On the heels of the 62nd session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, the largest gathering on gender equality at the UN, the Voice of America hosted Fearless Women on the Ground, a live discussion streamed on Facebook, that focused on four women working on the front lines in the battle for gender equality in Nigeria, Tanzania, the Philippines and Lebanon.
Hosted by VOA’s Anasthasie Tudieshe of French to Africa service, Fearless Women on the Ground featured Blessing Ihuaku Duru of Alliances for Africa, Cecilia El Chami of the Lebanon Family Planning Association, Ruth Nyakinyi Kihiu of Pastoral Women’s Council and Estrella Añonuevo of Atikha Overseas Workers and Communities Initiative.
Blessing Ihuaku Duru, a Program Manager with Alliances for Africa focused on the serious discrepancy of the number of men compared to women in public office. As she pointed out, traditional, cultural and religious practices have allowed this trend to continue in Nigeria. Her goal is to secure affirmative action that will ensure a minimum of 35% of women in public office. According to Duru the increase of female representation in political positions, will lead to policies more reflective and considerate of the circumstances of women.
Cecilia El Chami, a Program Officer with the Lebanon Family Planning Association Development, is currently working on a program geared towards improving the lives of marginalized women in southern Lebanon. The organization’s goal is to provide women with the job skills needed to increase the marketability of their food products and to create two women’s cooperatives. Economic independence will lead women to be masters of their own destiny, said El Chami.
Estrella Añonuevo, the Executive Director of Atikha Overseas Workers and Communities Initiative in the Philippines, is dedicated to providing economic and social services to female Filipino migrant workers and their families. The program provides families with skills in saving, investing, engaging in business and addressing family issues. As the Philippines is one of the top producers of overseas workers, women and their families learn to capitalize on the great effort they put forth on a daily basis.
Ruth Nyakinyi Kihiu, a Program Manager with Pastoral Women’s Council in Tanzania, is concerned with helping rural Maasai women become empowered economically. Kihiu has been instrumental in facilitating property rights for rural Maasai women so that they will be able to generate. This is important in the context of Maasai society where women do not ordinarily own cattle or other property.
“The panelists left me with a sense of dedication,” said Anasthasie Tudieshe. “Women understand the universality of the women’s struggle. All yearn to be respected, to be strong and to count.”