Women Leaders in Public Service: Pathways Toward Parity - The Dakar Summit
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On July 19th, 2016, the Women in Public Service Project brought together women leaders from across Senegal for a leadership summit titled Women Leaders in Public Service: Pathways toward Parity. The one-day summit gave women leaders the opportunity to share their experiences, network, and learn from leaders in the field.
WPSP director Gwen K. Young provided opening remarks: “I am proud to be here in Dakar with all these strong women leaders to work together for the future of women.”
To begin the conference, participants broke out into small-group focus sessions. Three sessions were offered: Attracting Girls and Women to Public Service, co-facilitated by UCAD professors Professor Penda Mbow (History) and Professor Fatou Kine Camara (Law); Where is the Power? Women Leaders and Decentralization, co-facilitated by WPSP Director Gwen K. Young and TOSTAN Senegal National Coordinator Rose Diop; and Leveraging People & Information: How to Better Network, Build Alliances, Fundraise & Advocate, co-facilitated by Niyel Communications Founder and CEO Valerie Traore and Dalberg Global Development Advisors Senegal Director Madji Sock. Each session was attended by 18 to 30 women leaders, who discussed their experiences around these issues, the challenges in place, and possible solutions. The Women Leaders and Decentralization panel was the most popular, drawing over 30 women for a conversation about this topic.
After the focus sessions, the participants were invited to attend an “Experts Workshop.” The workshop began with a mini-presentation by Dr. Nicolas Bussard about his experience creating online platform-based startup companies and the nature and use of online platform communities and networks. Dr. Bussard emphasized the value of these tools in social development and outlined the ways in which technology can best be leveraged to connect global networks. Audience members then shared questions and suggestions around the idea of web platforms for social change, and both Gwen K. Young and Dr. Bussard provided input to help attendees imagine the uses of IT in their work and in gender equity advocacy.
The event concluded with a panel moderated by Professor Fatou Sow Sarr, director of the UCAD Gender Lab. The panel facilitated a dialogue between experts in the area of women’s leadership and empowerment:
Dr. Seynabou Ba Diakhate, technical advisor to Minister of Health Awa Marie Coll Seck, spoke on behalf of the Minister. She presented a biography of the Minister’s career path, particularly her advocacy for gender equality in the 1960s and ‘70s and her political activities that intersected ideologically with the struggle for women’s rights in Senegal. Dr. Diakhate noted that for her, thanks to the work of the pioneers for gender parity in Senegalese public service such as Minister Seck, now is the time for women to enter governance en masse without further hesitation.
Aissatou Padane, Account Coordinator for Alios Finance, noted the importance of the family, especially fathers, in helping girls develop strong senses of self and growing up to be empowered women. She emphasized, however, that an empowered and educated young woman leaving her parent’s home to change the world needs to encounter a judicial and social environment underpinned by equality-driven legislation. Further, she noted, the seeds must be sown for women leaders as early as primary school, since many girls will not get this from their fathers.
Valerie Traore spoke to the absolutely essential nature of women to Africa’s development. Referencing her own experience managing political and other campaigns, she discussed how development actually takes place, and how networks actually are built and used: by women working together across generations and with men. It starts with “you” was the message. Ms Traore called for women to demand transparency, in elections as well as more mundane transactions in the public sphere.
Rose Diop spoke out for the need for women and girls to be well prepared in terms of education, confidence and opportunity in order for them to break through into traditionally male leadership roles in their communities, but first, in order for them to find their voices. She underlined the importance of men and women working together, noting that gender equity touches men as well in that their senses of their roles as men can be updated and expanded, which will bring increased empowerment to all.
The summit ended with a call for continued work together among the group to build the online network; obtain, share and use the data of where women are in the government; and continued work to form political parties and movements that promote women candidates and candidates who will push for inclusive policies. At the end of the conference the women called for action stating that the summit “is only the beginning of what we can do together.”