This year’s 25th African Union Summit theme was highly focused on Women Empowerment, and Development towards “Agenda 2063”. The summit was an in-depth exploration into key issues that plague the success and development of women in Africa. By the end of the summit, a declaration was agreed upon, that highlighted the commitments that would be implemented, as part of Agenda 2063. The commitments taken are in the form of a continental plan that ensures socio-economic transformation, by tackling issues such as women empowerment and gender equality.
Much attention and support was given to the theme, especially with the visit of UN Ambassador and International Actress Angelina Jolie, who joined in on the panel discussions. Jolie spoke on the violence against women, both in conflict zones and “peaceful societies”. She further pleaded with males, more especially African leaders to take a more aggressive approach in dealing with crimes against women.
ISSUES AFFECTING WOMEN
According to Jolie, women will not make any progress without the necessary freedoms, education and respect. Reports by the OECD policy say, women in sub-Saharan Africa make up 70 percent of the agricultural labour market, producing some 90 percent of all food. In many ways, women are regarded as key to the success of “Agenda 2063”. There are still barriers , regarding inequality between men and women, as clearly evidenced by the composition of the labour force. For example, women make up 61.9 percent of the people who supply labour to produce economic goods, yet they still acquire low-level skilled jobs, and comprise the majority of the informal sector. These are but a few of the many reasons why organisations such as the African Union work so hard to ensure that issues of gender inequality and others are addressed, for the future sustainability of the African continent. As part of the declaration of commitments in the AU Summit 2015; enhancing women and girls’ access to education, science and technology was one them.
A study headed by Jeanna Bryner called Why Men Dominate Math and Science Fields clarifies why this is so. According to the study, women are less likely to participate in engineering and science fields, if they are going to be out-numbered by men. Stanford University psychologist Mary Murphy calls this gender bias. Other reasons are included but are not limited to societal and cultural upbringing, where men and women are taught to occupy specific job types in accordance to their gender.
THE WAY FORWARD
If we want to stabilize the African economy, a better look at gender inequality should be the first step to solving many of the difficulties women have to endure. This means more women taking up occupation in male-dominated jobs; removing the ideals of remaining in household work. It is estimated that worker productivity can rise by up to 25% if more women participate in these occupations according to Joaquim Chissano, former president of Mozambique. In terms of agriculture, women should be treated and paid equally as the men respectively.
A second consideration should be given to health education. When it comes to sexual and reproductive rights of young women and children, in Africa, our biggest issues lie in the mortality rates of pregnant women, HIV/aids epidemic, access to health facilities, and child marriage (Empowering Africa’s women is the key to economic wealth) .With more knowledge of their health and the choices available to young women, there will be more freedom for them to make decisions that will be beneficial. Lack of information on issues such as family planning as an example, place women at risk of making uninformed decisions that could endanger not only their own health, but that of their dependents too.
Thirdly, basic education. Too many women are still not getting the education that they need, and this stifles progress. Paying mind to the urbanizing world we live in, more participation of women in the economy will lead to empowerment, in so far as Agenda 2063 is concerned. The more empowered women become, generational success can be expected. “Women invest their earnings in the well-being of their children to a far greater extent than do men”- Joaquim Chissano makes an example of this when talking about unleashing the unused resources that is our African women.
The last key point is curbing of women abuse in African countries. If more attention can be given to better policing of crimes against women, there would be less of them. Reason for this phenomenon could be the lack of respect women are held to, in comparison to males. This therefore, should be taught at grass root levels to our children. It is in them that discriminating systems of the past can be amended.
“This is part of Africa rising. Africa will not rise as long as its daughters are bleeding and Africa will never be prosperous or at peace with itself if the whole generation is losing opportunities.” Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda, AU Goodwill Ambassador for Ending Child Marriage.
Young E’nnovative Leaders of Liberia, acronym YELL, to host its 4th Annual Young Liberians summit in California’s capital, Sacramento. The program will last for four days from August 20 to 23, 2015 at the Double Tree Hilton Hotel – 2001 Point West Way, Sacramento, CA 95815.
YELL’ 2015 summit promise to have special guest speakers, including some of Liberia’s emerging and young leaders, namely Mr. Randall Dobayou, Global anti-poverty advocate; Ms. Leelai M. Kpukuyou, secretary-General of the Liberian Business Association, LIBA; Mr. Kimmie Weeks, Executive director of the Youth Action International; Amb. Macdella Cooper, founder of the Macdella Cooper Foundation (MCF); Mr. Elijah Nyaneor, one of YELL’ active member; and alongside with Ms. Venus Johnson, Associate attorney General at California Department of Justice.
