Design By Sughey Abreu

Salut Tout le Monde!

I hope each of you is having a restful Sunday wherever you are in the world. It’s been a minute since I wrote a personal update on here and I think today’s a good day as any other to resume that. So, I’ve been pretty busy over the past couple of months, and particularly this last month, preparing for the Young Women’s Knowledge and Leadership Institute (YOWLI) 2010. I’ve generally been set on “GO” such that even when I’m sleeping, I find myself dreaming about YOWLI and which partners we’re supposed to be following up on, whether so-so and so got their visa already, whatever happened to this or that. It’s a whole lot, but I’m loving every bit of it as what was only a vision a few months ago is beginning to take shape. I’m SUPER excited!!

The “Little” Things

YOWLI 2010 is going to be a bit smaller than YOWLI 2008 which had over 100 people living together for a month on Goree Island (can you imagine!) However, the issues of economic and climate justice, and gender based violence (GBV) are so key to Africa in the 21st century that we want to make sure every interested individual or group can join in the knowledge sharing and learning. I met up with Yaye Marie Ba – an exceptional Senegalese woman and blogger – this morning to discuss our social media plan for YOWLI 2010 and I just have to say she simply blew me away. I’ve been following her blog – Cos We African Women Are Doing It and Doing It Well – for a good two or so years, and while we connected via Facebook, I never thought we’d meet in real life. Well, we did, and all I can say is that women like her make the world a better place. We were both tired from a late night out – she participated in a World Black Arts Festival event and I got a chance to reconnect with some friends – but after meeting and talking, I’m definitely rejuvenated.

Naturally, we went a bit off tangent to talk about our passions for Africa’s development, media and so on. After that meeting, I made a detour to C-Plaza – the equivalent of Accra mall or whichever your mall is wherever you are – which I’ve been meaning to visit, but never really got the chance. I didn’t purchase much – “Carnard” toilet detergent, chocolate bar with nuts (love em!) and some body lotion – but for some reason, I was just happy to window shop. I’ve realized I’m someone who needs a good deal of alone time. And I don’t mean sitting locked up in the house watching movies. I like that too, lol, but I mean going out into town on your own with your thoughts, your music and just observing or reflecting. I haven’t really had a chance for that, and today when the opportunity presented itself, I took it. Went for a long walk on the Corniche (beach strip) and after that I just felt so overwhelmed with gratitude for being exactly where I was at that moment, I just knew I had to blog on it. Maybe discussing blogging for 2 hours straight helped that along a bit? LOL. Now, I can honestly say that I’m ready for YOWLI 2010 and all it could offer.

YOWLI 2010: Economic and Climate Justice, Gender Based Violence
Some of you might already know about my YOWLI experience, but for those who don’t you can read my blog on what participating in YOWLI 2008 meant to me. When I got offered the opportunity to work with the African Women’s Millennium Initiative (AWOMI) and help other young, enthusiastic Africans experience YOWLI, there was no way I could turn it down.  It’s a beautiful feeling to watch yourself make multiple connections in the space of a month, and while YOWLI 2010 is going to be over two weeks, I hope with all my heart that the participants will have as many light bulb moments about Africa’s development, our common identity, their respective identities and so on, as I did during YOWLI 2008.

This time, I’m on the other side of the table. The AWOMI team plans to make YOWLI 2010 a landmark event involving young Africans engaging on gender based violence, economic and climate justice in Africa, hence the theme: Engaging Africa’s Women and Youth to Lead Economic and Climate Justice. There will be representatives – participants, trainers, staff – from Senegal, Ghana, Cameroun, Cote d’Ivoire, Nigeria, Liberia, Sierra Leone, DR Congo, Burundi, Madagascar, Mali, Mauritania, Dominican Republic, the US, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Uganda, Namibia, and Rwanda – not counting all the international guests at our culminating conference on Dec. 29.

There’s a lot of talk about going green these days, but most of that dialogue is concentrated in the West. By investigating how climate change affects the livelihoods of Africa’s women and youth against the background of the economic and food crises we hope to contribute in bringing the unrepresented realities and voices of Africans into the global dialogue around climate change. The interlinking angle of GBV is very essential as well. As was the case after the Haiti earthquake in early 2010, women and girls – in addition to dealing with the trauma of losing relatives, property, a sense of self – had to deal with the threat of sexual violence: rape, beatings, you name it. While there seems to be a lot of talk about GBV in conflict situations, there are slight nuances introduced when disasters are due to natural means or climate change. We plan to explore those further while equipping the participants with some skills for rapid response and action. Generally speaking, this institute is going to fill a serious vacuum on the continent when it comes to preparing for and dealing with the realities of climate change.

Additionally, we will have some amazing individuals like our YOWLI 2010 International Conference Keynote Speaker Saran Kaba Jones, who founded and leads FaceAfrica – an NGO which focuses on providing water access to impoverished communities in Liberia, women’s empowerment and poverty reduction to name a few. Personally, I am very excited about meeting and interacting with Ms. Jones who, I believe, has definitely set a standard on using social media to fund raise, build partnerships and networks and share important information around advocacy efforts. If my hunch is anything to go by, the YOWLI 2010 participants and conference attendees will be inspired by this young woman who is moving mountains in her own little way.

Join Us!

So there, just a quick briefer on what all the YOWLI postings on my Facebook and twitter are about. Like I said, we plan to share this experience with you all online from Dec. 19 to Jan. 2, and I’m gonna try my best to write a couple of blog posts – or at least one – on what transpires. To get updates on YOWLI 2010 and to participate – you can send in your questions, tips, pieces of info etc – check out AWOMI’s blog, the AWOMI facebook page, or follow AWOMI on twitter. You can also follow me as I’ll be (re)tweeting.