Sometimes, when people think of the Press Corps, they think that only those who love writing and experienced photographers can enjoy being in this committee. However, that is not always the case, especially this year. To conclude “Press…What?” series, we spoke with Nduta Mwangi, the Director of Finance for ALAMAU 2019 who also worked with Press Corps this year. We wanted to share her perspective of working in the Press Corps whilst being affiliated with Finance.
What made you join the Press Corps Team? Dealing with Finances requires minimal interaction with people. I mostly sit behind a computer punching in numbers. However, when Mr Faith requested for me assist with Press Conferences in the Press Corps team, I was eager to join as I would have the opportunity to connect with more people and perhaps really see what goes on in their publications.
What have you enjoyed about Press Corps?
Getting to know delegates whilst assisting them with their writing. I loved seeing them break out of their shells not only in their writing but with one another. I also got to understand the Press Corps, the process of publishing newspapers, interviewing and creating riveting articles that people would love to read.
What is one misconception about Press Corps that you would like to dispell?
That Press Corps is boring and that it is not a real committee. While I do agree that Press Corps is different than the committees, it has equally more demanding. Also, there is so much you can learn from Press Corps. You just have to be willing to learn, be active and put your best foot forward.
There you have it. Whilst Press Corps does require reasonable experience with press skills (writing, interviews and video capturing) it is majorly held by attitude. If you seek to learn and make the best of your experience, you will learn how just as much as you would in a normal committee.
By Katai Mutale, Director of Press Corps ALAMAU 2019.
A common image associated with ALAMAU is committee sessions, placards, cool suits and big words (like moderated caucuses). However, there is a lot more that goes on behind-the-scenes, especially in our department. The Press Corps team documents conference experiences and presents them to you, our audience, mainly through the newspaper and blog. These are our main publications but we also do press conferences after committee sessions. In this edition of “Press…What?” series, we will be exploring what a typical ALAMAU Press Conference looks like, through the lens of the Press Corps.
Press Conferences are formal events where all delegates share the progress in their individual committee sessions. Running for 30 minutes in the afternoon, our team gears up 10 minutes in advance with pens, papers, questions and of course, the famous reflector jackets.
Heading in the press room, you can have a lot expectations: delegates will be on time, they will have sound knowledge about in their topic and you will not forget to mention your news agency as you speak. Of course, not all of these will happen, but you must be geared to for the unexpected and be versatile.
When entering in the press room, you have a few minutes to set up and tick the following off your mental checklist:
1) Be attentive. Due to limited time, most delegates will speak so fast and you may not fully understand what they are saying. But write down what you do understand and then ask what you do not understand.
2) Ask as much questions as possible, but be reasonable whilst doing it. Imagine there is a massive audience behind you and they want to fully understand what the delegates just said. Your questions will help frame their understanding in a right way. Be sure to ask meaningful questions that add to the information gap. Do not ask questions that have a obvious answer but one that “improves upon the silence” (Shirdi Sai Baba).
3) Don’t forget where you are from. Remember, you are representing a news agency. Always begin your question by stating where you are reporting from. A cool format you could use is “My name is xxxx reporting from The Guardian” or “Excuse me madam, Al Jazeera would like to know.”
The ALAMAU Press Conference may not be a real one but but it equips you with real, relevant skills. You learn to listen intently, to ask questions and of course, public speaking.
Convinced to apply to the Press Corps committee yet? If not, don’t worry. Our next few posts will probably convince you! Stay tuned!
By Katai Mutale, Director of Press Corps, ALAMAU 2019
Roaming the corridors of the Indaba hotel are young men and women capturing history in the making. What are they capturing you may ask? They are capturing the delegates in their various committees, helping to solve African problems and developing their critical thinking skills.
We like to think of ourselves as journalist and photographers, helping the outside world understand what really goes on behind the highly acclaimed ALAMAU conference. We cement the ideas, events and activities that make ALAMAU the experience we hold close to our hearts.
One of the Press Corps delegates this year, Lin-Fang Wang, a journalist representing Al Jazeera, expresses that, “I anticipated that being in Press Corp would be chaotic, but with good planning however, it is possible to get an idea and finalize it within the deadline”. This process is facilitated by the wonderful Press Corps facilitators.
Personally, I believe that being a member of the Press Corps team is an experience which offers a lot. Although you might not get the engagement or interaction as the other delegates, you would be on track to meeting and working with amazing people, passionate about what they do and are willing to go through the process together. I was able to refine my photography skills as well as write many essays and editorials without missing out on the fun and action the conference offers.