According to YELL’s said establishment, its aim of this year’s summit is to engage not only young Liberians or Liberians in general, but also those that are interesting in Liberia and its infrastructure, businesses, government and particularly the Liberian people: youth. However, with the on-going deadly Ebola crisis, which spotlighted one of this year YELL’ guest speakers Mr. Randall Dobayou that called on the Liberian government to help pay for all Liberian student school fees, “YELL’s summit will provide some information and a more precise fact about the Ebola situation in Liberia,” one of our staff anticipated. And the public should remember that if perhaps YELL may disclose the deadly Ebola issues in West Africa, its organization reminds the public that “YELL is not a political organization. [YELL] focus on nation building through activism and community service.”
Question and Answer with YELL' Vice President Ms. Patience Noah
Q: What Challenges Does YELL Face?
A: Our biggest challenge, thus far, has been building a strong community presence. As a solution, we decided to host the summit in a different state each year. As Liberians, we are still recovering from the effects of the civil war. One such effect is the unwillingness to trust each other and the inability to work together. These are self-imposed stereotypes, and as the young generation of Liberians, we are actively tearing down those misconceptions and stereotypes. By collaborating with the local Liberian communities and other organizations, we are proving that Liberians can and do work together to bring about change.
Q: Who Will Speak at the Summit?
A: Every year we select speakers who can shed new light on the issues that affect Liberia and how those issues can be solved. Our speakers are individuals whose wisdom, knowledge and vision align with YELL’s mission statement and vision. This year, we chose Venus Johnson- Associate Attorney General at California Department of Justice, Ambassador MacDella Cooper Founder of the MacDella Cooper Foundation, Kimmie Weeks- Chairman at Liberia Water and Sewer Corporation, and Executive Director at Youth Action International, and Elijah Nyaneor- Secretary General at Federation of Liberian Association of Massachusetts.
Q: Discuss Past Work YELL Has Done in the Community
A: One of the things we pride ourselves on is our platform to nurture future leaders. Most of our members have a prominent role in their local Liberian community. Over time, we hope that all of our members will play such roles in their communities. After every summit, we have a young Liberian who barely knows anything about Liberia tell us how they were grateful for attending the summit because it was very informative and inspiring. We recently launched a YELL chapter in Georgia. A group of young Liberians had the opportunity to run YELL at a local level. So far it’s been very successful. They had their first event in April where they collected feminine products to be donated to New American Pathways and Friends of Refugees. Our goal is to implement this program in every state and hopefully in Liberia as well to give our young people the opportunity to nurture their leadership skills.
Q: What are the Benefits of Becoming a Member of YELL?
A: Being a member gives you the chance to be a change agent in your community, network with likeminded people and collaborate with organizations whose goal is to make a difference in Liberia, the lives of its people and the leadership..
Q: What Will be the Highlights of the Summit?
A: The best part of our summit every year is that we host it in a different state. This allows us to learn about that state, its people and the Liberian Community within that state. This year we are really excited to work with the team from Sacramento, California. They have been doing a great job planning the summit. The team in Sacramento has an extensive list of activities scheduled for that weekend. Some activities are the city tour on Thursday August 20th, a press conference on Friday August 21st and a charity soccer tournament and barbeque on Sunday August 23rd. It will be a fun and insightful weekend and we can’t wait to see all what they have in store.
It’s “a no-brainer.” That’s how hip-hop and R&B artist and producer Akon described using solar energy to bring power to hundreds of millions of Africans.
The Missouri-born Senegalese American had just trekked to Mali from an inaugural meeting in Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast) with top West African leaders to talk about renewable energy solutions.
“Africa needs to be sustainable for a long time and be a crutch for the rest of world instead of the other way around,” Akon told ThinkProgress in a phone interview. “A stable Africa helps the world.”
Akon joined five prime ministers representing Benin, Ivory Coast, Mali, Niger, and Togo who gathered in the Ivory Coast’s economic capital of Abidjan for the West African Energy Leaders Group — a conference for business and political leaders working to develop strategies to address the region’s energy crisis.
“Because of the [lack of infrastructure] in Africa, we need more financial institutions to be a part of it, and partner with people who have a vision for Africa as well,” Akon said.
More than 1.3 billion Africans have no access to electricity; and only 5 percent living in sub-Saharan Africa have electricity.
