The only two female heads of state in Africa, Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Malawian President Joyce Banda, have just committed to using their positions to improve the lives of women across the continent.
Both Sirleaf and Banda have long championed women’s rights. And on Apr. 29 in Monrovia, two years into what the African Union (AU) has declared the “Women’s Decade”, they pledged to work together to accelerate those efforts.
“Today is a day African women must rejoice,” Banda said as Sirleaf stood by her side. “This is our day. And this is our year. And this is our decade!” And Sirleaf affirmed her - and Liberia’s - commitment to empower women.
“The two of us have great strength,” Sirleaf said. “Together, we can do more to empower women and to ensure that women’s role in society is enhanced.” She added that her country would work with the new Malawian government to advance women’s empowerment.
To be sure, the challenges before them are great. Using the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) as a barometer, Liberia and Malawi generally score low in the areas of gender equality and women’s empowerment, education for girls, and maternal health.
According to 2010 U.N. Development Programme (UNDP) reports on the two countries, Liberia is only likely to meet certain goals on equality and education, and Malawi remains unlikely to meet its targets for any of the three MDGs that focus on women.
But as Banda noted during her speech, there has never been a better time to advance women’s rights in Africa.
Sirleaf, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, was elected as Africa’s first female president in 2005 and reelected in 2011. While her first term in office focused on reconstructing a country devastated by two civil wars, one from 1989 to 1996 and the second from 1999 to 2003, she has set out to use her second term as president to make women’s rights and health a national priority.
Banda succeeded former President Bingu wa Mutharika after his sudden passing on Apr. 5. After she was elected vice president in 2009, she had a falling out with Mutharika, and was subsequently expelled from the ruling Democratic People’s Party and essentially barred from participating in government.
However, she remained vice president, and in 2011 she formed the opposition People’s Party. Since Mutharika’s death a number of MPs have left the former ruling party to join her.
Racism and a legacy of colonialism are preventing the West from recognizing the potential of African innovation.
Affordable technology is helping people all over Africa propel an economic revolution. Investment is pouring in from India, China, and other emerging markets. But the West, in my eyes, is ignoring one of the 21st century’s most important stories.
There are reasons the West has historically overlooked African innovation. Racism plays a big part, owing to the West’s past of colonialism and slavery on the continent. Much of the West’s acquisition of wealth was a direct result of the colonial era, which, for all intents and purposes, is not something that has been relayed to western populations accurately. Too many people in the West are under the assumption that it is their aid or assistance that sustains Africa, without understanding the underlying structures that have been put in place, and are held in place, by institutions that serve the West.
“It is in our hands to join our strength, taking sustenance from our diversity, honouring our rich and varied traditions and culture but acting together for the protection and benefit of us all”—Kwame Nkrumah
Background: This discussion between Dr. Mamphela Ramphele and Angela Reitmaier took place in Cape Town on February 9, 2012 during a conference on “Investing in Africa Mining - Indaba,” where Dr. Ramphele gave a keynote address on “Mining’s Contribution to Sustainable Development” as Chair of Goldfields and Director of Anglo American.
Dr. Ramphele reflects on the spiritual dimension that is needed to heal the many wounds that Apartheid inflicted on black citizens of South Africa. She touches upon the great gift of Africa, the practice of holding discussions at all levels, from the family to the community at large, in a circle where people can experience their connectedness. She speaks to the psychological liberation that Steve Biko emphasized as an important element of the freedom struggle: the need to overcome fear. Again stressing the importance of a deep-seated woundedness that still profoundly affects her country, she explores the significance of widespread corruption, gender inequality and violence, and authoritarian elements in present-day South Africa.
In conversation with Jessica Horn, a leading Malian women’s rights activist identifies the roots of the crisis in Mali, and the opportunistic use of the crisis by Malian and international Islamic fundamentalists to gain a popular foothold in the north of the country.
