Friday, March 7, 2014

Honouring women I know who contribute to Inspiring Change on #womensday

It's in the early hours of International Women's Day. A woman is keeping me up. :-) But I figured I should write this blog post before it's 2:33am and then I will finally go to bed. I want to honour some great young women I know on the occasion of women's day. Before I get to women I know who lead, I'd like to give a special mention to my first girlfriend +Phelele Fakudze. She leads too, don't get me wrong. She was and still pretty much is a female version of me. We connected on so many levels and shared many passions. I've not seen her since she moved to Swaziland after 2008, and she's continued to inspire many young women. I will never forget this blog post she wrote. She has some of the best advice any woman can give women, and really, men as well.

Last weekend at the African Business Conference at Harvard Business School, I attended the women in leadership panel. One of the panelists wrongly attributed this following quote to Kofi Annan or someone who wasn't James Kwegyir Aggrey - "If you educate a man, you educate an individual, but if you educate a woman, you educate a nation". This doesn't belabour the point, it's the truth. Men have to go out and influence, women have people come up to their bosoms for influence. Maybe the fact that men go out to do so many times has given birth to the many men who've led in years past. More women need to lead.

After the panel, I asked one of my role models, +Ory Okolloh, about an issue which has been heavy on my heart. Through the many +Barcamp Ghana events, the +GhanaThink Foundation has failed to attract a good number of women to participate in our networking forums. It could be that we are using wrong channels - ie social media - but I see many women using Facebook, Twitter and Instagram greatly, even if a lot of the posts are pictures. I asked Ory, how can we attract more women to participate in Barcamps and forward thinking events in general? She said that we should work with those who have already shown an interest and taken the initiative. These should in turn influence others, invite others and impact their attitudes towards the ideals of leading, doing, entreprising and being active in their communities.

It made sense. I had thought that one way to go would be to encourage more events like what +Afua Osei is doing with the Savvy Madam, what +Benjamin Gregory Aggrey is doing with the +WOMAN 2.1 Summit, what +Heather Cochran is doing with Next Wave Africa, +Yawa Hansen-Quao with the Leading Ladies network, etc. There are many other women's groups out there. These would be great ways to get more women into the pool of passionate, proactive, progressive, patriotic, positive and productive people, from which more would attend male-dominated events and participate in male-dominated projects. We've increasingly changed around our Barcamps and various decisions made to ensure that more women participate. It's been working.

At Google Ghana, I worked mostly with women, led by the awesome +Estelle Akofio-Sowah who I'd be cheering on to become Ghana's first female president, +Awo Addo+Jeminatu Alabi-Isama+Nana Amoah+Antoinette Benneh, amongst others. Through GhanaThink, I've worked with many young women like +Doris Anson-Yevu, +Christine Yieleh-Chireh, Seyram Avle, +Nana Yaa Dodi+Jemila Abdulai+Senam Aseye Bridget, +Ela Asare+Florence Abena Toffa, +Kuukuwa Manful+Teresa Lemaire just to name a few. I'm working more closely with +Esi Cleland-Yankson+regina agyare+Deborah Ahenkorah+Nadia Zeine and +Yawa Hansen-Quao more closely now. I have a great ton of respect for others like +Farida Bedwei+Mabel Simpson+Hannah Acquah+Ayorkor Korsah, etc.

I tell people privately that I am routinely disappointed by the collective drive of Ghanaian women. I don't want to bring up Beijing. The theme for International Women's Day in 2014 is "Inspiring Change". A better theme could not have been chosen. Today, I salute all these women on the occasion of this day. More vim for all your endeavours. May you inspire change amongst women, touch men and through you, may our nations be exponentially better.

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