Finally I would like to commend the work of the people in reflector jackets. You are the real MVP’s.
Imagine black: a dark void swallowing everything in sight. Now imagine white: a blend of the purest rays blinding everything from sight. Now, think of colours dancing around you, forming constellations full of magnificent patterns. Beautiful right? This proves the popular quote that says: “The earth without art is literally just…eh”.
On the 20th of March, different African prints were seen during the ALAMAU opening ceremony. The delegates of the different countries, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Swaziland, Senegal, Uganda, Nigeria and many more all had one thing in common: we all dressed to impress.
The colours we wear represent who we are. Africans generally love colours, we see them as a way of life. The opening ceremony presented a wild array of colours wrapping the room in a warm blanket with different shades of rich thread. We saw Gambians, Togolese, Ivorians showing us how rich their culture is, presenting themselves in vibrant prints made of different materials. Nigerians with different coloured laces and wildly styled ankara clothing parading with the pride of their nation.
Africans are complex in the most beautiful ways. Our culture and heritage are interwoven in the threads of what we wear. Have you seen a Yoruba woman attending a party? Or a Zulu woman getting married? The amount of colours in what they wear is what makes them stand out.
The truth is, we might be different, we may have different ethnics, and beliefs, but our culture of beauty runs long from our ancestors. Our fabrics tell a story, listen well and you might hear the slight whisper of the silky fabrics, saying, “Our unity is in our colours”.
By Notoma-Jefia Oghenefejiro, The East African Correspondent
The 20th of March had finally come: the beginning of ALAMAU 2019. At about 5.30 pm, approximately 253 delegates from over 10 countries around the world gathered at Indaba Hotel to not only celebrate the diversity of Africa, but also enumerate the problems plaguing the continent and proffer solutions.
The opening ceremony of the conference was graced by Ms. Lindiwe Mazibuko, the first South African woman to be elected as leader of opposition in the South African Parliament. She emphasized the need for new and old political groups to unite and forge ahead for a better Africa. She stressed on the importance of the emergence of a young generation of leaders on the African continent.
In another address, Dean Uzo Agyare-Kumi from the African Leadership Academy warmly welcomed everyone and commended the ALAMAU student committee for doing a brilliant job of organizing the conference. However, a key highlight was the parade of nations. From the breathtaking aura surrounding the different African attire by different delegations, to the exotic array of dance moves, the atmosphere of the evening was overwhelmingly ecstatic. What was most salient, however, was the diversity in the room. It gave us a glimpse of how diverse the ideas that would flow from conference would be. Moreover, it also showed a sense of unity and togetherness.
An interview with some of the delegates proved to show the excitement. Most of them applauded the organisers for their good work. For instance, Fayo, a delegate from Nigeria, echoed her compliments stating: “I’ve only been here for 15 hours but I’m looking forward to more because the few people I have met have already made the conference a very appreciable experience for me! Imagine meeting more people!”
With that note of colour and excitement, the conference commenced. We are definitely looking forward for the committee sessions, the backbone of ALAMAU.
With two weeks away from the 6th Annual ALAMAU conference, many of our preparations are coming to a close and we await to see how nearly 10 months of research and work unfolds. However, we are not the only ones eagerly anticipating this display: our delegates are. And in this special blog post, we will be sharing their perspectives.
Meet Melvin Malopa Yusuf Kuteesa and Nishant Mamtora, three delegates participating in ALAMAU 2019 Conference. We contacted them a few days ago to find out information about them and what exactly ALAMAU means to them.
Introduce yourself to us, what you are passionate about and which committee will you be in?
My name is Yusuf Kuteesa, I am seventeen years old and I am Ugandan. One thing I have realized in my life is the need for a mentality shift towards focusing on the future and making the most out of the present. This explains why I am very passionate about becoming a futuristically-focused leader within my country. The youth are the people of tomorrow and a firm foundation must be set to raise them to be the spectacular leaders who will create a cycle of positive change in our country and continent.
So many young people are ignored in my country and I believe that this is wrong. It is for this reason that I aim to trail-blaze the path by becoming a young leader who empowers my fellow youth to have a say in our country’s development and decision-making. During ALAMAU 2019, I will be participating in the Executive Council.
