Women leaders from Africa hone skills, build network at Yale forum

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Leaders from six African countries participated in the second Leadership Forum for Strategic Impact in April.

Twelve women leaders from six African countries, including government ministers, parliamentarians, and other senior officials from Ethiopia, Liberia, Senegal, Tanzania, Tunisia, and Uganda, participated in the second annual Leadership Forum for Strategic Impact in April. At meetings held both at Yale and in Washington, D.C., participants discussed and debated key issues women in leadership face around the world.

The forum aims to enhance the knowledge and skills of senior African women leaders who already have attained important positions within their nations’ governments, and to build a network across Africa to further amplify the women’s effectiveness and influence. It is supported by the Women for Africa Foundation through Banco Santander, and is sponsored by the Brady-Johnson Program in Grand Strategy and the Office of International Affairs at Yale.

“When women are in leadership positions, their influence confers advantages at every level – whether in business, government or communities,” said Elizabeth H. Bradley, faculty director of the Yale Global Health Leadership Institute and director of the Brady-Johnson Program in Grand Strategy.

The forum is also a flagship of the Yale Africa Initiative, a university-wide endeavor housed within the MacMillan Center for International and Area Studies.

“Of the 46 countries in the world where women comprise at least 25% of national legislators, 14 are in Africa. In time, the Yale Network of African Women Leaders will constitute a formidable group of role models, mentors, and change-makers working in the service of their respective countries,” said Eddie Mandhry, director for Africa at Yale’s Office of International Affairs.

The participants were Meaza Ashenafi, judge and human and women’s rights expert from Ethiopia; Neila Chaabane, former state secretary for women’s affairs from Tunisia; Faouzia Charfi, former secretary of state for higher education and scientist from Tunisia; Julia Duncan-Cassell, minister of gender and development from Liberia; Maria Kiwanuka, former minister of finance from Uganda; Shitaye Minale, deputy speaker of the house of representatives of Ethiopia; Awa Niang, of the National Assembly of Senegal; Gloria M. Scott, president of the constitutional review committee and former chief justice of Liberia; Victoria Sekitoleko, former minister of agriculture from Uganda; Aminata Touré, former prime minister of Senegal; and Sophia Wambura, judge of the high court of Tanzania; and Gloria Scott, President of the Constitutional Review Committee, and former Chief Justice of Liberia.

“These women have the potential to effect great positive change in Africa,” said Eduardo R. Garrido, director of Santander Universities. “This collaboration between these outstanding women, Yale, and the Women with Africa Foundation, which has such a deep knowledge of Africa and the key role women play, has the potential to effect real change on the continent.

“We will continue working hard with our partners for future editions of the program as well as leadership courses in the participants’ countries so that we can transfer their knowledge and expertise to other African women,” said Maria Teresa Fernandez de la Vega, president of the Women for Africa Foundation, and the first woman to hold the position of deputy prime minister in Spain.

The first part of the forum was headed by Bradley and with collaborators from the Brady-Johnson Program in Grand Strategy, the Global Health Leadership Institute, the Jackson Institute for Global Affairs, and the Office of International Affairs. It involved four days of intensive sessions on the Yale campus. These sessions were led by distinguished faculty from the across the university and focused on a variety of global challenges faced by women in leadership positions, including health, climate change, effective communication, economics, and globalization, and governance and transparency. Yale students — including Katherine Fang, Priyanka Karuvelil, Sofia Lapides-Wilson, and Kiran Van Lengen Welty, who are students in the Brady-Johnson Program in Grand Strategy — played a significant role in preparing and documenting the activities and outcomes of the leadership forum.  

During the forum, U.S Representative Rosa DeLauro delivered a keynote address, encouraging participants to be tenacious in achieving policy goals in their home countries.

“You can’t give up,” DeLauro said.

The second part of the forum consisted of meetings in Washington, D.C., and included discussions with Loretta Lynch, U.S. attorney general; Ambassador Johnnie Carson, former Secretary of State for African Affairs and Kissinger Senior Fellow at Yale; Nancy Lindborg, president of the U.S. Institute of Peace; and others.

During their time in Washington D.C., participants were also invited to a dinner hosted by Representative DeLauro. The dinner was attended by several members of Congress including Nancy Pelosi, the Minority Leader of the United States House of Representatives who served as the 52nd Speaker of the United States House of Representatives from 2007 to 2011.

Yale runs a suite of leadership training programs for established and rising decision makers from all over the world, in line with its tradition of public service. Other programs include the China-Yale Healthy Cities Leadership Program, Yale-Nigeria leadership programs, the India-Yale Parliamentary Leadership Program, the CIDE-Yale Mexico Leadership Program, the Brazil-Yale Leading Educational Reforms program, and the China-Yale Youth Leaders Dialogue, among others.

A recent blog post by Elizabeth Bradley referring to the forum appears on The Huffington Post.