In the Month of March, 2023, The Chairperson of WLI was a special guest of honour & guest speaker at an event of the Spouses of African Ambassadors celebrating International Women's Day. She spoke on the topic : AFRICAN WOMEN AND LEADERSHIP IN GLOBAL PERSPECTIVE. It was a very unique event which had in attendance wives of African Countries Ambassadors and other special guests. Below is her speech as read at the event which was held at Washington DC, USA.
AFRICAN WOMEN AND LEADERSHIP IN GLOBAL PERSPECTIVE
It is such a great pleasure for me to be in your midst today especially as it evokes nostalgia for me as a diplomat and former ambassador to Ireland with concurrent accreditation to Iceland. I had precious moments with Ambassadors’ wives whom I had the honor to host and also took a group picture with, before I left my duty post. Thank you for inviting me.
As we celebrate the 2023 international Women's Day, I would like us to reflect on the incredible progress that African women have made in leadership roles and the challenges that are still ahead. African women have featured prominently in global leadership although the numbers are few. Back home in Africa, history has recorded 22 women as Prime Ministers and Presidents of their countries, with Ellen Sirleaf as the trailblazer. Some other women have broken records as Chief Justices, Chief Executives of companies and Financial Institutions, Ministers, Legislators, Ambassadors, Journalists, and Fighters for Social Change and Climate justice.
Beyond Africa, quite a few African women have been appointed to top positions in institutions of Global Governance in this 21st century and this is an indication that even if parity has not been possible inclusiveness has been recorded especially in the cases of South Africa’s Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka as U.N. Under Secretary General and Executive Director of UN Women, Uganda’s Winnie Biyanyima who served as the Executive Director of Oxfam International and Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala of Nigeria whose appointment from the Managing Director of World Bank to the office of Director-General of WTO was historic.
As we celebrate the rise of African Women in global leadership, it is important to consider how the theme of 2023, # #EmbraceEquity affects African women in general. The focus for International Women’s Day, 8 March 2023, is DigitalAll: Innovation and Technology for Gender Equality which is a major challenge for Africa. The theme is aligned with the priority theme of this year’s CSW which is “Innovation and technology change, and education in the digital age for achieving gender equality and empowerment of all women and girls.”
I am a politician and I have traversed the entire length and breadth of Nigerian rural areas. I know that technology is a major challenge for women. The majority of Nigerian rural women are farmers and traders, and it is impressive that many of them as well as hairdressers, dressmakers, and other skilled workers who are not very educated are competent in using cellular phones to communicate, through informal learning. They only make and receive calls as their introduction to technology. How do we expand their knowledge in technology?
I founded the Women Leadership Institute in 2017 and we organize quarterly masterclasses. We have trained over 1000 women and my experience is that the majority of them have zero knowledge of computers, by implication, technology. As we organize programs such as yours, our priority should be on technology because the rest of the world is moving on. The most striking problem in Africa is poverty and technology is a critical tool to address poverty in our continent.
We need to take urgent action in bridging the gap between African women in global leadership and women in rural Africa especially women who do not have access to higher education or who can barely provide for themselves and their families.
In my Igbo culture, there is a song that calls for the unity of women as sisters and which reminds us of the necessity to pull up those who are on lower platforms.
For your association, remember that women are reputed to influence their husbands and your intervention is important. Ambassadors are influential in their home countries' policies. We need African countries to prioritize technology in the school curriculum from the basic level of kindergarten, primary and secondary schools through universities. Technology needs to be a culture in Africa like in the rest of the developed world. You have a role to play. African women in global leadership have a critical role to play in pulling up other women to embrace equity.