Meet ALAMAU’s Admin Powerhouse of Women

ALAMAU 2019 Admin team.
From left: Rutendo Njawaya, Fikemi Aiyepeku, Beryl Nyamemba and Tania Twinoburyo

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.

Fikemi Aiyepeku

Meet the Director of Administration for ALAMAU 2019: Fikemi Aiyepeku

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.

Rutendo Njawaya

“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.”

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.

Tania Twinoburyo

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.

“Women are not only the hands that hold Africa’s future but the power that builds generations.”

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

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Women, Sports and Development

“I’d like others to be like me”

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.

Isabelle Sambou of Senegal (red) and Carol Huynh of Canada compete in the Women’s Freestyle 48 kg Wrestling at the London 2012 Olympic Games in England.

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.

 

Nigerian women’s national soccer team, “Super Falcons”

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.

22-year-old Kenyan long-distance runner, Faith Chepngetich Kipyegon as she celebrated her win over world record holder Genzebe Dibaba in the 2016 Rio Olympics.

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.

 About author

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.

Works Cited:
McGregor Jena, “How Serena Williams Handles the Pressure”, The Washington Post, http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/on-leadership/wp/2015/09/04/how-serena-williams-handles-the-pressure/?utm_term=.574e3cf9cd13 .

Akpodonor Gowon, “My Voice is for the Nigerian Girl-Child”, Press Reader, http://www.pressreader.com/nigeria/the-guardian-nigeria/20180113/282230896094728.

Abayomi Tosin, “Oshoala leads Super Falcons 21-woman squad for 2018 AWCON”, Pulse, http://www.pulse.ng/sports/football/super-falcons-of-nigeria-21-players-for-2018-awcon-id9080638.html.

Mutuota Mutwiri, “Faith Kipyegon stuns Dibaba for Kenya’s third gold”, Citizen Digital, citizentv.co.ke/sports/faith-kipyegon-stuns-dibaba-for-kenyas-third-gold-137432/.

Huynh Carol, “Olympic Games in London”, Zimbio, http://www.zimbio.com/photos/Isabelle+Sambou/Olympics+Day+12+Wrestling/Rxb6acnDEzp.