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African Women Leadership Initiative

Over the years, it has become increasingly important to open spaces for citizens’ engagement which would allow them to have an enlightened say in public decisions and actions. From this stand point, Strathmore Governance Centre (SGC) works with likeminded organisations to achieve this noble aim bringing its own contribution. For instance, in May 2013, SGC co-run the “Integrity Leadership Course Africa (ILAC) with Integrity Action. 


At the request of Urgent Action Fund-Africa (UAF-A) in partnership with Coady Institute of St Francis Xavier University, Canada, SGC hosted the first residency of “African Women’s Leadership and Mentoring Initiative” from the 16th- 28th February 2014. The initiative aims at nurturing and developing a new cadre of African women leaders through training, coaching, mentoring, networking and research. It was launched at the International Women’s Leadership Conference held in Lilongwe, September 2013 attended by Dr. Antoinette Kankindi of SGC.


The program is set to run for a total of two years with 4 residencies and an on-line learning platform, hosted by the St. Francis Xavier University, Canada. The pre-selected mentees include: women entrepreneurs from Malawi and Cameroon; women in politics from South Sudan and Ivory Coast and women in the media from Kenya and one SGC staff member along with country representatives from Host organisations:  Lilian Juma-Association of Media Women in Kenya (AMWIK); Emma Kaliya- NGO Gender Co-ordination Network (NGOGCN), Malawi; Hon. Hannah Lona Bona- Voices for Change, South Sudan, Georgette Arey Taku from Cameroon and Elisabeth Pelmeyo from Ivory Coast.  There were a total of 27 emerging African women leaders and representatives from Host Organisations attending the Nairobi residency.


The program is based upon four pillars: 1) Feminist leadership (including personal and collective); 2) Citizen-driven asset-based community development 3) Economic Empowerment and Development 4) Transparency, Accountability and Legitimacy in Governance. Dr. Kankindi is contributing to the whole program with the Module on Governance and legitimacy titled “Governance and Leadership: African Ethics and Values”.


The training began with a series of personal assessment exercises where women shared their personal experiences, their achievements and challenges in regard to their roles as African Women leaders. They then took on an exercise, creating a comprehensive time line of achievements made by the women’s movements in specific countries and globally. Similarities in patterns were noted such as: prior to colonisation, women were part of the decision making processes as well as the ruling elite; women were also instrumental in the struggle for independence but then disappeared from historical records for a number of years after gaining independence. Several sessions were dedicated to “unpacking” terminologies such as African Feminist Leadership, Economic empowerment, Legitimacy and Governance. The definition of the term “Feminist Leadership” opened discussions where the views of several scholars were scrutinised critically. A working definition of the African Feminist Leader was agreed upon: “African feminist leadership is inclusive, dynamic, and transformative and brings about equity and justice for all”. Further discussion on governance summarised good leadership around the classical virtues of Fortitude, Justice, Prudence and Moderation, also taking a look at African traditional values which were inclusive of women’s opinions and participation.


The first residency set a good foundation. It also set ground for   strong peer networks. Participants by country have the assignment of devising a specific area of cooperative inquiry, identifying a common problem that can and will be addressed through the country group effort, in collaboration with partners. All mentees also identified personal goals that they will work on with the support of the online community created from the residency. The mentees are currently working on their individual Action Research themes. The Kenyan group is set to have its initial meeting on 12th March at SGC. The next residency will be held this November in Ivory Coast. It will be followed by a Pan-African Women in Politics conference. A feature on the training, written by one of the mentees, Mercy Njoroge was published here.


Photos courtesy of UAF-A and Hon. Lona Hannah.


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