I’m in the beautiful city of Libreville in Gabon. From the little that I’ve seen I immediately feel at home here. I especially love how Libreville’s population seem very level-headed, and how despite what feels like a heavy military presence the city’s parks and streets are characterized by people relaxing and enjoying their charming environment. With an economy that is expected to grow by 5.6% in 2012, Gabon is one of the fastest growing countries in the world. Hopefully the growth will impact the lives of all Gabonese and not just the lucky and mighty. Like everywhere in Africa, the colonial wound is deeply entrenched so it will take more than economic growth to heal it.
I am here because I’ve been invited to participate in the Dialogue for Action Africa (DFAA), an international forum organised by the Cecilia Attias Foundation. The Dialogue has brought together a diverse group of speakers and participants consisting of NGO leaders, academics and experts from the private and public sectors to identify and address the current global issues facing women today. I’m really looking forward to participating. Panelists include Sylvia Bongo Ondimba, First Lady of Gabon, Yomi Abiola, Activist and Journalist, Fatime Christiane Ndiaye, Sr. Gender Specialist ILO, Vickie Remoe, Founder and Creative Director How4Do productions, Jeanette Kagame, First Lady of Rwanda, Imbuto Foundation, Zainab Salbi, Author, Humanitarian, Media Commentator, Aminata Toure Camara, President and Founder, SILIFE.
There will be special messages from:
Michelle Bachelet, Executive Director of UN Women; Former President of Chile
Cherie Blair, Founder, The Cherie Blair Foundation for Women
Ruma Bose, Serial Entrepreneur, Business Executive, Philanthropist and Author
Sarah Brown, President, PiggyBankKids; Global Patron of the White Ribbon Alliance for Safe Motherhood
Angela Dean, Director, Global Business Development at Partner Africa
Amina Doherty, the Co-Founders and Coordinator of FRIDA | The Young Feminist Fund
Adenike Esiet, Executive Director, Action Health Incorporated
Francoise Girard, President, International Women’s Health Coalition
Arianna Huffington, President and Editor-in-Chief, The Huffington Post Media Group
Jill Iscol, President, IF Hummingbird Foundation
Minna Salami, Founder, MsAfropolitan
Ben Stone, CEO Indego Africa
Amb. Melanne Verveer, Ambassador-at-Large, Global Women’s Issues
My video message, which I will post here in due course has to do with issues of empowerment. For too long western NGO workers have acted as though they know how to empower the African woman better than the African woman herself.
We have been given different tools to navigate through life with but we are all women dealing with similar issues and so we have a lot to learn from each other, African women are teachers as well as students, helpers as well as the helped. And so are women from every part of the world.