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African Women and the Changing Global Outlook

Chinazor Onianwah | 5/13/2009, 10:03 a.m.


According to its organizers, the goal of the conference was to promote the empowerment of women and gender equality as issues central to U.S. development policy in Africa; and to develop new ideas and joint framework for continued engagement toward aid effectiveness in the areas of governance, security, health, and the environment. Other specific agenda for the conference is to develop partnerships with NGOs, think tanks, faith-based groups, and academia to further public and political discourse on the challenges facing women in Africa and to promote and reward successful efforts.

Though it was noted by most speakers that there is empirical evidence that investing in women causes the society to prosper, the greatest challenges faced by women is lack of access to education and wealth building resources.

The conference closed with the film €A Powerful Noise€ as an apt illustration in vivid audio and video the issues the conference was seeking to address - how to empower women to seek answers to problems they face. The film€s three heroine€s, Hanh who overcame the despair of losing her husband and children to HIV/Aids and started a self help group in Vietnam; Nada who survived the Bosnian war and built an agricultural Co-operative to save others and Jacquline who rescues young girls from forced labor in the streets of Bamako, all showed resilience in overcoming hardships. However, it was not quite clear if this conference provided immediate answers to what ails African women.
    Niemat Kuku, coordinator for Gender Center for Research and Training in Sudan, asks the audience to accept more grassroots influence in international decisions affecting women at the 2009 Women€s Empowerment Conference held at the National Geographic Society on Fri., May 8. Photo by Roy Lewis
    (left to right) Dr. Gwendolyn Mikell, professor of Anthropology and Foreign Service, Georgetown University, chair for the Political Empowerment and Security Session, Ambassador Amina Salum Ali, AU Ambassador to U.S., Emira Woods, Foreign Policy in Focus Co-Director, Institute for Policy Studies, and Ritu Sharma Fox, Women Thrive Worldwide, listen as Niemat Kuku, coordinator for Gender Center for Research and Training in Sudan, speaks on international women€s rights at the 2009 Women€s Empowerment Conference held at the National Geographic Society on Fri., May 8. Photo by Roy Lewis

    At the conclusion of the conference, one of the attendees who refused to give his name wondered why it took the British Embassy to initiate the conference and not one of the 53 African Embassies in Washington, DC. €If none of the African embassies see a need to host a conference like this one how sincere would they be when it comes to implementing the solutions offered up at the conference.€