During the World Economic Forum on Africa, which was held in Cape Town, South Africa on 3-5 June 3-5, 2015, The Coca-Cola Company organised a panel and dinner event with 110 Global Shapers from across the African continent. The Global Shapers are young leaders who want to develop their leadership potential towards serving society and work together in teams to improve their communities.
This session, titled “Women in Business,” hosted high-level female leaders: Susan Mboya, President, The Coca-Cola Africa Foundation; Maserame Mouyeme, Franchise General Manager, Central Africa Region, The Coca-Cola Company; and Auxilia Bupe Ponga, Country Director of South Africa, UN Women.
We would be remiss in discussing “women in business” without mentioning the women’s empowerment movement that has become a burning issue around the world in the past few decades. Things are changing. Today, when a woman builds a company, her skills and approach help give her a key competitive advantage – because female leaders think, design and lead in new and inspiring ways. They are changing the face of business.
The moderator of the panel, Rosalin Abigail Kyere-Nartey, a young woman and global shaper from the Kumasi Hub, began by illustrating the state of women in African society, past and present. She highlighted that today more than ever, women are playing bigger role in economies, as consumers, entrepreneurs and investors. It is no wonder that women are becoming the new leaders in today’s entrepreneurial economy. But still and despite this, Rosalin reminded us, women’s economic empowerment is in its nascent stages in some parts of the world. An illiterate woman is at the mercy of her parents or husband. Without education or exposure, she cannot know that there is another way of life – an empowered life. Rosalin then turned to the panel and asked them – how can we all work together to empower females?
Maserame Mouyeme of The Coca-Cola Company kicked off the conversation by stating that for women’s economic empowerment to succeed, it must be promoted from childhood in each and every family. She also stressed that the society should create an environment where women can make independent decisions on their personal development, as well as shine as equals in society. Additionally, she said that the more women know and appreciate their own value in their families, communities and world, it would strongly set a movement rolling down the hill to crash and break the wall of negligence and exploitation.
Meanwhile, the session was going live on twitter with the hashtag #ShapeCocaCola. One of the questions highlighted by many Global Shapers was “What is The Coca-Cola Company doing as a member of the private sector to empower women economically?”
In response, Susan Mboya, President of The Coca-Cola Africa Foundation, highlighted
Coca-Cola’s bold women’s economic empowerment program – 5by20 – the Company’s global commitment to enable the economic empowerment of 5 million women entrepreneurs across the company’s value chain by 2020. This company believes that women entrepreneurs can certainly initiate, organise, plan and operate their small and medium ventures efficiently, effectively and with much success. 5by20 is doing that by increasing access to: Business skills training courses; Financial services and assets; and Networks of peer mentors.
She also spoke to the Coca-Cola Shaping a Better Future Grant Challenge for the Global Shapers Community. In the same spirit as their 5by20 program, this grant challenge rewards those taking action, leading positive change and using innovative approaches to tackle serious social issues.
Another common question from the audience focused on the theme of Gender Equality. A young man and Global Shaper asked a great question to Auxilia Bupe Ponga, Country Director of South Africa for UN Women. “Do women feel empowered in the sense that they are being equally treated by men in all spheres of life?”
She answered that women’s empowerment requires society adopt a mindset of gender equality in order to overcome the status quo of a male dominated system. The shared with the audience the He4She movement – a solidarity movement for gender equality developed by UN Women to engage men and boys as advocates and agents of change for the achievement of gender equality and women’s life. Thus, she called on male Global Shapers to join the movement and stand for gender equality in the whole Africa, stating “men that ask for women’s equality are quality men”.
Shapers who attended this event were invigorated and inspired to go forth and implement and promote project in their communities that empower women. The panel prompted further discussion about the terrible crime of domestic abuse, a tool used to make woman feel inferior and take away her self-respect. We also talked about the incredible skill set of women who have mastered multitasking, balancing motherhood, household duties and work.
In spite of what is being done by The Coca-Cola Company, The Coca-Cola Foundation and UN Women, there still much more to be done towards the improvement of the position of women in the world. Women are still the world’s most underutilised resources. Development challenges like poverty, health and access to education keep many women off the ladder of achievement completely.
In closing, I am convinced that women’s economic empowerment is not a female only issue. It requires men, like me, to wake up and contribute to a world that is moving towards equality and equity. While there is surely a long way to go, we shall overcome. Women are strong, and the future is bright! And as always, I am reminded that “unity is diversity.”
Blog Author Leis-Bruel Haragirimana is the founder and CEO of YBSP (Youth Building in Synergy to end Poverty), an organization coordinating community actions to help the most underprivileged people in Bujumbura, Burundi.
He is also a 2014 Winner of the Coca-Cola Shaping a Better Future Grant Challenge and serves as the project lead for Burundi Hub’s Feed a Child initiative.
Twitter & Instagram: @brygaybsp
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