Those staggering figures prompted the certified platinum recording artist to launch the Akon Lighting Africa (ALA) initiative in 2014, which aims to bring solar power to nearly half — 600 million — of the Africans who live without power.
So far, ALA has provided solar street lamps, micro-generators, charging stations, and home kits to 14 countries — Benin, Burkina Faso, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Guinea, Kenya, Namibia, Madagascar, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, and Sierra Leone.
The lack of power “stopped us from doing the things we need to do,” he said. “There wasn’t enough electricity to pull from,” to get Africa on par with the rest of the world developmentally, and solar was “the biggest and quickest solution.”
Global prices for solar modules have significantly dropped over the last decade, hitting a record low in 2014. ALA works with a $1 billion credit line from a Chinese solar system provider, allowing countries to pay back the debt over time.
“We want to empower the people to develop their own opportunities,” Akon said. “[But] before you empower people you have to educate them. So we developed the university,” which focuses on solar energy delivery and maintenance, “so they can [eventually] invent technology of their own.”
Instead of dropping technology on unsuspecting villages, ALA also teaches citizens how solar power works and how to install arrays through an educational training program called the Solar Academy.
“In every village we go to, we want to keep that village sustainable,” and promote entrepreneurship, Akon said. “The involvement of the rest of the world will be key. It will have to be started by Africans, but the technology the world has to offer has to be shared.”
The July meeting was the first of its kind, focusing on partnerships between private companies and state agencies. “There’s no way around: The government and investors are going to have to come together to work this out.”
African nations this week pledged to eradicate child and forced marriage in the region at the African Union Summit, according to African Union Goodwill Ambassador to End Child Marriage Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda.
Goodwill Ambassador Gumbonzvanda announced this political commitment to eradicate child, early and forced marriages at a panel event at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva yesterday hosted by state delegations, UN agencies and NGOs including the African Union, the Center for Reproductive Rights, UNFPA, WHO and the governments of Sierra Leone, Italy, Belgium, and Uruguay.
In 2013, the U.N. Human Rights Council—principal body at the UN that promotes and protects human rights for all—adopted a procedural resolution dedicated to ending child marriage. The event this week called for the Human Rights Council to adopt a substantive resolution that recognizes the human rights implications of child, early and forced marriage, and encourage states to use their national and regional experience, to influence and promote the strongest possible inclusion of language addressing CEFM within a comprehensive human rights based approach
“The illegal and unconscionable practice of child and forced marriage has been ignored by too many governments for far too long, violating the human rights of countless young girls and women across the globe,” said Rebecca Brown, global advocacy director at the Center for Reproductive Rights. “Today’s action by the African Union echoes the many U.N. resolutions and regional initiatives developed to end child marriage, and it is an important and positive step toward change. It’s time governments fulfill their promises and take the necessary next steps to ensure these policies are implemented and enforced.”
During the panel event, Melissa Upreti, regional director for Asia at the Center, discussed how South Asia is making strides to end child marriage. Last year the government of Nepal hosted a convening on using the law to end child marriage, particularly focusing on the need for legal accountability for child marriage. Ms. Upreti also introduced the South Asia Initiative to End Violence against Children (SAIEVAC), which has led the development of a regional action plan to end child marriage that reflects the commitment of all eight South Asian states to take steps to end child marriage as a matter of human rights from 2015-2018.
In 2013 the Center issued the report Child Marriage in South Asia: Stop the Impunity examining the consequences of child marriage, which subject girls to serious crimes, including domestic violence and marital rape, placing their reproductive health and lives at serious risk. The report questions the failure of governments to prevent and prosecute cases of child marriage. Since the launch of the report, the Center has supported the efforts of SAIEVAC, in building a regional commitment to end child marriage and applauds the progress being made under the leadership of SAIEVAC to promote stronger legal accountability to end child marriage in the region.
The Center has played a part in some of the most important advances in reproductive rights worldwide. At the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, the Center secured historic financial reparations for the family of a young Brazilian woman who died from preventable pregnancy complications—the first time an international human rights decision named maternal health a human rights. And at the European Court of Human Rights, the Center called upon Poland to ensure adolescents’ reproductive rights after access to a legal abortion for a rape survivor was repeatedly obstructed.
The old saying goes: "Man may work from sun to sun, but a woman's work is never done." Even most men nod in agreement with that proverb yet women often go one better: they feel guilty on top of it all. They always have a vague sense that if they were just a little more organized, they could fit in at least two or three more projects.
