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The oil and gas industry ranks top on the list of industries with the highest gender imbalance. However, certain women are working hard to close the gap and maybe, create balance in the industry. In a recent interview with the Amazons Watch Magazine, Ms. Wadei Powell who is the CEO of Srimex Oil and Gas Company talk about her experiences and how she has been able to create a niche for herself in a male dominated sector. Excerpts;

Please share with our readers your background and some of your growing up experiences.

I was born in the West African nation of Liberia where I attended the St. Teresa’s Convent School in Monrovia and earned a Diploma 1989. I grew up modestly but with everything I needed. My mother was a single-parent who sacrificed everything to make sure me and my siblings (one brother, one sister, one cousin) had the best life. Growing up in Liberia were some of the best times of my life. Due to the civil crisis that erupted in Liberia in 1989, I moved to the United States of America where I continued my education, earning a B.A. degree in English from the University of Maryland, College Park. In my senior year of college, there was a job posting for an Editor with the Security Industry Association (SIA), which was an organization working to develop standards for the security sector. Prior to this, I had no knowledges of what “Standards” were but I was a very good writer and so my school counsellor encouraged me to apply. I am forever indebted to her for that because it helped shape my future professional path. At SIA I was fortunate to have a direct supervisor and mentor, Ms. L. Virginia Williams, who encouraged and nurtured me professionally. She was a petite woman, in stature, with a “quiet but strong presence”. Although, the professional world of “Standards” at that time was very male dominated, I would watch my mentor command a room of mostly men with a combination of her wealth of subject knowledge and quiet confidence. I knew then and there that if I would be successful in a professional world largely dominated by men, I would need to develop that same confidence. I worked hard on learning the industry and honing my skills. Doing this would prove to become some of my greatest assets because, as it turned out, my career path has seen me mostly as the only female among male counterparts. It was also during this time that I found my passion for systems and processes and decided to pursue and earned a M.Sc. degree in Information & Telecommunications Systems Management, with an emphasis in Organizational Development, from Capitol College in Laurel, MD.

While in the United States, I worked with several industry associations and Fortune 500 Companies, the last being Mellon Financial, where I served as a Business Process Manager working in the areas of Financial, Operational, Organizational and Functional process development and management.

 

Our findings reveal that you have over 19 years of professional experience, including being the former vice president for administration and human resource at Cellcom GSM (now Orange GSM). Kindly tell us about your career journey.

I have over 23 years of professional experience. In October 2005, after living and working in the United States for over 15 years, I returned to my home country, Liberia. At the time, Liberia was just emerging from years of civil crisis and I hoped that my return would enable me to use my professional knowledge and experience to help develop my country.

From December 2005 to May 2006, I served as Manager of Information Systems at the Central Bank of Liberia where I had direct oversight of developing and implementing the CBL MIS long-term objectives, work plan and budget.

Subsequently, I served as Inventory Control Manager at Firestone Liberia from June 2006 to March 2009 and General Services Manager from March 2009 to May 2012.  At Firestone, I had direct oversight of Inventory Control, Government Relations, Concession Agreement Compliance, Education, Information Technology/Payroll, Medical Administration, and Corporate Legal affairs. My specific responsibilities included developing and maintaining strong collaborative relationships with Government officials and stakeholders in the Liberian rubber sector, serving as primary interface with Government Ministries, Public Corporations, Autonomous Agencies, and Professional Associations, and handling administrative and implementation matters related to Firestone Liberia Concession Agreement. I also served as Chairperson of the Firestone Liberia Scholarship Program.

From May 2012 – May 2015, I served as Vice President for Administration & HR at Cellcom Telecommunications, Inc., where I had primary responsibility of administrative and human resource matters, specifically aimed towards reorganizing the organization’s human capital structures.

In 2015, I started a private Organizational Development consulting company, UFOUND Solutions Group, specializing in organizational and human resources development and management.  I worked on several development projects, with private companies and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), providing consultancy services in systems strengthening, business process design, change management, and human resources.

In December 2017, I joined SRIMEX Oil & Gas Company where I currently serve as Chief Executive Officer.  

I have also served as Second Vice President of the Liberia Chamber of Commerce (LCC), held membership in the Liberia Corporate Responsibility Forum, served on the Board of the National Port Authority of Liberia.

 

The petroleum industry in Africa has largely been male-dominated. A lot of our female readers will be quite interested to know some of your experiences as a first female CEO of your company, and how you are able to achieve success in spite of the obvious barriers.

