei; Executive Director Billion Dollar Group (South Africa).
The meeting highlighted the role of the family in shaping progressive culture, and driving values that remove gender barriers.
Here is the Communique from the virtual summit.
The African Women in Leadership Organisation (AWLO) is set to inaugurate the AWLO Ikot Ekepene Chapter on 3rd October 2020, at the Martha Udom Emmanuel Women Development Center Ikot Ekpene.
African Women in Leadership Organisation started as West African Women in Leadership Conference at Accra Ghana in 2009. It has gained a continent wide adoption, since the 2010 African Women in Leadership Conference held in Abuja. Where women conferees reached a resolution; to send a strong delegation to the national offices of the political parties, and use the national women rally on 21-22 June 2010 to make a strong point for the enforcement for the 35% Affirmative Action for Women.
In the past 10 years, the organization has continued its women’s leadership advocacy. Through the bi-annual African Women in Leadership Conference held in Africa and the Disapora. In 2015, the AWLO Chapters framework began, to provide a structure to reach women locally for leadership development.
As the heartbeat of AWLO, a chapter is a support system- women building networks. The AWLO Founder, Dr. Elisha Attai often recounts the history of AWLO,
“As I was going about my business of media as a Consultant and Content Producer for Mnet I spotted a rare need for women to be instrumental to each other’s success, as a means to attain leadership.I looked around me at board meetings and they were only a handful of women. More glaring to me, was the fact that the women who made it through the door were only committed to keeping those behind the door there. I think for once it didn’t occur to them that success was a function of building networks and support systems. A habit for the men.”
In addition to providing a support system, AWLO provides members with capacity building programs, opportunities to take the lead and be the change in their community, and positions women for global relevance. It creates a global bridge to global stakeholders, and fosters inclusive decision making, and actions towards gender equality. As a support system, AWLO serves as the bridge to the next generation with the Youth Council (youth wing of a chapter) as a mechanism for leadership succession planning.
“The African Women in Leadership Organisation is my legacy, for the women”. say AWLO Founder; Dr. Elisha Attai. As he takes a new Chapter to his hometown, Ikot Ekpene, he will be joined by Mrs. Martha Udom Emmanuel; the First Lady of Akwa Ibom State (Mother of the Day). AWLO Ikot Ekepene Chapter becomes the second in Akwa Ibom State, making it the first State to have two Chapters.
Other dignitaries who will be attending are Mrs. Mfon Usoro; Secretary General, Memorandum of Understanding on Port State Control for West and Central African Union, Guy Murray Bruce; President, Silverbird Group, Lagos, Mr. Ephraim Akparawa Inyang-Eyen; Chief of Staff to the Governor, Akwa Ibom State.
Here’s the event program
The African Women’s Role in the emerging Global Digital Workforce Workshop, was held on 2nd September 2020.
The workshop was attended by 70 participants from Nigeria, Cameroon, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Ghana, Saint Kitts, and United States. It was moderated by Selina Bentoom; a Human Capital Development Expert, with Digital Experts; Atai Albert and Richard George from USA, as resource persons.
At the end of the session, some of the adopted solutions were:
- Investment and collaboration.
The African government, private sector, educational sector, and the host of other stakeholders; need to collaborate on investing in infrastructure that is easily available and reliable. This will open up Africa to employment, wealth creation, and growth of the gross domestic product of each African nation.
- Work virtualization and remote access
Africa needs adequate, and functional infrastructure to work from home. Policy makers should put in place a flexible system to help women with children undertake learning.
- Business Transformation
In order to transform businesses, a basic assessment of business needs must be carried out, to identify the distinctive technological capabilities to be employed to various business units. Africa must run data driven businesses and economy.
- Policy-making and Advocacy
There must be aggressive mitigation, advocacy and sensitization to drive technology and digital access. The right policy formulation and environment, and extreme prioritization, will continue to increase access to technology.
Read more in the Communique
The AWLO Ikot Ekpene Chapter, being moved with compassion concerning the high incidence of rape in surrounding communities, and across Nigeria, took on a rape sensitization tour.
The tour took place on Friday 20th August, 2020 from 10am to 2pm, across communities within Ikot Ekpene Sanatorial District, Akwa Ibom State. From villages in the Ukpom and Ibiaku communities in Ikono, to Ini Local Government Areas.
The mission of the sensitization tour, was to urge participants to ‘Say No To Rape’. Through shedding light, on the harmfulness of rape, pain to victims, and position of the law on sexual violence offence (including life sentence).
Participants included, villagers of all age groups and gender. And sessions were indoors and outdoors – junctions and bustops. Sensitization sessions were on; causes of rape, consequences and effect of rape on victims, experiences of rape victims, and finally rape and the law.
Participants were strongly urged to desist from acts of sexual violence. Mrs Blessing Whenshall who is a Police Officer explained the legal implications of sexual violence. Especially at Ini Local Government Area, known to have high prevalence of rape. The AWLO Ikot Ekpene Chapter team was led by the Coordinator; Mrs. Emem Ukpong, others on her team were the Public Relations Officer; Mary Ekpo, and Mrs. Imaobong Dick.
The feedback from the total of 200 participants in attendance proved the sessions to be enlightening. As they promised to share their experiences, expose acts of sexual violence, and take the message of “Say No To Rape” to their churches and community.
At the core, AWLO is advancing the status and leadership of women. And is at the fore front of creating awareness on ‘women rights as human rights’. Therefore, enabling women to attain their full potential as equal human beings.
The Women Executives and Potential Leaders Symposium is an annual initiative by the African Women In Leadership Organization Cameroon Chapter. To bring together female leaders; to discuss, learn, and share perspectives. Concerning key thematic areas, for the growth of women and female leadership.
The first edition of the symposium held on the 22nd August 2020 in Yaoundé, on the theme; Women leaders: working together to Achieve Innovative Performance.
The Symposium brought together female leaders from public, private, and nonprofit sectors. The goal was to learn, share and build capacity, to develop innovative strategies for the improvement of female leadership, build problem solving skills, and organisational productivity.
The program was led by Mrs. Yenwo Bertha, President of the African Women in Leadership Organization (AWLO) Cameroon. It is a strategy to reinforce the organization’s commitment to empowering women, and mitigating the challenges of female leadership in Cameroon.
This was further buttressed in a deliberation, and development of a Policy Declaration, on Cameroon Women Leaders Innovative Performance in Public, Private and Non-profit Sector.
It brought together highly successful and budding female leaders to discuss key issues, in line with women leaders working together, innovation, productivity and Performance.
It went further to bridge the divide between older successful female leaders, and the younger female leaders. This is to be achieved through an annual intergenerational mentorship. It will not only to promote intergenerational collaboration, but sustainability of female leadership in Cameroon.