An initial reading of Proverbs 31, "The Excellent Wife" scripture, confirms what they have known all along - they aren't HER by any stretch of the imagination. After all, when does this woman sleep? "She rises also while it is still night" (Proverbs 31:15) and "Her lamp does not go out at night." (Verse 17)
There is so much activity packed into these twenty two verses, no wonder the first verse wonders: "An excellent wife, who can find?" Is this for real? Is this what is expected of a godly woman? Was there a man back in those Old Testament days who could boast of actually having a Proverbs 31 wife or was the writer indulging in wishful thinking?
Value for Today?
Does Proverbs 31 have anything of value to say to women of the second millennium? YES. These verses can actually provide encouragement rather than self flagellation. Starting with this: our Old Testament sister was quite modern herself.
I've often heard women try to emulate this "superhero" by taking up hand work such as embroidery ("she works with her hands in delight") and sew their own clothes ("And her hands grasp the spindle") and grow their own food ("she plants a vineyard") and squeeze it all in around a full time job and raising children.
But what about this: she made and invested her own money ("She considers a field and buys it; from her earnings she plants a vineyard.") She was an entrepreneur ("And supplies belts to the tradesmen.") She was independent and self confident ("She senses that her gain is good.") How is that so different from thousands of career women living all over the world right now?
If a man expects a woman [Mother or Wife] to be an angel in his life, he much first create Heaven for her. Angels don't life in Hell.
VIDEO- Sweet Mother by Prince Nico. CLICK HERE to Download Audio
Truthfully, in order to produce needed hope and encouragement, we need to catch the spirit of the Proverbs 31 woman instead of her workload. Trying to replicate all that she did will only produce an impossible treadmill and too many are already on one. So what is the heart of this excellent woman?
The Heart of the Matter
The Proverbs 31 woman appears not to be burdened with the guilt which many superwomen today can't seem to escape. Is that because she was on top of everything; being so perfect and all? I think instead it is because she had a sense of her purpose and truly enjoyed fulfilling it. That's why she could "smile at the future." (Verse 25) People who do what they love or what they feel called to do, usually feel more exhilarated than tired at the end of a long day.
Yes, but what about women who aren't doing what they love? Fine if you have an exciting career but what if you are doing what you HAVE to do in order to survive? There is a deeper career for each of us - no exceptions, than any life circumstance we may have. It is the call and purpose of God. Find it no matter what you do daily and you find a key to the spirit of Proverbs 31.
Here's another insight into the success of this godly woman which all can follow without overload: she was trustworthy. That worked to her advantage, producing favor in all her relationships which in turn increased her satisfaction with life. Who doesn't want to hear: "Her children rise up and bless her; her husband also, and he praises her." (Verse 28) That sure goes a long way in relieving the burden of the maxim "but woman's work is never done."
Also, as mentioned before, our sister had confidence because she was competent. Her high self esteem was rooted in excellence. You don't have to do it all but in whatever you do, let it be with a desire for excellence. Confidence goes a long way in contributing to a fruitful satisfying life in which "her works praise her in the gates". (Verse 31)
There are many Proverbs 31 women living the good life today and it is not because they are slaves to their husbands and children. Nor is it because they desperately struggle being the superwomen our culture seems to expect.
This worthy woman from the book of Proverbs was not, in fact, an old fashioned chauvinistic anachronism. Rather, if we get to the heart of the matter, she might be considered a forerunner for our time.
"An excellent wife, who can find? For her worth is far above jewels. The heart of her husband trusts in her, she does him good and not evil all the days of her life. She looks for wool and flax, and works with her hands in delight. She is like merchant ships; she brings her food from afar. She rises also while it is still night, and gives food to her household, and portions to her maidens. She considers a field and buys it; from her earnings she plants a vineyard. She girds herself with strength, and makes her arms strong. She senses that her gain is good; her lamp does not go out at night. She stretches out her hands to the distaff, and her hands grasp the spindle. She extends her hand to the poor; and she stretches out her hands to the needy. She is not afraid of the snow for her household, for all her household are clothed with scarlet. She makes coverings for herself; her clothing is fine linen and purple. Her husband is known in the gates, when he sits among the elders of the land. She makes linen garments and sells them, and supplies belts to the tradesmen. Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she smiles at the future. She opens her mouth in wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. She looks well to the ways of her household, and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children rise up and bless her; her husband also, and he praises her, saying: 'Many daughters have done nobly, but you excel them all.' Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised. Give her the product of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates."
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