While male domination in the petroleum sector in Africa is the norm, it is also true of many other industries in Africa, and even in the US. My entire professional career has seen me as the only woman, or one of a very few, in a room filled with men and so from a very early stage in my career I’ve had to manage that dynamic. I have always practiced the philosophy of not seeing myself as a “woman” in a man’s world. Rather, I have always mentally viewed myself as a qualified professional with a job to perform. A typical example is when I accepted the position of CEO with SRIMEX. I never even thought about the fact that I was the first female CEO of an Oil & Gas company in Liberia. It wasn’t until I sent the Press Release to the Public Relations representative that I realized that it was a big deal. I had intended on sending out a simple PR announcement but she insisted that we needed to do something “bigger” because of the message it would send to young women who would now be able to dream bigger.

I have found that focusing my energies on the job at hand and performing with a “quiet but strong presence” has allowed me to mentally remove the barrier myself instead of depending on others to do so. Now, this is not to say that barriers will automatically come down, but I believe that my confidence from the door sets the tone for my interactions with my male counterparts. I deal with barriers as they come and do not make a general assumption that this will be the case with every male counterpart. When it does happen, I am very firm in not allowing it to gain any traction.

 

The World Bank’s 2018 Human Capital Index ranked sub-Saharan African countries low, based on their education and health outcomes and the impact they are having on productivity. According to the World Bank’s President, Mr. Jim Yong Kim, building human capital is critical for all countries, at all income levels, to compete in the economy of the future. How would you describe the implication of the ranking to organizational growth and economic development in Liberia?

Coming from an OD background, I agree with Mr. Kim’s statement completely. Human capital is the most important ingredient to the success of any organization or nation. Liberia is ranked 153 out of 157 countries, which is extremely low. In simple terms this means that Liberians are severely lacking the requisite knowledge and skills needed for them to move out of poverty and realize their potential as productive members of society. Liberia, prior to the civil war, had an educational system that rivaled the best in the world. I graduated from high school in Liberia and was able to successfully sit the entrance exams for university in the US and obtain an academic scholarship. Today, we see a steep decline in the quality of education in Liberia. In 2018, WAEC reported that 21,580 out of 33,979 candidates who sat for the exam in Liberia, in the senior high category, failed, representing 65.15 percent of the candidates. As an HR professional in Liberia, I have reviewed countless CVs and interviewed numerous candidates for jobs. During these interviews, one can clearly see the lack of preparedness for the job market. As a result, organizations tend to look outside of Liberia for suitable candidates, further crippling the nation’s HCI. We have to realize that there is a direct correlation between poverty and the lack of education and skills. It is imperative that we develop human capital by making investment education (both academic and vocational), health care, and job creation if we are to improve this ranking and elevate our people out of poverty.

 

Srimex Oil and Gas Company is one of the leading importers of petroleum products in the country. Please tell us more about your company and its contributions to Liberia’s local content development.

Srimex was formed as a General Trading Company in 2003 and imported commodities such as cement, IT and electrical equipment, cooking oil and milk powder. In 2005, Srimex was granted a license to import petroleum products into Liberia which extends to storage, distribution, commercial retail, bunkering as well as exploration. Srimex’s petroleum import business soon eclipsed other activities and in 2011 Srimex Oil and Gas Company (Srimex OGC) was formed to focus solely on petroleum. Srimex OGC also has the largest privately-owned tank farm storage capacity in Liberia. Srimex OGC is 100% Liberian owned and operated and has grown from an importer of modest quantities of PMS into the largest Liberian Oil & Gas company in Liberia. Srimex Chairman, Mr. Musa Hassan Bility, is also 100% owner.

 

How do you balance your family and career obligations?

With the help and guidance of God and a great support system! Balancing career and family is the toughest job for professional women, especially those wanting to reach executive levels. It is an uphill/downhill battle and at one time or another in your journey, one gets less attention than the other. Anyone that will tell you that as a woman you can have it all is a magician. The best you can strive for is to have the ability to balance the two. I think one of the key things is to be cognizant enough to recognize when you are not paying enough attention to either and to take corrective measures. Secondly, you have to ensure that you have a good support system. I am a proud mother of two daughters and I can tell you that I could not have raised them without God first, and my mother and sister second. I am truly blessed to have a phenomenal support system.

 

What’s the best way for the readers of Amazons Watch Magazine to connect with you?

Email: wadeipowell@ufoundsolutionsgroup.com

Website: www.ufoundsolutionsgroup.com

LinkedIn: Wadei Powell

Mauritius is currently holding a Gender mainstreaming workshop, focusing on empowering women through cooperatives at the National Cooperative College.

Gender mainstreaming conform to the United Nations (UN) Economic and Social Council formally defined concept, “Mainstreaming a gender perspective is the process of assessing the implications for women and men of any planned action, including legislation, policies or programmes, in all areas and at all levels.”

