I invite you to journey with us today in this exclusive interview as we learn about Nana’s leadership journey since the African Women’s Leadership Institute of 2002. You will not only be inspired but also challenged discover yourself and lead.
Can you briefly tell us about yourself?
One of the ways in which I routinely describe myself is as an African feminist. I am also a writer, blogger, entrepreneur and a communications specialist. I love to read, and feel that I ought to read in order to nourish my writing, and in recent years I feel saddened that I’ve read less than I would like. For that reason one of my goals this year is to read a book a month – a goal that I thought was realistic but so far I have only finished, “How long has the train been gone’ by one of my favorite writers of all time, James Baldwin. I have started reading ‘My First Coup D’Etat’ by John Dramani Mahami, Ghana’s current President although I feel the need to add that he is far from my favorite person because of Ghana’s current energy crisis.
I have also started ‘Becoming a Writer’ by Dorothea Brande and whilst killing time at Arland Airport in Stockholm picked up ‘Not That Kind Of Girl’ by Lena Dunham which I am really enjoying although I am still waiting to come across the part of the book which had all of Twitter in a storm because she wrote about touching her younger sister’s vagina.
What would you consider as some of the unique qualities that define your personality as an African woman of strength?
I don’t know if I see myself as a woman of strength, although I am an African woman who juggles a lot of roles like many who have come before me. Some of my more positive qualities include my ability to multi-task, and build relationships easily. Some people describe me as “strong”, it’s not a word I would use to describe myself. Hardworking? Yes. Determined? Yes. A Go Getter? An absolute yes.
Kindly share with us your AWLI experience like? What was it like to be part of this institute and how has it impacted on your life and career development over the years?
I attended AWLI whilst interning with Akina Mama wa Afrika in London. The AWLI that I took part in was held in Scotland. I think the year was 2002 because I had just finished my Masters in Gender and Development. I met a lot of amazing African women at the AWLI I attended. Some like Thandi Haruperi I worked with, and many other became close friends like Elvina Quaison with whom I currently house share. So in my personal life the impact was great and in my career too. One of the women who became my friends at the AWLI Bisi Olonisakin was able to give me the number for Bisi Adeleye-Fayemi when I was looking to move to Ghana and wanted a job with the African Women’s Development Fund. I sent in my C.V., followed up with a phone call to ‘Big Bisi’, and underwent one of the toughest interviews of my life but eventually got offered a job as a Fundraising & Communications Officer. I ended up working at AWDF for 7 years with my final post being that of a Communications Specialist.
What were the unique aspects of the AWLI training that stood out for you? Are there some lessons you got from AWLI that have proved particularly effective in your work?
I remember that lots of people cried during the session on sex and gender. The consequences of being treated differently, in many cases from brothers had hurt people deeply. That session underscored to me the importance of treating people fairly.
Would you recommend any young woman to undertake the AWLI training?
Yes, the AWLI training is grounded in African feminist theory which is critical especially as so few spaces privilege African women’s intellectual knowledge production. The AWLI was also an opportunity for younger feminists to meet and interact with key figures in the African women’s movement. Perhaps most importantly of all, the AWLI is an opportunity to meet peers, African women like yourself, passionate about gender justice.
The women’s movement in Africa is said to have lost its vibrancy. What do you think has led to this and how can the women’s movement shift from this phase to the apex of activism for women’s rights?
I don’t believe that the women’s movement in Africa has lost its vibrancy. I think the African women’s movement, like many other movements around the world is under resourced although the evidence shows clearly that all significant changes for gender justice has been led by women’s movement. For a movement to grow, it needs resources to meet, time to reflect, and strategise. In this current era most donors are unwilling to fund movement building work as the impact of this work takes years, sometimes decades to show.
As we draw close to the declaration of the post 2015 development framework and beyond what would you like to see African governments commit to?
I would like to see African governments move beyond commitments to action. Many of our governments have committed to progressive conventions and protocols like the ‘Maputo protocol’ yet they fail to act on the very issues they have said they will prioritize.
What is your message for any young women interested in political leadership?
I would like to encourage all young women interested in political leadership to aim for the highest office in the land and not allow themselves to be limited to offices that are chronically underfunded, and a tokenistic effort to increase the number of women in public office – saying this, even if you find yourself in such an office I urge you to work to the best of your ability, and to work actively with women’s movements, organisations and activists. I urge all women political leaders to make a stand for women’s rights and to push for progressive laws that benefit women, men and the society at large. When there is an issue that affects women it is important that women political leaders speak up for women’s rights and are seen to do so.
Which one thing would you want the world to remember you for?
I would like the world to remember me as a passionate African woman who inspired other African women to live their best possible lives.
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