(I maintain that “traditional” gender roles haven’t been adequately explored as the root cause of many intersecting societal problems, e.g. sexism and homophobia, and that Africans — straight or gay — should work together towards their elimination if we stand for true progress.Here’s my explanation.)
The artist Laolu Senbanjo obtained his LL.B (Hons) degree at the University of Ilorin, all the while honing his ‘Afromysteric’ art. After being called to the Nigerian Bar in 2007, he decided to face his career as an artist and has since been part…
The podcast featured four LGBT Africans in the Diaspora, a few of which described themselves as gender non-conforming. Shortly afterwards, I received a really sweet message from someone who had listened to the podcast. It read as follows:
The discussions around Sex will focus on gender inequality and homophobia and the extent to which both continue to define virtually every society on the continent - and on the extent to which (a) the LGBTI movement (and other social movements) can learn and benefit from the gains of the women’s movement; and (b) new economic challenges intersect with the civil and political rights agendas that have traditionally been the domain of women’s groups and the LGBTI movement. Participants will also debate how to support social movements in a context of growing inequalities, where activists have fewer financial resources and are simultaneously required to address growing social discrimination.
Discussions on Power will focus on (a) what the Arab Uprisings can teach sub-Saharan Africa about political transitions, as well as what limitations these uprisings have faced; (b) what the rise of the BRICS countries mean for African politics and African politicians; (c) whether human rights and good governance – increasingly held up as pre-conditions for aid from Western countries in the last two decades – are likely to suffer as a result of increased economic and development assistance from the emerging powers; and lastly (d) where the new thought leadership and activism will come from to address the political and economic inequalities that continue to plague the continent.
Discussions on Money will focus on the fact that across the continent, current models of economic development are heavily reliant on (a) the extraction and/or unsustainable exploitation of natural resources; (b) the introduction of commercial models of agriculture that either impoverish or exclude rural poor people; (c) the concession of large tracts of land; and, (d) the negotiation of ports, power supplies, railways, and other important infrastructure, in ways that undermine the capacity of African states to manage their own affairs.
The verb ‘to be’ is the starting point of almost every Germanic Language and so I therefore find it fitting to begin here. Today we shall learn how to conjugate the verb ‘to be’ in pidgin english which translates as ‘to dey’.
There will also be a comprehensive social media outreach programme during the OpenForum so that people who are unable to attend can still be part of the event – listening to the debates, joining the discussion online, hearing interviews with key thinkers, reading OpenForum papers and learning new skills.
The OpenForum will include space for exhibitions and poster sessions – as well as opportunities in the late afternoon/early evening for networking and socialising. There will also be a chance to screen documentaries and host art exhibitions.
Organisations will have to submit an application to hold exhibitions or screen new films.
These parallel afternoon sessions (each involving up to 50 people) will focus on practical skills building. Coordinated by the OpenForum’s technical partners, the workshops/ skills-building sessions will focus on technology, innovation and new ways of doing things.
Organisations will have to submit an application to conduct listen and learn sessions.
Run as a series of parallel sessions (each involving up to 50 people) in the early afternoon, these will provide a space for organisations – particularly those working on human rights and development issues – to showcase successful and innovative new initiatives and projects. The sessions will also be open to those who have new strategies or networks that they would like to profile or develop – and to those who need a space to test an idea or launch critical new research.
Organisations will have to submit an application to showcase their ideas.
After each plenary, there will be three parallel sessions focusing on key sub-themes within Money, Power and Sex. Open to around 150 people each, these mid-morning sessions will take the plenary discussion further by stimulating debate on critical aspects of the overall theme, providing the speakers and audience with the chance to really engage each topic.
A plenary session will kick off each day’s proceedings. Attracting high-profile speakers and thinkers on Africa, the daily plenary will take place in the main 500-seat auditorium and shape the discussion for the day. Each Big Idea plenary will be run as a moderated discussion, either in a panel or an interview format.