From ANNIE ZULU in Johannesburg
THE air was on Sunday filled with excitement at the OR Tambo International Airport as women across the African continent flocked in to attend the ongoing African Women in Dialogue (AFWID) conference in Johannesburg, South Africa.
A delegation of 16 participants from Zambia which included women from sectors such as the Social Welfare, Law, Education, Media, Politics and Business among others touched down in Johannesberg at exactly 15: 15 hours on November 3, 2019.
Among the noticeable faces on the Zambian deligation are Gender activist and former NGOCC chairperson Sarah Longwe and Women and Law in Southern Africa (WLSA) national director Maureen Tresha.
Despite some delay at the airport, the delegates entered Birchwood Hotel, the venue for the event wide eyed and with joy.
The conference started on Monday and ends tomorrow.
AFWID is an inclusive plattform of dialogue founded by former South African First Lady Zanela Mbeki and seeks to unite African women from all walks of life, with a bias towards women who live in under-resourced rural and urban areas, under one roof to deliberate on issues of continental importance.
The platform is not representative of any organisation or political opinion, as women are encouraged to speak their own voices according to their own perspectives and personal experiences.
It gives voice to the perspectives and experiences of thousands of African women including rural and urban women, politicians, public servants, women of various religious denominations, faith-based formations, academics, development practitioners, traditional leaders, professionals from diverse fields and youth, to share opinions and exchange views and review policies on themes crafted by national, continental and global agendas.
Some of the objectives of AFWID are to contribute towards attaining a united voice for African women on continental issues, strengthen national regional and continental networks of women organisations and review continental strategies and programmes which are aimed at impacting African women.
This year´s conference is attended by 1, 000 women from all over Africa.
The official opening ceremony
The women from 55 African countries gathered at the second AFWID conference at the Birchwood Conference Centre, under the theme “Women`s Power and Voices as Agents of Change.”
The Wits Choir led the delegates to singing the African Union anthem and later the South African national anthem, as the host of the event.
The choir kept the audience enttertained with musical and dance performances. Delegates joined in the dances, even though most of them could hardly understand the South African languages which the songs were mostly being sung.
The Programme Director, Lebogang Chaka welcomed the delegates with a word of encouragement reminding women of the important role they play in the development of the continent.
Zanela Mbeki Development Trust Trustee Mojanku Gumbu reteirated the need for women to get united and address the challenges affecting them.
Ms Gumbu said the time had come for African women to hold hands and work together.
“If we stand up together as women and speak with one voice, our voice will be heard.
The time has come for us to take our rightful position and respect in the world,” Ms Gumbu said.
She said this year`s theme “Women`s Power and Voices as Agents of Change” emphasise that it is in the hands of women to effect the change they want. She urged women to seize their power to change their own condititions, and dire societal conditions they faced. Ms Gumbu reiterated that the forum gave voice to all women, especially to those who ten to get left behind.
In an interview, Ms Tresha thanked the organisers of the conference.
Ms Tresha said the event was an opportunity for Zambian women to learn various strategies that were being implemented by other African countries to address issues of Gender-Based Violence (GBV), early marriages and under representation of women in decision-making.
“This event is very important, it brings women from various countries and it is from here we get to learn how far other women have gone in women´s rights in the various countries,” Ms Tresha said.