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In May of this year, the Vital Voices Africa Businesswomen’s Network (ABWN) held a­ four-day conference in Lagos, Nigeria to kick off the Supporting Public Advocacy for Regional Competitiveness (SPARC) program. SPARC works with four partners of the ABWN to build their capacity to develop, design, and implement robust advocacy campaigns for increased women’s economic engagement and greater poverty alleviation. This fall, the Vital Voices Africa Team is conducting a series of technical trainings to continue to support ABWN partners in Nigeria, South Africa, Kenya, and Uganda in their campaigns. 

Women: Africa’s secret visible weapon for accelerating the development process

At the kick-off conference in May, SPARC’s mission to increase women’s economic engagement was championed by Mrs. Obiageli ‘Oby’ Ezekwesili, ex-vice president of the Africa Region of the World Bank and current Senior Advisor on Africa Economic Development Policy for the Open Society Foundations.

In a keynote address, Mrs. Ezekwesili acknowledged the current lack of female engagement in African social, political and economic realms, while invoking a great sense of hope regarding the many opportunities arising for African women. Women, she argued, remain an untapped resource of talent, creativity and power, and, in her words, “the continent’s most visible secret weapon for accelerating the development process.”

The African woman is configured to lead, she went on to say, and empowering women and increasing their economic engagement will create a ripple effect across Africa. Women invest in their families and communities – and they pay it forward:

“Women of Africa will measure the progress of each family, community, state, country, firm and organization by the degree of progress which women have achieved from this day going forward.”

SPARC NIGERIA: First of four advocacy trainings

Our Nigerian SPARC partner, Women in Management and Business (WIMBIZ), is advocating for the Central Bank of Nigeria to implement, measure, and sustain its gender diversity targets for banks in Nigeria, which include that 30% of bank board positions should be occupied by women and 40% of top management positions be occupied by women by 2014. 

Next week, August 19-23, Vital Voices will be providing a series of tailored technical trainings on advocacy, strategy, communications, and management, supporting Nigerian businesswomen in their efforts to achieve genuine parity on boards and within senior management of private and state-owned enterprises across the country.

The Supporting Public Advocacy for Regional Competitiveness (SPARC) program is made possible through a generous grant from the Dutch Foreign Ministry – Funding Leadership and Opportunities for Women (FLOW) – to provide capacity building to women networks in their respective efforts to advance policy changes in their countries.

Read the second and third posts.