When trying to resolve the issue of empowering African Women, any talk of black economic empowerment, economic diversification or industrialisation done in the absence of women becomes empowerment with no sensitivity” – Monica Geingos, NAWF Issue 35

Former Malawian president Joyce Banda, and Ghanaian Foreign minister, Hannah Tetteh were some of the 36 speakers at the New African Woman Forum held at the prestigious five star Andaz Hotel, London. It’s hall filled by numerous influential women, as well as men  ready to tackle the multifaceted topic of women’s development in Africa, as well as celebrate the impact and success of African women.

WOA had the pleasure of attending the Forum, as well speaking with the panellists – each one unique in their achievements and views. Co Founder and Publishing Director of Cassava Republic’s Bibi Bakare-Yusuf had poignant opinions when asked about the potential outcomes the Forum may produce. Many discussions have been had in formal and informal settings in regards to themes critical to positive development of the continent, however it is tangible impact that produces results – the action transcending the discussion of potential solutions that all too often, expire into the air no sooner than they have left the speaker’s mouth. However, Bibi firmly addressed this consideration, highlighting the instant impact of gathering with likeminded individuals by saying“ We should stop asking what’s going to come from it. The main factor of  coming together and talking is an end in itself. It’s important to have intellectual discourse, because that allows us to go off and do whatever we would like to do.”

She went on to point out the revolutionary effects of women being connected to each other; “placing names to faces allows us to move forward. If we achieve this at the least, we have been successful”.

Leila Ben Hassen, Director of IC Publications said the forum aimed to “move the conversation forward and contribute to Agenda 2063 gender equality goals”.

 Obiageli Ezekwesili, credited for her relentless efforts in advocating for the Bring Back our Girls Movement, described the platform as a “flourishing event and inspiring platform”, whilst Taskeem Adam, Electrical Engineer, Social entrepreneur and panelist at the Forum told WOA, that the gathering of women “helped challenge mindsets, whilst being an inspiration for change

Their comments reflect the nature of the event and the type of environment the New African Woman Forum fashioned from its desire to ‘change the game’ over two days. It was a place where issues were examined from root to tip among individuals driven by a mutual passion to help women prosper. It seemed to achieve this with an attitude of collectiveness throughout, visible in intense gesticulated discussion, sounds of agreement and facial expressions suggestive of a shared womanhood where men where also integrated into discussion and even solution.

Prior to the Forum,  New African Woman Magazine hosted an Awards ceremony and Gala dinner in order to celebrate and recognise women’s leadership and excellence. The 60 remarkable women shortlisted for the event across catorgories like Business and Sport, were voted for by NAW readers  and“reflected gamechangers from across the continent”.  The celebration was also underpinned by the acknowledgement of potential. The Gala provided validation and exposure for the uncontainable potential rising from the continent, whilst the forum seeked to tackle the tangled web of questions contradictory to a woman’s liberation.

Some of the notable speakers on the day included Alae Ismail, Co founder of Styled by Africa, Eloine Barry, founder of African Media Agency (AMA), Hannah Pool, Senior Programmer of Contemporary Culture at the Southbank Centre and Moky Makura, Deputy Director of Communications Africa, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Speakers covered a range of themes such as “How African Women are Changing the Game, Changing the Rules, Changing the Future” and “Making it Their Business: Women, Gender and Economics” across panel and one-to-one discussions.

The continent is fast being noticed for its potential as an economic powerhouse;  however, whilst the continent is shaping itself into a thriving environment, there are still stones unturned, in the form of current complex situations that threaten it – for instance, when women are the least employed, least empowered and have the least food security. Though much progress has been made in Africa and on a global scale, with efforts geared towards women’s equality, there is still progress to be made to enhance the lives of African Women. The pan-African 50-year initiative Agenda 2063, launched in 2013 by the African Union, asserted a desire to push women to the forefront of a fairer society by tapping into talent and utilising the potential of women. From the audience and participants engagement at the New African Woman Forum, there is a resounding call to be part of making good on its promises.

Visit the NAWF Flickr for more photos from the 2-day event.

Issue 35 of New African Woman is available now via the New African Woman website.