Ms. Ibrahim discussed the dominant role of the matriarch as a consistent component in African societies. After highlighting that women drive a majority of the economic activity on the African continent, she asserted, “There is a paradigm in the African imagination that recognizes the strength of a powerful woman that I don’t think exists in the same way in America. I experienced ageism in Africa and sexism in the global north.”
How do we increase the global percentage of women in public service and capitalize on the progress made thus far? What are the unique challenges that female candidates face? How can we support women to run for office in countries where they are severely underrepresented?
Referencing the recent spate of critiques against women leaders in Asia, Africa, and South America, President Banda warned that “women’s leadership is under attack…If we don’t watch that, we will lose all we have gained.”
The Honorable Jane Harman, Director, President and CEO of the Wilson Center, offered opening remarks. “When I first ran for Congress,” Harman remarked, “there were virtually no women in the security space.”
Acknowledging the multifaceted value women bring to societal wellbeing in terms of lowering poverty, increasing business performance, and protecting the environment from unsustainable activities, Rt. Hon. Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila framed much of her opening remarks around Namibia’s commitment to promoting gender equity and recognizing women’s rights as human rights.
When the voices of those most entrenched in this strife are silenced, we come to inaccurate conceptions of what extremism is. In reality, it is not simply a conflict of western ideals -- or "progressive sociocultural ideals" -- versus radical Islam. It is a conflict over Islam itself, and the ongoing struggle of women and men in the MENA region to fight extremists.