#032: Balancing Act

  • Balancing Act

On May 25, South Africa's sixth democratically-elected President, Cyril Ramaphosa, was sworn into office. In a history-making move, President Ramaphosa subsequently appointed South Africa's first-ever gender balanced cabinet. With women making up half his government, the president is confident that his cabinet will "clean up" South Africa. Beyond gender parity, the new cabinet also reflects a balancing act of political allies and opposition figures; lesser known fresh faces and political old-timers; and simply younger and older generations. 

With this newly-appointed gender-balanced cabinet, South Africa is following the footsteps of Rwanda and Ethiopia. Although President Ramaphosa certainly has his work cut out for him - from soaring unemployment rates to incredibly low national trust in the government - research shows that increased gender representation in government has positive downstream effects on the economy and on the population.  

Read for:"The people who I am appointing today must realize that the expectations of the South African people have never been greater and that they will shoulder a great responsibility."


  • The Issue with Criminalizing Abortions

By now you must have heard about the draconian anti-abortion "heartbeat" laws in certain states in the US such as Alabama and Ohio, which criminalize abortions under almost all circumstances. Even by conservative standards, these laws are incredibly harsh as they do not account for instances of rape or incest. The domino effect of anti-abortion (and by extension, anti-reproductive health) legislation in the United States is the impact on funding for sexual and reproductive health matters in developing countries.  

As The Guardian reports, the U.S. government has cut off funding to any international clinic or organization which does not subscribe to an outright ban on abortion. Further, any organization which counsels women on abortion using funds from elsewhere - even from a non-US source of funding - will no longer be eligible for any US funding. As I wrote back in May 2017 when Angola sought to outlaw abortions: "Of course, separate from the arguments on the free and wide access of abortions, this absolute illegality of abortions will only serve to leave the most vulnerable women prey to unsafe abortions and in the worst cases, make them relive their trauma. Reproductive rights cannot be separated from women’s health. Simply put, this is a terrible idea." 

Read for:  "Any cuts to critical, affordable, high-quality, integrated reproductive healthcare is denying a woman or girl the right to decide what to do with her body, her life and her future"


  • Let There Be Light 

Here's a wonderful story out of Tanzania: several women - ranging from younger ladies to grandmothers - are gaining the opportunity to be trained as community solar engineers in the Zanzibar archipelago.The solar training project, instituted by Barefoot College, aims to bring off-grid renewable energy to rural areas across East Africa. 

The women spend five months living and training at Barefoot College, before returning to their villages to work as community solar engineers where they set up and maintain solar lighting systems in the communities. Aside from the core environmental benefits of leveraging solar energy, the project gives women tangible skills and reliable income. 

Read for:  "We have been given a better life because after we leave here, we will be engineers and will go back to teach others...When I go back, I will have status. I will be knowledgeable and I will be proud"


  • Atlantique Makes Waves in Cannes 

At the 72nd Cannes Film Festival last week, French-Senegalese filmmaker Mati Diop became the first black woman ever to compete at Cannes (I know, I gasped too). Mati's film, Atlantique, eventually won the Grand Prix, the second most prestigious award at Cannes. 

Set in Dakar, Atlantique tells of a young girl set to be married to a wealthy businessman, but is in love with a struggling building site laborer who is seeking a better life for himself. Throw in some surrealism, magnificent cinematography, love-laden angst, the crushing reality of dangerous trans-Mediterranean migration, and this award-winning feature film is born. Netflix has acquired world-wide rights - watch a short cliphere.

Read for:  "That film touched us in our hearts...it deals with issues, but it also felt quite personal and vulnerable and very emotional and just quite precious"


CAPE TO CAPE:  Kenyan mothers take a stand against spike in femicide in the country; U.S. TV network, FX, is developing 'Freshwater', the debut novel by Nigerian author Akwaeke Emezi, into a television series;  4 women with lives scarred by genital cutting: Could a Surgeon heal them?

You Should Know

  • The New York Times: Half of HIV Patients are Women. Most Research Subjects are Men.

  • Culture, Health & SexualityExploring young women’s constructions of love and strategies to navigate violent relationships in South African informal settlements

Business Roll Call

South African telecommunications giant, MTN Group, has appointed Lele Modise (South Africa) as Group Chief Legal Counsel

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Nneoma Nwankwo