Standing on great shoulders

The day I met Samia Nkrumah, I was awestruck by her humility, her grace and the dignity with which she carried herself.
It was a moment I proudly splashed on my Facebook, and squeezed into the 120 characters of a tweet.

I was convinced at that moment that I was well on my way to greatness, for in some journeys there has to be some turning point and that was it for me.

Having been identified among some of Africas most extraordinary emerging women leaders; the enormity of it had not yet sunk in and I arrived in Accra for the 3 week fellowship training feeling considerably daunted.

From over 800 applicants from all over the continent and the African diaspora, I was picked in the final 25 and with this selection came the honour of being a MILEAD Fellow by the Moremi Initiative for womens leadership and development in Africa.

I set foot on West African soil determined to make the most of the experience.

My arrival coincided with the opening ceremony for the fellowship and in attendance was none other than Zimbabwes ambassador to Ghana, Mrs Pavelyn Musaka, the South African ambassador to Ghana, Mrs Jessica Ndhlovu and the Nigerian ambassador to Ghana, Alhaji Issifu Baba Kamara.

Treated as equals

And they treated us as equals and deferred to our opinions as if we were their peers and it was refreshing to not be patronized but to be engaged with as a group of leaders who have what it takes to impact the world positively.

It was also humbling to note that the Minister for Women and Childrens Affairs, Ms Joyce Aryee took time from her parliamentary session to share some insights on what it takes to be a leader in Africa, more-so a woman leader.

They will tell you it cannot be done, well I am here today to tell you that not only can it be done, it is has been done and it is still being done. You owe it to yourselves to never give up and never ever walk away from a fellow sister in need. In this journey to becoming the next generation of African women leaders, you will need to help, support, encourage and work with each other, she said adding that she had been called names and insulted in the media during smear campaigns so she had learned to just be tough.

Since the leadership institute commenced, I have had the honour of visiting Ghanas parliament which occasioned my encounter with Samia.

Then the opportunity to meet with Betty Mould-Iddrisu who is Ghanas Attorney General and Minister of Justice, the first woman to ever hold these posts since Ghanas independence in 1957.

I will tell you one thing. You must work hard and you must never, never forget where you come from. Never forget. Never let yourself forget, she stressed urging us to be humble even as we pursue our most lofty ambitions.

We were inspired.

Soon after this meeting, we were shuttled to the Accra Holiday Inn Hotel where we had the honour of spending an hour with Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland, a member of the Council of Elders, former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and the founder of Realizing Rights.

She shared her experiences on working in Africa and some of the most pressing problems faced by the continent.

Pressing challenges

If we can isolate one of the most pressing challenges in Africa, it would be the use of religion and tradition to oppress women. The efforts to realize gender equality and to elevate the status of women are significantly hampered by this, said Mary Robinson.

It was an enlightening session, coming hot on the heels of a group outing that saw us visiting the African Womens Development Fund (AWDF) headquarters where we were hosted by some of the most successful women in funding on the continent.

AWDF has over the past decade funded womens organisations all over the continent and propelled the womens movement by facilitating the necessary financial resources to ensure that organisations continue the all important work of elevating the status of African women. And I find myself increasingly recalling the sentiments of Bernard of Chartres who used to say that, we are like dwarfs on the shoulders of giants, so that we can see more than they, and things at a greater distance, not by virtue of any sharpness of sight on our part, or any physical distinction, but because we are carried high and raised up by their giant size. For a great deal has been achieved by those women leaders who have gone ahead of us and with each generation the load becomes lighter but the complexity of the challenges we are up against remains.

May we be found worthy of the mantle of leadership when the day comes to pass on the torch? – Kubatana

Post published in: Opinions

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