I chose ALAMAU because there is virtually so much to gain at this conference. The thought a diverse collection of students from across Africa and politicians of today interacting and sharing unique perspectives is simply mind-boggling. With such an opportunity, I aspire to learn from these conversations to enhance my leadership skills for the future that I am entering. Aside from that, I also looked forward to exploring a country other than my own.
What is one thing you hope to learn from the conference?
I hope to learn how to enhance my problem-solving skills. Everyone thinks differently and we never stop learning and solving issues. Hearing diverse perspectives on the problems we face and observing how to create concrete solutions will contribute to my knowledge in effective problem-solving.
Please tell us: who is Melvin Malopa and which committee you will be in for the ALAMAU 2019 conference?
Hello all. I am a Melvin Malopa, I am seventeen years old and I am from Malawi. This year’s conference will mark my second time attending ALAMAU. I first attended two years ago, when I was 14. This year, I will be participating in the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) Committee.
What would you like to change/introduce/improve in the African continent and will your committee help you achieve this dream?
I would like to change the mindset that many African leaders have on short-term policies that only benefit the population during their time in power. If Africa is to develop and have a positive future, this mindset has to change. I believe that my committee could help me achieve this dream as we will be discussing solutions that can exhibit long-term benefits for all African nations. I also hope to see an Africa dependent on Africans. I believe that our countries are too dependent on foreign nations for things such as trade and finance, which do not enable us to be self-sufficient. My committee also covers this topic, as it looks into the economic advancement of the continent as a whole. I believe that from our fruitful discussions, I will gain some knowledge on how to make this dream a tangible reality.
What is one thing you are looking forward to at ALAMAU 2019?
Meeting new people, making new friends and discussing Africa’s current problems and possible solutions with people my age. It will be exciting to see things from a continental perspective as opposed to a Malawian opinion.
Do introduce yourself, where you are from and which committee you will be in during ALAMAU 2019?
I am Nishant Mamtora and I am originally from the UK. However, I have been living in Malawi for over 15 years and call it my home. I will be representing Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in the Executive Council Committee.
2. We understand that you are passionate about Pan-Africanism. What role does/can Pan-Africanism play in your committee?
Pan-Africanism is one of Africa’s main ideologies that means a lot to me. The idea that African people can unite and strengthen one another at a continental level is really a beautiful concept. I think that Pan-Africanism helps my topic, Strengthening Human Development through Improved Management of Natural Resources, envision an Africa that trades their technology among one another, reducing the factors of production and increasing economic growth. When that vision is set in place, it is easier to formulate solutions that align to make this a reality.
3. What skill do you hope to develop at ALAMAU that will help you in the future?
I hope to develop my communication and sociable skills.
And there you have it! Our delegates do seem passionate and geared to engage in helpful conversation about solutions to real issues affecting our continent.
If you are a hearing about ALAMAU for the first time or you are anticipating this year’s conference, stay glued to our social media pages (listed below) and this awesome blog page for more updates on what is new and happening. Also, feel free to scroll through our other interesting articles for a glimpse from engaging perspectives from this beautiful continent of ours! We personally recommend Samantha Nyakundi’s Women, Sports and Development and Laila Bera’s Delegate Preparation Guide.
Have a lovely week ahead!
The Press Corps Team.
Edited and Compiled by Katai Mutale, Director of Press Corps, ALAMAU 2019
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We are about 6 weeks away from our sixth ALAMAU conference and we hope that you’re researching, and practicing your speeches in front of your mirror because it is going to get lit in those committee rooms.
In this article, we give you some dope tips on how you can get your research on point. We hope that you find this useful. Reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org for any more questions and enquiries on delegate preparation.
Your committee’s study guide will provide you with lots of information about the topic as your committee’s chairperson would have spent several months researching to compile the guide. Let that be your primary source of research.
How to research your committee?
is very important that you understand the committee or international
organization in which you will be a delegate. You will find below some
questions that are meant to be a starting point for your committee research.
What is the full name of your committee? Does it function as an independent organization, or is it an organ of the African Union?
Why was your committee founded? When was it founded?
What document established your committee?
What are your committee’s powers?
How many members does your committee have? Who are the current members of your committee?
How is membership determined in your committee? How long does membership last?
When and how frequently does your committee meet?
Does your committee report up to another committee? Does your committee have sub-committees?
How would you describe your committee’s role in the African Union system?
study guide provides a brief overview of the above information however, you are
encouraged to use secondary online sources.
