West Africa: Women Leaders Fight For Empowerment

30 03 2009

Why should women leaders tolerate being addressed as “His Excellency” or “Sir”?

This was among the questions raised by Marie Bernette, Sierra Leone’s high commissioner (ambassador) in Liberia at a leadership training workshop for African women this week. The event was held to prepare for a major international women’s gathering in Monrovia this weekend.

The meeting, the International Colloquium for Women’s Empowerment, Leadership Development, International Peace and Security, is being co-hosted by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and President Tarja Halonen of Finland.

Wednesday’s workshop, organized by the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA) and the West African Civil Society Institute (WACSI) which OSIWA founded, attracted representatives from Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire, Sierra Leone, Liberia and other West African countries.

In a panel discussion, workshop participants highlighted the challenges women leaders face as a result of many in society still associating leadership only with men. Panelists expressed the hope that this will begin to change as women take leadership roles in Africa and around the world, and urged today’s woman leaders to “leave the door open to the future for other women to fill.”

Senator Gloria Scott of Liberia, also the country’s former chief justice, said leaders should not behave in a way that led people to say: “This is what that woman leader did, so we don’t need another woman.” She described the fight for women’s empowerment as a war that must take into account the next line of soldiers – a reference to the future generation of women.

Women parliamentarians stressed the need to work with their male colleagues, employing charm rather than confrontation to secure the passage of gender-sensitive bills.

Source: AllAfrica News

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