"The 3rd edition of the West African in Leadership Conference (WAWLC) was held at Alisa Hotels, Ridge, Accra from the 14th-15th of July 2011. It was an impressive gathering of women from diverse backgrounds from across the region. "
The Conference was opened by the former First Lady of Ghana, Her Excellency Mrs Nana Konadu Agyeman Rawlings and boasted a diverse delegates list of women in politics, legislature, business, commerce and all walks of life. There were other representatives from the United Nations and the Queenmothers Association of Ghana. The Speakers, who led impressive and quality sessions, were great women leaders with a passion for the development and empowerment of African women. The aim of this year’s Conference was to engage in discussions and agree actions around the 2011 WAWLC theme “The African Woman in the 21st Century – Embracing the Future”
ResolutionsAfter two days of intense discussion and interaction we concluded on a number of clear resolutions:
• ADVOCACY – Restrategising and empowering women for advocacy
1. Engage with woman at a political level, encourage and support them in the primaries or in grassroots politics.
2. Women representatives from the various countries should advocate for change and policy implementations in their countries to increase advocacy.
3. Introduce ‘safe seats’ for women in local and national government/parliament.
4. Develop structures at the grass-roots level that can engage and encourage the non-elite women.
5. Avoid concentrating only on empowering the elite/educated women who are already in their comfort zone and reach out at the rural level.
6. Include and engage the physically challenged women in advocacy.
• BUILDING STRONG ALLIANCES – cohesion and support of women by women
1. Women should accept that they are not their own worst enemies. That is the only way women can organize a critical mass support system which will break and not create barriers.
2. Mentoring - Older women and women in leadership positions should take up the responsibility of encouraging and mentoring the younger women /girls to ensure continuity and succession in all aspects of life.
3. NGO’s must be more practical, support and educate girls/women at the grassroots level.
4. Women should provide strong financial support for each other.
5. Women should go into businesses for themselves so they can be financially sound and independent and to be able to support themselves and other women in the society.
6. Build capacity for women who want to go into their own businesses.
7. Engage men to help them understand how to support women – e.g. invite male leaders to attend conferences such as WAWLC.
• WOMEN AND INFORMATION COMMUNICATION TECHNOLOGY (ICT) - Gender disparity can be addressed by the following:
1. ICT can be used to reduce discrimination and empower women socially and financially.
2. Women can use technology to address and efficiently manage their time and resources.
3. Social norms should be addressed to favour women who are interested in developing themselves in the ICT field, to help improve their community.
4. Information and social networks such as facebook, twitter, e.t.c. can be used by women to mobilize support for social change and enhance their financial independence e.g. exploit the use of telecommunications and use mobile phones for trading and marketing purposes.
5. Mobilise support for women inventors by mainstreaming gender issues into ICT policy implementation.
• FEMALE OPPRESSION
1. Mothers, aunties, sisters and women must address the culture of silence which encourages female oppression in homes and communities.
2. The media enforces oppression by showing images that encourage oppression. Thus, the same media/medium must be used to bring about change.
3. The various WAWLC country reps should present documents on decisions made during conferences such as this, to their country’s policy makers so they can be considered in the policy decision making and implementation process.
4. Enforce justice to abused women.
5. Women should educate their sons and men to be better and responsible adults.
6. Provide social infrastructure and amenities to educate parents to avoid giving away their teenage girls into early marriages. Most often, these pre-mature marriages tend to be the leading causes of high maternal mortality rates and other reproductive health related issues.
• INTERACTIVE SESSIONS – some agreed actions
1. Every delegate should take at least one action to implement before the next Conference
2. Every woman leader should aim at changing at least the life of one other woman.
3. Include and address water and sanitation issues in women advocacy.
4. Women should venture into agriculture and develop it beyond micro capacity.
5. Introduce programs that break language barriers in Africa e.g. using music to effectively communicate women and advocacy issues.
6. Women should focus on issues and what a woman can do to bring about change and not focus on the superficial.
The Conference ended with an Awards Dinner at the Accra International Conference Centre, where seven awards were made to deserving women in various categories as follows:
1. West African Woman of the Year – Her Excellency Dame Patience Goodluck Jonathan (Nigeria)
An African Woman of passion and courage
Her Excellency Mrs Nana Konadu Agyeman Rawlings (Ghana)
An African Woman demonstrating excellence in an International Career
Dr Mary Chinery Hesse (Ghana)
A Woman at the heart of grassroots women in West Africa
Senator Florence Ita Giwa (Nigeria)
An African Woman demonstrating Excellence in Business
Mrs Khindu Eke-Spiff (Nigeria)
An African Woman demonstrating Excellence in Business
Mrs Lillian Lisk (Sierra Leone)
An African Woman ahead of her time
Mrs Theodosia Okoh (Ghana)
A Woman Leading the Way for West African Young Women
Mrs Biola Alabi (M.D, MNET) (Nigeria)
Posthumous Award - West African Entertainment Icon
Christy Essien Igbokwe (Nigerian Lady of Songs)