We caught up with the ladies who make up the African Women Association to find out about their amazing Awards as well as the work they do in order to get the low down on the work they are doing promoting African women regionally and globally.
Let us start with semantics, with so many different ideas of sexuality, ethnicity, nationhood and globalisation (problems of the diaspora) for example, what does it mean to be an African Woman?
Being an African woman, in our opinion, means that we are just as good as anyone and worthy enough to be taken seriously. In light of this we push for equality in business, at work and being treated well at home. Giving the girl child a right to education is also just as important.
Taking this idea further what then is the African Women Association?
African Women Association (AWA) is passionate in creating multiple platforms that celebrates African Women. We strive to play a part in changing the misconceptions that people have of Africa by exposing successful African women and in turn empowering, educating and encourage the next generation of influential thought leaders across the continent and rewriting the story. This supports the United Nations Millennium Development Goals such as Goal Number 3 which is to “promote gender equality and empower women.”
How did the idea begin? Who started it?
The idea begun with a discussion one evening in which the two founders, Carol Nyazika and Lisa Chiriseri, shared their frustrations at the lack of celebration, documentation and publicity of the successes and achievements of African women globally. They understood and acknowledged that the women are worthy of recognition on the global stage but rarely are known beyond their borders or sector specific platforms.
Whether local or abroad the younger generation of Africans rarely have access to the stories and information on other successful Africans. The lack of documentation, modern profiling and publicity of our role models has led to this deficiency and has allowed for influences other than ours to write and publish our stories. This is what the two young ladies decided to tackle this.
What work do you do? What are your main initiatives?
We have a number of initiatives which include:
- AWA Events
The events are focused on the attendees – what they can learn and create among themselves, engage with the honourees and network members, developing relationships and dialogue.
We will hold: African Women Awards, AW Awards Honourees Tour and AW Association Regional and Annual Hubs.
- AWA Network
The netowrk seeks to engage and encourage conversations including partnerships and joint ventures amoungst African women.
- AWA Media
We will broadcast: African Women Awards, AW Awards Honouree Tour presented in the form of a talk show and Honouree Documentaries.
- AWA Foundation
The AWA Foundation was established to promote gender equality through providing underprivileged women and girl children with opportunities, education, mentorship and training. The foundation is split into four core activities:
Access to opportunity – We have partnered with women in the rural area of Nyamapanda and are working on bringing a product on to the market.
Access to Education – We have met our target of sending 5 girls to school.
Access to Role Models – There will be a tour with the honourees in order to provide an opportunity for the Awards for the youth to gain access after the awards
Mentorship & Trainings – we have partnered up with reputable companies, such as our sponsor Cyrex Business, to provide female students internships in order to marry their knowledge from their studies with practical experience
We are also running an education fund that supports the education of young girls as well as their associated needs through the ‘Fund A Child’s Education Zimbabwe (FACEZ) education fund based in Zimbabwe.
We are also launching the major African Women Awards which will be pan African and cut across borders, sectors, age groups and media groups.
Lastly, there is also a partnership in the works with the SADC youth council, and numerous women’s orgs including National Association of Business Women (NABW).
Have you ever run into any trouble or resistance whilst focusing on the empowerment of women?
Yes, we have had people not believe in the success of the projects we propose. This is coupled with people not believing in the young women who drive the organisation. However, we have also received great support from some women and indeed very influential men who understand the importance of our project goals not only for now but for generations to come.
Why did you feel it was important to have such an Association?
Such an association is essential in today’s world to uphold a sense of identity, worth and unity among Africans who are now spread across the globe and Africans who are living on the same continent but still divided by borders introduced to us by foreigners.
There is a need to share steps to success and stories that apply to African youth today in terms of the economy, environment, culture and other barriers, instead of looking to western stories and applying them in an African environment. It is also important to create networks that encourage intra-trade and to remove misconceptions around Africans and especially African women.
Do you reach out to women in other countries? If so how?
