#004: Rearing Africa's Future Female Leaders

June 16 Issue of Empower46 below. To receive more like this straight to your inbox, join us here.

Good morning,
This past Monday, I connected with the wonderful Sarah Thomas, Director of Women in Comms, and we discussed Women In Comms' bold approach in addressing the gender imbalance in the communications industry and how they are championing change. For our readers in London, here’s a treat: on November 1 2017, Women In Comms will host a luncheon, "Why Male Allies Matter", at the Royal Garden Hotel, London. During the luncheon, women and men alike will examine the state of the communications industry, the need for gender balance in the workplace, and advantages of diversity. Let them know if you will attend here; and I just might see you there. 

  • Rearing Africa's Future Female Leaders

In this piece for The GuardianEvelyn Anite, Uganda’s minister of finance for infrastructure and privatization and the youngest female minister in Africa, calls for a continued push of African female leadership in politics on the continent. Do bear in mind that African countries are making huge strides in female participation in government - South Africa has 40% female representation in its parliament, while Rwanda has 61% (the highest in the world) and Uganda has 34% - but of course, the work is not done. Through the newly-formed African Women Leaders Network, prominent African female leaders are hoping to rear the next generation to take a larger and more influential place in parliament and presidency across different nations on the continent.  

Read for: “Before rushing to criticise Africa – as though we are one single country – for lacking democracy and for low female participation, observers should recognise the progress already made. Women occupy only 24% of parliamentary and ministerial seats across sub-Saharan Africa. However, this far outstrips the percentage of female representation in developed countries such as the United States, where less than 20% of congressional seats are held by women, or Japan where fewer than 10% of legislators are female.”



  • Angola Decides on Abortions

In our May 5 issue, I covered the Angolan parliament's bill to completely outlaw abortions. To recap, the Angolan parliament—backed by the Catholic community—introduced a bill to completely criminalize abortions, sparking several pro-choice protests in the country. Furthermore, concerns arose from international corners regarding honoring the Maputo Protocol (of which Angola is a signatory), which mandates that women have access to abortions in cases of sexual assault, rape, incest, and maternal health risk. Last week, Angola’s parliament gave in to public pressures and accepted a revised bill, which states that while abortions will technically remain accessible in Angola, they are only legal within specific confines of maternal risk or rape. All in all, a [small] victory for pro-choice activists and protesters in Angola.
Read for: “The harshest version of the law was sharply criticised by [Angolan] President Jose Eduardo dos Santos' daughter Isabel, reported to be the richest woman in Africa. Isabel dos Santos used her Instagram social media account to denounce the "criminalisation of women"



  • Keeping the Fight for Azza Soliman's Freedom

Azza Soliman, Egyptian activist for female equality and founder of Center for Egyptian Women’s Legal Assistance (CEWLA), was arrested in December 2016, had her assets frozen, and was banned from leaving the country. Due to her research on women's equality and her advocacy for survivors of abuse, Azza was targeted by the government, unduly arrested, and now faces several years in prison for charges such as "slandering Egypt's reputation."

Amnesty International is collecting signatures to compel the Egyptian government to drop the charges against her.  Join the fight for Azza’s freedom here.                                                                 

Read for: “Certainly there is laxity in the state’s role in protecting women or protecting women is not present on the agenda of the Egyptian government.”



  • Women Boxers in Zambia Are Ready to Rumble

Even before the 1974 Rumble in the Jungle and the celebrity of high-profile boxers, the sport of boxing has largely been appreciated across Africa. However, like many sports, it has historically been dominated by men. In 2010 - for the first time -Zambian women were able to register as professional boxers, and by 2016, Catherine Phiri became Africa's first female World Boxing Champion. Female boxers now fill up the gyms in Zambia, each of them determined to become a champion.

Watch for: "...Most of the people say that boxing is not a sport for girls, but as for me, I can do much more than what boys can do, [more than] what men can actually do." 



  • Throwback: Birdsong (Chimamanda Adichie, 2010) 

In honor of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie receiving the prestigious Mary McCarthy award from Bard College, I thought I'd share one of my favorite short stories of hers - Birdsong. Published in the New Yorker in 2010, Birdsong is a provocative short story, told from the perspective of a woman knowingly in a relationship with a married man. It is beautifully written - the setting describes Lagos down to its maddening traffic jams, the protagonist is so easy to love and to judge, and the story itself deliberately crafted by the Nigerian female author who makes our hearts swell with pride.

Read for: “The first time we quarreled, he said to me accusingly, “You don’t cry.” I realized that his wife cried, that he could handle tears but not my cold defiance"