How to research your topic?
develop a broad understanding of your topic beyond the study guide, here is a 4
– step guide to researching your topic:
Develop an overall understanding of the topic
Break the topic up into smaller issues to make it
easier to understand. Also, know the key actors: which countries are most
affected by the topic and which countries have the most impact on the topic.
Read about the topic through articles published in newspapers, academic
journals, and foreign policy magazines and through statements made by topic
Know past actions
Visit to the committee (organization’s) website
and look for the most important resolutions on your topic. You should realize
that your committee is not the only body working on this topic; other
committees and countries have probably taken action as well. Find out the most
important actions taken with regard to your topic and who undertook them. Find
or develop a timeline of important events and major actions taken on the topic.
Understand the current situation
Conduct a news search on Google News, BBC, The
Guardian, Al Jazeera and national newspapers, and even blogs (however, utilise
these as supplementary sources rather than primary sources). You should also
seek to find official documents and statements about the topic; perhaps a
statement made by your president at the African Union or the United Nations, or
a statement made by one of the cabinet ministers in your country’s government
or any other top ranking official. Similarly, search through the African Union
website to find the most recent resolutions that have been passed on the topic.
Determine future outlook
Look for predictions and trends indicating where
your topic is going. Is the situation improving or deteriorating? Are the
actions being taken effective or inhibitive? In other words, you are looking
for critiques of the current situation and recommendations for what to do in
How to research my country?
Knowing your country
You have most likely been assigned to be the
representative of a country with which you are not very familiar; most likely
in a different region of the continent from the one in which you live. A number
of research avenues are available when researching about your country
It is important to know the background of your
country before you begin to research specific topics. Even a general search on
Wikipedia will prove very helpful, although we do advise that you do not cite
this as your primary source of information.
Understanding your country’s foreign policy
Every country has a foreign policy statement.
Foreign policy can be broadly defined as
the set of goals that state officials pursue abroad; the values,
interests, and concerns that underlie those goals, and the means or instruments
used to pursue them.
Beyond knowing the specifically stated foreign
policy of a country with respect to the issues under discussion in each
committee, delegates must be aware of the broad foreign policy goals of their
countries relating to domestic and international interests.
A significant aspect of foreign policy is an
awareness of who your allies and trade partners are, and how your country
interacts with the other actors in the international community. In the process
of negotiation, which occurs during the drafting of a resolution, the pursuit
of foreign policy involves responding to different considerations, most
important of which is to strike a balance between pursuing your interests and
reaching consensus with your allies.
Where can you find information pertaining to your
country’s foreign policy?
Ministry of Foreign Affairs website
To find information on your country’s foreign
policy, the best place to start is the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website.
Often, this website will have extensive information pertaining both to the
position of your country on various issues, and to the values and interests
that shape that position.
2. Embassy/Consulate of your country
very useful resource, especially if your country does not have a Ministry of
Foreign Affairs website in English or any other language you are familiar with
is the embassy or consulate of the country you represent in your city or
should also visit the websites of organizations that work specifically on your
subject area. Below is a list of useful websites you can visit if your topic
is also recommended to visit the WWW Virtual library, http://vlib.org/ for a catalogue of resources providing current
updates on various issues.
CIA fact book: https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/index.html – Here you will find a list of all the basic information pertaining to your country, including its GDP, population, literacy, brief historical summary, and other important details. It will also give you a list of all the international treaties and organizations the country is a party to, as well as a brief account of the several international disputes that the country is involved in.
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Fikemi Aiyepeku. Rutendo Njawaya. Tania Twinoburyo. These are but a few names behind the Administration department of ALAMAU 2019. But what is most interesting about their team is that it is fully comprised of females. For our Women: the Hands that Hold Africa’s Future series, we caught up with three of the members to ask them what it means to be a female in this day and age.
1) Tell us about what you do and what you love most about your job. I am the Director of Administration for ALAMAU. I administer fluid communication between the ALAMAU 2019 team and the schools/ delegates. I also adequately prepare the team to receive the right calibre of delegates and advisors when they arrive through logistics e.g. through efficient transportation systems. I also aim to ensure that the number of prospective schools for the conference is larger and more diverse than the previous conferences.
My favourite part of my job is learning how critically pay attention to detail. My job requires knowing a lot of information from a lot of different people and schools, as well as tracking this information. This attention to detail is key and I love what I am learning through it.