Yes, efforts are being made to involve every woman who considers them an African woman. So far this has been done through inviting them to nominate women for the awards. This gives them a voice whilst inviting them to take part in celebrating their local heroines, through video and pictures as part of our social media campaigns #iSupportAfricanWomen and #AriseAfricanWomen.
With feminism being such a bad word, especially in Africa are there feminist principles that inform your organisation and activities?
Feminism has been misused in many ways. There is a radical stereotype that has become the broad identity and definition of feminism. AWA is informed by the pure and basic principles of feminism which include increasing gender equality in all spheres but not disregarding the naturally defined roles and qualities of a female in a home, community and society. We also believe in expanding human choice and eliminating gender stratification for women in terms of the outcomes of their lives, careers and self actualization.
Do you feel it is important for African women to support one another? How would you advise they do this?
It is very important for women to support one another through networking, availing themselves, sharing information and knowledge gained through their experiences, as well as sharing opportunities with other women. We really need to stand up together as women and give each other the support we need in order for us to achieve or succeed in our visions and also for our voices to be heard.
We love the celebration of African women! What exactly are the African Women Awards and what do they seek to do?
The objectives for African Women Awards is, firstly, to create a fresh brand of African role models within Africa and to pay tribute to African women who have contributed to the development and positive image of Africa as a whole. This can be done by sharing success stories of African women on popular international media platforms whilst also sharing what is achievable by women so that they can inspire the new generation and change the perception of female African success. Lastly, another objective it to create a platform that spotlights and celebrates excellence in Africa.
Why is it important to have awards such as these?
They are important because it upholds a sense of pride, identity, worth and unity among Africans, especially African women, who are now spread across the globe and Africans who are living on the same continent but still divided by historically artificial borders. The lack of profiling of the accomplishments of African women which are numerous is barely known amongst ourselves let alone across the rest of the world. These Awards can serve as an inspiration for African women to accomplished great things whilst celebrating those who have already.
As we said before the ability to share the success stories of others within the continent is paramount especially in terms of the youth and various sectors of society. Stories are regional in nature rather than coming from the west. To be able to share success steps and stories that apply to African youth today in terms of economy, environment, culture and other barriers, instead of looking to western stories and applying them in an African environment. As well as too create networks that encourage intra-trade and to remove misconceptions around Africans and especially African women.
How do the nominees get picked?
The nominees are picked through the process of public nominations through our network across the continent. This includes women’s organizations, embassies, NGOs, universities that are acting as drop off points, and through our website nomination forms advertised on all our social media platforms.
What are some of the categories women can be awarded in?
There are various categories one can be nominated in and within those there are further sub categories. These are:
Business and Enterprise
Young Entrepreneurial Spirit Award
Business Achievement Award
Industry Excellence Award
Dynamic Start-up Business Award
Living Legacy Award
Entertainment and Arts
Creative Visionary Award
Media Excellence Award
Star Power Award
Promising Personality Award
Living Legend Award
Community and Politics
Grass Roots Impact Award
Young Activist Award
Young Change Maker Award
Social Humanitarian Award
Living Leader Award
What are the prizes?
The prizes include the receipt of the prestigious AWAward, a very valuable citation, a profile and life documentary coverage which will be aired on all platforms including GOtv, DSTV, Sky TV (UK) through our partner Vox Africa TV, other local networks as well as online channels. The winners will also have an opportunity to tour universities and speak to thousands of young women.
What is the future for the awards?
The awards will be held in a different African country from 2017 onward, with all AWA activities and projects being duplicated in every country alongside the Awards. This includes the university tours, the AWA network establishment, the AWA foundation, local partnerships and the Awards ceremony activities. AWA will be working with local women to achieve this and involve various African women in the uplifting of the brand of the African woman.
How can people get involved in the awards in future?
We continue to partner with companies and brands. We also look to grow our presence in all countries. People can get in touch with us through our website and social media platforms.
Facebook Page: Awassociation
Check out more on the awards with this clip “Nominate An African Woman” on YouTube