"Women belong in all places where decisions are being made. It shouldn't be that women are the exception." With these powerful words, Ruth Bader Ginsburg - Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States - once revealed the essence of who women should be involved in all aspects of decision making. Whilst Africa has seen women from different cultures and walks of life climbing the ladder of leadership, they still form the minority. Ambassador Michael Alimo spoke to Jessica Foumena of Women & Africa International, which is dedicated to helping African women discover and use their voice and strengths.
Q. What does “Women & Africa” do?
A. Women & Africa International is an international faith-based, community-oriented organization dedicated to creating a better future for Africa and its women, but also women abroad. We are most active in the United States and the Republic of Cameroon for now. In the future, we hope to expand our activities in other African nations.
Q. How does “Women & Africa” contribute to the development of Africa?
A. Women & Africa International contributes to the development of sub-Saharan Africa through the empowerment and promotion of African youth and women. Most of our projects and initiatives are educational. We have collaborated with the Women’s Studies program of Texas Tech University for the screening of the intercultural film “Get Together Girls” at the 32nd Annual Conference on the Advancement of Women. In March 2017, we launched the first edition of our essay competition.
Q. What has been the biggest challenge for "Women & Africa" and how did you overcome it?
A. The biggest challenge of Women & Africa International has been building a dedicated team to the cause. As a result, the number of team members is limited in the hope to find the right team with the best skills. We also hope to build a team that will help to reach out to women-focused organizations based on the African continent.
Q. What is Africa's greatest promise, and why?
A. Africa’s greatest promise is her daughters. The daughters of Mama Africa are hardworking and smart women who deserve the best. This includes going to school for as long as they desire, having access to quality healthcare (including maternal care), being free from violence, and having access to the same academic and professional opportunities as their fathers, brothers, male friends, and partners.
Q. Why did you choose to start this movement?
A. During my college years in the United States, I realized that Africa - my home - was stereotypically portrayed as the “dark continent” where nothing good could come out. Most of my non-African friends and acquaintances knew little about my country and my continent. I noticed this was also true in the international media. As a result, I started a blog called “Women & Africa” where I wrote and published positive stories about Africa and women.
Five years later, I decided to create the nonprofit “Women & Africa International” out of my desire to take concrete actions to ensure a better future for African youth and women. The movement is dedicated to the future daughters of Mama Africa. I believe it’s very important for African women to share their stories and perspectives.
Q. What's your experience with fundraising?
A. Last September 2016, we launched our first fundraiser “Bless inmates in Cameroon.” The amount collected helped to provide soap, feminine pads, powder soap, rice, bread, and chocolate to female inmates of the Main Prison in Yaoundé last January 2017. In the nearest future, we hope to have more fundraisers that have an immediate impact on the lives of young and African women.
Q. How different is "Women & Africa" from other non-profit organizations?
A. Nonprofit organizations that have a social impact on the African continent and Africans need to collaborate more with one another. This is particularly true for the ones created by Africans themselves. This is why through Women & Africa International; I actively seek collaboration with other organizations based on the African continent or elsewhere. The primary objective is to ensure the well-being of the African youth and women. In the long-term, Women & Africa International will bridge the gap between North America and sub-Saharan Africa.
Q. Where can we follow you on social media?
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