2) How do you think the roles women play are diversifying in the world? The role of women is breaking out of the stereotypical “homely” one and this is so important in diversifying the world because women have so much potential, strength, and influence that without them, the world will not be where it is today. Women being able to step out and take leadership positions by the horn, not to mention succeeding at it, clearly proves that women and the path they advocate for – unity, peace and progress – could and should be the future.
3) Your favourite hobbies? I enjoy watching Trevor Noah, listening to smooth jazz and catching up with friends when I’m not sleeping, reading trivia or watching movies.
1) Tell us what your role is and what you love about it. I am Rutendo Munetsitsi Charmaine Njawaya and I am the Associate Director of Administration. My job is to find and recruit talented and deserving students from all over the world to come to the ALAMAU conference.
2) How does it feel to be in an all-female team and what lessons have you learnt? I don’t think that the fact that we’re all females affects any aspect of our work. But I do believe that it is more of who we are as individuals. There are a lot of camaraderies that make meetings a whole lot more bearable. They have also taught me to be more compassionate, not afraid to ask for help and not embarrassed to admit that I can’t do something.
3) A place you want to travel to in the near future? I would LOVE to go to Bali. It’s gorgeous and I feel so connected to it. I must have lived there in my previous life.
1) What challenges have you faced in your role and how did you overcome them?
Getting people to read and respond to our emails was definitely a challenge. We use MailChimp to send out all emails to our prospective delegates. Through this software, I am able to see who is opening our emails and what buttons they are pressing (called their click rate). We were sitting on a 45% click rate and I wanted to raise it to least 75%. I then had to think of new and innovative ways to get people to click and respond to our emails. I started making the email subjects more catchy, adding interesting quotes and pictures of our conference to get people to open our emails. And I must say, it worked well. Calling schools directly also helped us increase the click and open rates of our emails.
2) This month’s theme is “Women: the Hands that Hold Africa’s Future.” What does this mean to you and how would you like to make this a reality for Africans?
Living in a patriarchal society has resulted in women working harder than anyone else to get to where they need to. Women are constantly looked down on, yet people do not really understand the power that women hold. Women are not only the hands that hold Africa’s future but the power that builds generations. It was the Liberian women that liberated their country from the oppressive and subjugative rule of their ruthless former President. They also elected Africa’s first female leader, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, creating a milestone for women in leadership for our continent. Women have the power to do anything they set their mind to do. Therefore, empowerment of women begins by ending the comparison of women and men. We need to stop saying if men can do it, so can women. A woman does not need a man to quantify her worth: she is good enough. We need to look at women and remind them of their strength they have. This, I believe, is what you can do to empower yourself and all the women in the African continent.
3) Tell us something no-one knows about you but you would like the readers to know.
When I was 10 years old, my parents took me for vocal lessons but I still cannot sing till this day.
And there you have it. These young women are among the many women who are changing the face of gender roles not only on the African continent but in the world at large.
This marks the end of our series for this month. If you have anything to share on what you think it means to be a woman in this day and age, feel free to comment below!
Stay tuned for more updates and do follow us on our social media pages in the meantime!
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Written by Katai Mutale, Director of Press Corps for ALAMAU 2019
These were the potent and impelling words of current multi-award winning tennis player, Serena Williams as an 11-year-old aspiring athlete when asked who she would like to be like if she were a tennis player. Serena Williams is at the forefront of many inspiring female athletes and is an incredible role model to women across the world who wish to emulate the undaunted confidence, work ethic and resilience she exhibits in her industry.
For far too long, sports have been neglected in our society in favour of other fields of learning which are deemed “employable.” Sports have been and continue to be a vital form of social and cultural life. Sports are so much more than a form of expression: they reveal and embody one’s agency, socio-cultural life and generate a deeper engagement of the African peoples’ past, present and future be it locally, regionally or internationally. Sports has been a cultural activity that played an important role in Africa’s socio-historical cultural values and practices. Our grandparents, especially young girls in different African societies, were involved in their own kind of sport or physical activities. In rural areas, they would race to the river to fetch water and the one reached the well first and spilt the least water whilst drawing from the wells would emerge as the winner.
At the beginning of the year, we watched 23-year-old Nigerian footballer Asisat Oshoala being awarded the African Women’s Footballer of the Year award for the third time. Oshoala notes that “when you have this determination, and people see this determination in you, eventually they have no choice but to give you the support you need to get you where you want to go.” Oshoala recalls entering the world of sports by playing 6-aside football in an all-male team in Ikorodu, Nigeria to being named as Africa’s female footballer of the year for the third time.
