Mahama ‘Girls’ Mentor Future African Women Leaders

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Two former Cabinet Ministers under the erstwhile John Dramani Mahama government, have challenged women to aspire to be what they want to be, regardless of what may hinder their progress and forward match.

The two accomplished women, Prof. Jane Naana Opoku Agyeman and Nana Oye Lithur, former Ministers of Education and Gender, Children and Social Protection respectively, who were part of selected women leaders for Yale Leadership Forum, said it was the only way to achieve their dream as women.

Speaking in turns at a day’s forum by Yale University at the luxurious Kempinski Gold Coast hotel on Sunday in Accra, the former Education Minister, recounted her journey growing up, all the way to her last position as a Minister.

The former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cape Coast (UCC), who attributed her success to family, friends, students, and even people she didn’t know before, said her major bedrock was her granduncle who encouraged her to go to school to the highest level.

According to Prof. Opoku Agyeman, her family unlike some societies and families, believes in giving equal opportunities to both male and female to excel and so that also played a big role. More importantly, the former lecturer said personal determination spurred her on.

The educationist, challenged women to have strong personal values which will serve as guide, be women who can be trusted, and offer their shoulder to others to rise.

She reminded the women who listened to the discussants with great attention said everything they do in their journey to be force to reckon with in future, must be legally and morally right, adding they must have it in mind that their effort will not to solicit immediate applause. Answering a question on who to prioritize when it comes to family and career, Prof. Opoku Agyeman implored the women to “ask yourself themselves what’s important?”

She said, it’s unnecessary to do so many things at same time and advised women prioritize for example when to have children so that they can have the best of care. The former Minister said it will not be good idea have children who will have to compete for their attention emphasizing on the need to prioritize their families.

Former Gender, Children and Social Protection Minister, Nana Oye Lithur, said it is impossible for women to habour the idea that they can balance family and career because “you can’t balance”. The human right activist said women must stop blaming themselves as failure when they are unable to do the balancing.

She noted, what’s critical is being able to organize and manage their activities but when they are unable to do so, they must “restrategize”. Touching on how she was able to come this far, the astute lawyer and mother of four, said her personal values, integrity drive her to help people, adding her natural attributes are what got her to this level of accomplishment.

Mrs. Lither said she was also motivated by family, women and the headmistress of her former school, Wesley Girls School. The passionate human right lawyer said her appointment by former President Mahama was another opportunity to serve society.

She charged women to know what they aspire to, to enable them to network towards that direction. According to the Minister, her interest in human right issues, reproductive health, gay rights and many others, shaped her to take certain stands which sometimes questioned the status quo but since she was determined, she sealed through.

Explaining further, Mrs. Lither said her position that Lesbians Gays Bisexual and Transgender (LBGT) have rights and must be accorded for instance, nearly stopped her from becoming a Minister, as many legislators completely disagreed with her. But she continued to stand by her position and told the President at the time if that was going to make her not become a Minster, she was prepared for.

“I told President Mahama if my position on gays won’t allow me to be Minister, so be it”, she told the packed room. She charged women, saying they have the responsibility to develop Africa and make it great.

Other accomplished women from parts of Africa who have held several high positions in their respective countries, also shared their experiences and professed what the future African women leaders can do to even achieve higher height. The women agreed on the need to empower females as the proper development of them have been composed for far too long. While doing that, they allayed fears that their male counterparts may be left behind.

They were: Former Minister of Gender and Development of Liberia, Julia Duncan Cassell, Nouzha Skall; former Member of Parliament (MP) of Morocco, Thulisile Madonsela; former Public Prosecutor (TBC) of South Africa, and N’Diaye Ramatoulaye Diallo; Minister of Culture (TBC) of Mali.

Yale Africa Initiative was instituted by President of Yale University Peter Salovey in 2013 upon assumption of office. President Salovey who is visiting Africa for the first time said with the growing influence of the Africa continent on the world economy, as well as increased migration to, from, and within Africa, it was the moment to bring scholarship and teaching about Africa at Yale into sharper focus.

He explained, the initiative has not only enhanced the knowledge and skills of senior African women leaders but it has also bolstered the pipeline for emerging leaders.

“Because when women are in leadership positions, their influence-the example they set-helps women who are in every level of businesses, organizations, or communities”, he said.

According to her Yale’s engagement with the people in Africa should be an important aspect in her outfit’s programmes such as research, service and teaching. She announced in May this year, Yale will accept another group of women leaders into their fold.

The forum, an innovation leveraging the power of the network for greater impact around the continent, was organized on the occasion of the inaugural reunion of the alumni of the Yele Forum for strategic impact, and the first ever trip to Africa by Yale University in partnership with Women for Africa Foundation and Banco Santander.

The leadership forum was organized to serve as catalyst for brokering mentoring relationships between one generation of African leaders and the next. It also served as a platform to develop an action play/ framework for leveraging the power of the network for greater impact around the continent.

The moderated discussions served to create dialogue about the concrete actions necessary to disrupt existing paradigms constraining women’s accesses to leadership. Yale Leadership Forum forms part of a series of events that will take place during the Yale Presidents Visit to Ghana…

 

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