« New African Woman, more than a forum, is the new annual meeting of African women’s leadership » – Leila Ben Hassen

While the second New African Woman Forum is due to be held in Dakar on April 12-13, the initiator, Leila Ben Hassen, Managing Director of the IC Publications Group, reminds us of the foundations: offering an unprecedented platform to the new women’s leadership in Africa.


By Dounia Ben Mohamed


A few days before the second New African Woman Forum expected in Dakar on April 12-13 April, can you recall the NAWF’s goal?

One of the Group’s missions is to promote African women and Africa so as to reduce gender discrepancies and share women’s experiences and successful actions by bringing together political leaders, business leaders, civil society players and policy-makers from the public and private sectors. To change the situation, the bar must be set high and short, medium and long-term solutions must be found to promote the women and development in Africa.

Is the women’s leadership not sufficiently highlighted in Africa?

Not enough, according to me. We are reminded in every speech that women are the future of Africa. First, they are at the heart of the continent’s development. Unfortunately, they are victims of all inequalities: women are the first victims of famine, wars, and underdevelopment more broadly. In 2017, nearly half a billion women still cannot read, 62 million girls are denied access to education, and 155 countries still have laws discriminating against women. In spite of many multinational and corporate women leaders, the labour environment still excludes, underpays, discriminates and exploits half of their available talents. It would take 118 years for women to have the same career prospects as men! No country in the world has yet managed to bridge this gender gap. The big question still arises: why does this still persist and how to remedy it? Yet, according to all statistics, they embody change in Africa, in the political, economic, social, cultural fields and in the media …, The New African Woman Forum finally gives them the floor! More than a forum, it is the new annual meeting of African women’s leadership.

This edition will be held in Africa, after London for the first. Why this choice, why Dakar in particular?

The first Forum brought together over 200 Africa’s most influential women, including Joyce Banda, former President of Malawi, Hannah Tetteh, former Ghanaian Foreign Minister, Bineta Diop, Special Envoy of the Chairperson of the African Union Commission for Women, Peace and Security, and Jeanine Mabunda Lioko, Personal Representative of the President of the Democratic Republic of Congo in charge of countering sexual violence and recruitment of children … The choice of the Teranga land is not a coincidence. First, Dakar is the gateway to sub-Saharan Africa. Senegal is a politically-stable country with higher security and a reliable hotel infrastructure. Moreover, Dakar is well connected in terms of air traffic and Internet. In addition, it is a landmark in art and music, with many international ambassadors such as Akon, Youssou Ndour, and Ismail Lo … Finally, the women are playing a crucial role in this country, the only country, with Rwanda having a total parity in the parliament.

What is expected from this forum?

The Forum will focus on six crucial areas and adopt a series of recommendations and action plans to accelerate progress in gender equality, in line with the 2063 Agenda goals. Through Interactive sessions, experts’ debates and recommendations, the participants will take advantage of the various “success stories” and good practices and will have the opportunity to contribute to the debates and discuss the following themes: « Women leaders: how to form women leaders capable of transforming the continent; Women in business: developing self-confidence and implementing their full potential; Women in new technologies: stimulating African growth through technology; Women in the mining sector: prosper in a world dominated by men; Agriculture: creating value chains and maximizing profits; Investing in women’s health: a key factor in economic development; African fashion and textiles: a dynamic and stimulating industry; Include younger generations. »

Prizes are also an opportunity to honor deserving women in various sectors….

Actually, the Prizes awarded during the New African Woman are intended to reward African women who have distinguished themselves in 12 key categories. The winners will be announced at the Gala Dinner on April 12, 2017. In 2016, the winner of the African Women’s Policy Prize, Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, outgoing Chairperson of the African Union, dedicated her prize to thousands of women and men who work for the empowerment of African women … Thanks to the successful first edition, the New African Woman Awards has become the flagship event highlighting African women leaders. After a call for nominations, the organizing committee pre-selects candidates in each category to be submitted to an external jury with extensive expertise across the continent. After a carefully-selected set of criteria, the jury selects the winners, which is not always easy, but we can only appreciate the talented and successful work undertaken by our mothers, sisters and daughters who are changing our beautiful continent.

And for the next edition, do you already have an idea on the NAW Forum host city?

We have not yet chosen the city, though we have some ideas. In any case, it will be held in a country that is making some definite progress in terms of gender equality. We hope that by this time we will reach more women in North Africa and Portuguese-speaking African countries.

Author: Dounia Ben Mohamed//Photos: Leila Ben Hassen at the 2016 Forum © DR


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