Isabelle Sambou, a Senegalese freestyle wrestler and nine-time gold medalist, is changing the way female wrestling is viewed in Senegal by using her platform to encourage and empower young girls in Senegal to follow in her footsteps and reach their full potential.
These are but a few names of the women who are putting Africa on the map through their achievements in a variety of sports and have continued to pave the way for other young female athletes on the continent. It has been claimed that there is a lack of strong female athletic role models in the sports industry, particularly in African societies. But the success of female African athletes on a global platform, be it in football, swimming, or the Olympics, is enough evidence that the problem lies in the lack of exposure to these positive role models. While it is important to recognize the progress that has been made globally to date, it is necessary to point out that female participation in sport in African countries still remains a male-dominated field and there is still so much more that needs to be done.
As a young female athlete who plays soccer for one of the few all-female soccer teams in Kenya and comes from a background where sport to this day is still hegemonized by society, culture, religion and tradition, I believe that women still remain gravely underrepresented in all sports in the country. The lack of exposure in media, biased media representations of male and female sports, lack of adequate financial support and sponsorship into women’s sports, and the discrepancy in the wage gap, are just but a few of the innumerable obstacles women face in the industry that worsen the situation. These prevailing cultural ideals, practices accrediting female passivity and barriers prevent women from fully taking part in sports, despite them being the means of propulsion of social, political and economic development in Africa.
In the last Women’s Football World Cup, the total payout was 15 million USD whereas the Men’s Football World Cup was 576 million USD. Men have been involved in sports for a longer period than women and hence women are now trying to catch-up, more specifically in terms of roles or positions of leadership in sports. As of 2016, 22 women are active International Olympic Committee (IOC) members, making up only 24.4% of the members and 4 women (25%) as members of the Executive Board. This leaves us with one crucial question: what can be done differently to foster a sporting culture more conducive to the involvement of women?
Female participation in sports on the African continent is often viewed as a by-product of development, rather than a medium which can promote social inclusion and gender equality. Empowerment of women and girls as well as a means for young women in different African societies to play an intrinsic role in transforming the continent. Is sport primarily for men? The answer is a vehement No! Something that a lot of people do not realize is that sports create an enormous potency to generate social and economic change. Socially, it allows young girls and women, specifically in marginalized communities, to have possibilities they would otherwise not have had access to. In addition, the emancipatory power of sports breaks patterns that prevent women from taking part in sports in the first place by combatting the HIV pandemic, gender and sex-based violence, traditional practices such as female genital mutilation (FGM), early marriages and other social injustices. Involvement with sports is often viewed as a luxury endeavour rather than an essential foundation for developing strategies that can fuel sustainable development. Just as African women have become accomplished in fields that were once closed to them, such as science and politics, so is female engagement in sports a proxy for experiences other women have not actually lived.
There are numerous examples of resilient African sportswomen who have defied this narrative and proved that sports can be used as a tool for economic development by achieving success both on and off the pitch. One of them is Tegla Loroupe, a Kenyan long-distance runner and a three-time World Half-Marathon champion. Loroupe promotes social cohesion in her country through the “Tegla Loroupe Peace Foundation” which operates a primary school for students at risk of HIV/AIDS, FGM or becoming child soldiers in local conflicts.
A number of wide-ranging problems still contribute to the elusive parity between men and women at both grassroots and elite levels in regard to sports and the issue surrounding female participation in sports. Most, if not all of these problems, are linked to cultural norms. Sports in African societies has irrefutably remained a male-dominated industry which is why there is a need to develop a paradigm shift in our perception towards it. It is of utmost importance that a sporting culture is developed which will lead to the propagation of women and girls to fully participate in sport and become future athletes, sports coaches, and leaders in the sports industry. These women will show other young African women that they too can and should push beyond the artificial limits that have been placed on their potential.
Samantha Nyakundi is a 17-year-old first-year student at the African Leadership Academy from Kenya. She is a member of the International Relations Council, Debate and Girl Up Club. Samantha is passionate about the empowerment of young women and believes that sports can be used as a tool of emancipation for girls in her community. She also believes that sports can be used to positively change the existing notions and misconceptions about gender. Samantha is an avid reader of African fiction and has a passion for writing.
