MILEAD Journals: Business and Fun!

Hey Linguerites! Let’s do a show of hands and see how many of you think this post is long overdue. Note that mine is the first up, so I’ll just go ahead and get with the program instead of creating excuses. The truth is that we have been extremely busy with lectures at the Institute and barely have time for anything else. I usually crash immediately after dinner, even after planning to write something on here to keep you updated on our activities. I’d take this chance to thank all those who keep sending messages and tweets of encouragement and appreciation for the updates. I won’t forget those who go ahead to demand for updates( you know who you are). It all means a lot to me and I’m grateful for the support. This week has been generally great, filled with amazing lectures and interaction with great men and women in Africa. I can’t talk about everything for fear that WordPress will kick me out, so I’ll just share a couple of pictures and tell you about our activities today.

MILEAD Fellows 2012 with Moremi Board members and guests at the opening ceremony

Representing West Africa!!!

Gambian Fellows with Kiabeh from Liberia

At lectures!

Fun at the beach!

After a rather hilarious ‘Talent Show’ last night, I went to bed reeling with laughter at the craziness displayed by the ladies. Most performances betrayed the whole ‘talent’ idea, but were amusing enough to keep us entertained for a while. I performed two poems : Stranger, lover, Friend and Invictus in celebration of Nelson Mandela’s Birthday. I guess the audience loved it and I’ve resolved to practice some more performance poetry and perfect the art.

Today, we went visiting different organisations and our first stop was at the African Women Development Fund office. Here, we met with a fraction of the staff who presented the Fund’s activities and modus operandi. This was followed by a Question and Answer session with the Fellows. Yours truly decided to touch on a critical issue addressing the perpetuation of the ‘Us vs Them‘ divide, in dealing with women empowerment projects. I was intrigued by the fact that the Fund only accorded grants to women-led organisations. Some of my friends call me a feminist and I take it gladly, as I care greatly about empowering women and advocating for a leveled playing ground in various sectors. However, I believe partnership and collaboration with the menfolk would help us achieve our goals and create an environment where everyone is able to contribute effectively to development regardless of their gender. The HR Manager, however, clarified that they were not ‘anti-men’ but felt it was time to give women a chance to be at the forefront.  I left the meeting with a couple of unanswered questions, a folder containing information on the Fund and an even greater resolve to work harder and bridge the gaps.

Outside the AWDF office

Our next stop was the World Bank, Ghana Office. We were welcomed by a team comprising the office staff and two representatives from a civil society organisation that had implemented a project funded by the Bank. After remarking about 40 cases of maternal mortality in a certain region in Ghana, the women formed a group to address the problem. With funding, they conducted research to find out the causes and draft possible solutions to the problem. The group realised the effect of home delivery by the Traditional Birth Attendants and after consultations with the latter, embarked on a sensitisation campaign to educate them on the dangers associated with their activities. A consensus was reached with the various stakeholders and the TBAs agreed to partner with the medical professionals to curb the maternal mortality rate. They now refer delivery cases to the hospitals and have the chance to accompany women in labour, to provide reassurance to those who still lack faith in modern medicine. This reminded me of the campaign against FGM and how the traditional practitioners were eventually convinced to stop the act and later equipped with skills to enable them fend for themselves and their families. I made inquiries on the possible measures taken to ensure an alternate source of income for the TBAs and was told they usually receive motivation packages(usually bars of soap), based on the number of referrals they make. I was not too convinced by this response and so here too, I left with a couple of question marks hanging over my head. We also got to meet the Country Director, Yusupha Crookes, briefly and I fell in love with his enunciation and accent almost immediately. To my dismay, I was informed, after he had already left, that he’s a Gambian. I had missed his introduction and would have known from the name, as I went to school with two of his nieces for many years. I do not know how many other countries I shall visit before I die but I’ve resolved to do a background check on Gambians living around the world, to save myself the ’embarrassment’. We had lunch there and interacted some more before setting out for the Parliament.

Picture speaks for itself

When we got there, one of the Committees was in sitting and so we could not meet them as planned. I’ve got to say Ghana has a really huge and magnificent Parliament House. Hence we could not get in with business, we let pleasure take over and had our mini photo session by the fountain. I share

Fountain at the Ghanaian House Parliament

I bet you remember me telling you about the personal presentation Fellows are expected to do. Well, Linguere did hers today and it was totally awesome. I thought I was gonna break down at some point and was amazed when I made it to the end ‘in one piece’. The presentation was basically to introduce myself and talk about the activities I’m involved in. I later got questions from my colleagues and it felt good talking about myself. I’d never really been able to pull that off, so I guess that saying about first times for everything is true after all. I got pretty good reviews from a handful of the ladies too and that meant a lot. So dear readers, excuse the jumbled up thoughts and look out for some more tomorrow.

I take this opportunity to wish you all a blessed month of Ramadan. I ask for forgiveness from everyone I’ve offended and have forgiven you all (not that I bear any grudges).  I pray that Allah grants us all a fruitful and blessed month, forgives our sins and guides us all on the right path. I pray for peace in the world, especially in Syria. My heart goes out to her people who would observe Ramadan in the chaos they’re surrounded by. May the good Lord shower his mercy on us all. Catch you soon!

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