A ten-year-old child sat in front of a TV. A news reporter on a foreign TV channel reported atrocities. She saw dead people on familiar streets. She looked around and noticed that the doors of her house had been sealed for days. She heard her parents murmuring about an ‘uprising’. She didn’t understand what an uprising meant at the time or why her parents were murmuring in the first place.
But when I grew up, I found out that prior to 2011, the walls had ears.
“I will say to you once more, loud and clear: Do write on any subject you choose. There are no taboos except what is prohibited by law and press ethics” declared Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.
However, human rights, freedom of speech, political opposition, mindful youth, civil society, dignity, and fair trials, were all ‘taboos’ for the 23-year-rule of Ben Ali.
Ironically, Tunisia goes far beyond those 23 years. In fact, Tunisia’s first documented history goes back 200,000 years to the Middle Stone Age. The biggest democracy in the Mediterranean and the Carthage 814 BC relied on an effective system of checks and balances that helped keep officials accountable. However, these systems changed as the years passed, leading to the revolution that would transform history.
In December 1983, the Tunisian people protested against a sudden 100% increase in the price of bread, an essential commodity in Tunisia.
The uprising that lasted about 2 months and 150 people lost their lives. People were just asking for bread, and they trusted that the government could do better by deliberately providing bread at lower prices. When the price of bread dropped again, people were mostly satisfied but only a few people questioned the weaknesses of policies that initially put the government in such a vulnerable position.
But the people still showed signs of revolt. In 2011, a man fearlessly held a baguette in the face of the armed militia on the Habib Bourguiba Avenue. Bread in the face of guns was a modern revival to the bread riots. Ironically, it was on a street named after the president whose government raised the bread price in 1983.
The Tunisians now hungered for something more than their bread: they hungered for their rights and freedom. The uprising was a message to the tyrants that they had exhausted their chances with patient people. It was a collective stance against a corrupt government that tortured, stole, oppressed and systematically impoverished Tunisians.
Prior to the revolution, fear was widespread and enrooted in our culture. A collective cognizance of government capabilities to commit atrocities towards someone found “guilty” of criticizing Ben Ali or his family was a key feature of the Tunisian society.
This paranoia dominated our lives to the utmost of personal levels, people were even afraid to speak about the president pejoratively in the privacy of their homes because “they could always hear”. The media was censored, books banned, the internet was heavily filtered, and cyber activists were shadily arrested and unfairly prosecuted. The Freedom House registered these human rights violations and scored Tunisia’s political rights index as low as 7, with 1 being the best and 7 being the worst. Those numbers accurately summarized the situation of a country which has been ruled by a monstrous dictator. Those figures embodied the people who helplessly died suffering from torture in obscure dungeons and prison cells. They explicitly narrate the stories of hundreds of Tunisians who had undergone exile, imprisonment and assassinations.
Information is always valuable and anterior to the revolution, it became public knowledge that “the family”, —Ben Ali’s extended family— was taking over private possessions by force. The family was so powerful that nobody could claim their property back. However, the public couldn’t quantify the thefts and the human rights violations and that’s when Wikileaks caught the public attention and triggered the crowds when they published documents exposing the government.
Desperation dominated the lives of many people. The harsh reality of poverty was lived by thousands, especially those in interior states. Each family that underwent hardships and were forcefully incorporated into a merciless and systematic chain of underdevelopment, initiated by numerous historical factors. One of those rings was Bouazizi, a street vendor from Sidi Bouzid, who on December 17th, 2010, set himself on fire.
Bouazizi immolated himself as an act of desperation after being slapped and humiliated by Faida Hamdi and her coworkers, the municipal officials for vending on the streets. Bouazizi who would be posthumously awarded the Sakharov Prize for triggering the uprising. His self-immolation was a loud and clear call to action that echoed across the country and reached all doors. Subsequently, people across the nation went protesting against the tyrants and the illusion of having laws that ideally would protect the vulnerable. Even though Bouazizi passed away in the intensive care unit 18 days after his immolation, on January 4th 2011, he was the face of many Tunisians who lived in constant economic instability. And shortly before setting himself on fire, he asked how he could make a living when corruption and nepotism were eating the country inside out.
الشعب يريد اسقاط النظام” — “The people want to overthrow the regime.”The slogan echoed through Tunisian streets during the uprising and neither the tear gas nor the penetrating bullets could stop the anger. They fueled the rage and gave the people more reasons for wanting to overthrow the regime.
The loudness of the streets contrasted the silence of the domestic media, still burdened with the heavy load of censorship. People turned to the international media to see what was happening in other parts of their own country. Despite my young age, I was still able to see the irony in this, and it didn’t feel right to see that the Tunisian history was being recorded by other than Tunisians.
As a child, I was still able to identify the greatness in what was happening around me, and I was aware that nothing will be the same in just a few weeks. I jotted down numbers, dates, media headlines and what I was seeing on the streets.
Every Tunisian contributed to the revolution somehow, and as a child, documenting was how I connected with the call for freedom. For others, music and art was their medium of expression.
Emotions were translated into an international language set to trigger any human being’s first instincts. Out of the crowds, “Kelmti Horra” —My word is free—was born. In the song, young Emel Mathlouthi speaks for the people to the people of Tunisia and the world. The song powerfully and beautifully articulated the message of the uprising
Finally, on 13th of January, 2011, the dictator delivered a speech. The local media were obviously no longer silent. Ben Ali spoke to the people in Tunisian Arabic, the national dialect that is nationally and informally used. The dictator thought that speaking in the same language as the slogans would be water to the tension in the country. However, Bouazizi’s fire and the people’s flame weren’t going to be put down by phoney speeches and manipulative linguistics. And unexpectedly, this appropriation ignited more resistance.
Tunisians were armed with a stronger collective resilience that extracted its power from information, empathy and patriotism. People remained on the streets and mastered a harmony of “Dégage! Dégage” meaning “Leave! Leave!”. And the next day, January 14th, 2011, Ben Ali left the presidential palace in Carthage with his wife Leila Trabelsi and their three children along with the 23 years of dictatorship. The dictator and his family were denied to land in France. However, Saudi Arabia gave them political asylum and they landed in Jeddah, the city infamously known for welcoming another dictator who fled from Uganda.
With his departure, Tunisia sighed with relief.We were freed from the 23-year-old burden. People celebrated the long-awaited falling of kleptocracy and dictatorship on the streets. It was our triumph. The regime was not overthrown by the military, but by the invincible will of Tunisians.
Our uprising sent out a clear message to the world: In the face of the bullets with the dignified power of posters and slogans, the voice of the Tunisians was able to beautifully metamorphose into “The Revolution” that eventually would be called the “Jasmine Revolution”. The world resonated with the victory, and people in other countries angrily started shouting the same exact slogans of discontentment. The “Jasmine Revolution” quickly became the world’s fight against worn-out regimes. It reached all sorts of regimes and dictatorships as far as Egypt or China.
Today, Tunisians are about to celebrate the Revolution’s 8th anniversary. The country took time to be reshaped into what we know today: the only Arab country to be free. Despite the relatively short period, Tunisia witnessed tremendous accomplishments. In 2014, the world observed and praised as we conducted our very first democratic elections, after which a new National Constituent Assembly was formed to draft the new constitution of Tunisia that was adopted on January 26th 2014.
Tunisia sparked the Arab Spring, inspiring change across the MENA Region.
Unfortunately, we are so far the only country that achieved peace, freedom and democracy. And in 2015, the Tunisian National Dialogue Quartet won the Nobel Peace Prize for its efforts of unification and preventing the adverse effects and repression as seen in countries like Syria and Egypt.
Realistically speaking, Tunisia has most definitely achieved democracy. But, the economic challenges are still underway, unemployment is still menacing the economic stability of many Tunisians and basic needs of many families are barely met due to the relatively high cost of living. The dinar recorded a historical regression in comparison to the Euro and the US dollar. But Tunisia could have never achieved such a relatively fast transition without an uprising. Without it, we wouldn’t have been able to revolutionize our thinking and the way we viewed and interacted with the concept of power.
Today, Tunisians face the ultimate challenge of staying on the right track towards the betterment of the economy and the safeguarding of freedoms and democracy. If we don’t, the revolution would go to waste and the people who have been sacrificed by the system would have died in vain. We are also challenged with helping humanity remember the uprising that reshaped the MENA region and the world forever.
The question of how we will sustain the message which awakened the region from the deep slumber of dictatorship still remains relevant.
However, a very valid question that remains is this: could the Tunisian revolution have sparked uprisings in other African countries other than the Arab ones that remain burdened with a dictatorship?
Edited by Katai Lutanda Mutale
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