During his workshop opening speech earlier today, Minister of Business, Enterprise and Cooperatives, Soomilduth Bholah, lauded the contribution of women to the country’s economic development. He reaffirmed the government’s commitment to promote economic empowerment of women, while encouraging development and growth of women entrepreneurs. He noted that several measures and incentives have been put in place to support cooperatives.

“According to Statistics Mauritius, women make up more than 50 percent of the country’s population compared to the male population,” said Bholah, adding there are only 75 women cooperative societies. He encouraged women to fully tap their potential and avail themselves for schemes and incentives provided by government to become entrepreneurs and set up cooperative societies.

“One of the latest schemes pertains to the grant of financial assistance by the Development Bank of Mauritius ,by way of no guarantee loans up to a ceiling at a fixed interest rate of three percent to assist women to start a business.”

The Minister further pointed out that the Mauritius Women Entrepreneur Cooperative Federation Ltd, acts as a facilitator in helping women to improve their skills and aptitudes in entrepreneurship and encouraging women to engage in the cooperative movement in Mauritius.

Source: African Daily Voice

British couples will be able to include their mothers’ names on their marriage certificate under a change in law hailed as a step forward for women’s rights on Wednesday.

Church of England leaders also praised the change, which passed into law this week, saying the previous system demeaned women and was out of step with modern times.

Previously, marriage certificates in England and Wales only included space for fathers’ names.

“We have finally achieved tangible progress towards the equal treatment of both parents,” said the Bishop of St Albans in a joint statement with Caroline Spelman, a lawmaker who works closely with the church and had campaigned for the change.

“Only fathers’ names were formerly recorded when marriages were registered, a custom unchanged since 1837,” she said.

“This clear and historic injustice reflected the time when children and wives were considered property of men and it is high time for this to be corrected.”

The system had long attracted protest from women’s rights activists, who said it symbolised a system that treated women as second class citizens.

“A country’s laws set the tone for how it treats its people,” said Niki Kandirikirira, the head of programmes at women’s rights group Equality Now.

“Something like this may seem like a small legal inequality but in reality it is part of a much wider pattern of inequality rooted in patriarchy and discrimination against women.”

The new act will also open up civil partnerships – previously only open to same-sex couples – to heterosexual couples by the end of the year.

That move followed pressure from some women who felt that traditional marriage had patriarchal connotations.

“We have achieved equality for all couples in relationships,” said Martin Loat, the chairman of Equal Civil Partnerships, in a statement.

Source: WEFORUM

Mothers generally want to raise children who are innovative, inquisitive as well as eager to showcase smart problem-solving skills. We live in an economy where businesses especially small-scale businesses have become the driving wheel for economic advancements, this therefore gives rise to the need to raise kids who are always willing to use their heads or rather explore advantageous entrepreneurial opportunities.

Some months ago, while doing my weekend shopping in a mall, I overheard the discussion between a mom and her teen daughter who seemed interested in having one of the talking Barbie dolls on the shelf. She began by asking her mom how much one of the dolls cost, Mrs. Taylor replied in a soft tone “it cost just $120, and I would not be able to afford that for now because we still have a long list here to attend to.”  The girl’s next statement could tell anyone listening that her mom had sparked up a desire in her to make money. She asked, how I can make money mom, I want to be able to buy stuff that I need.

The thought of teaching a 10-year-old about entrepreneurship might not have crossed the mind of so many mothers especially because some of them think they are still too young and at the same time might not need it at their age. Nevertheless, if we intend to continually sustain a generation that offers solutions to the countless problems in the world, then we must be willing to raise children who will be financially independent through the discovery of witty inventions that give answers to the needs in the world. Teaching kids about entrepreneurship means giving them an avenue to use their head and become more creative. This will help them adapt early to the reality of being independent and responsible, skills they need for a confident, happy, and adventurous life.

The natural attributes that are associated with kids make them suitable to learn about the needful entrepreneurial skills that call for outstanding achievements in business. Considering that children are more intuitive and inquisitive, the possibility of kids becoming great entrepreneurs is somehow unavoidable. One great way to teach kids to use their head is by encouraging them to conceptualize good problem solving mechanisms that empower them to be problem solving agents in the labor market.  Observing the life of a young child, you will realize that when a child is faced with a problem; a good example is watching a child whose toy car accidentally just got broken, watching the child you will realize he never wants to accept that this toy is unrepairable, he will keep making efforts to fix it even though it might cost him shedding tears. This shows that kids can be persistent at getting what they really want and, persistence is one of the vital and indispensable attributes of an entrepreneur.

Most parents are afraid of introducing their kids to the idea of being entrepreneurs but I think what can fade off this fear is the fact that parents must recognize that teaching a child entrepreneurship, does not completely fade out the school system. Teaching children entrepreneurship at an early stage exposes them to the need to be responsible, self-reliant and also helps them realize they have a task to contribute their own quota to the society.  

As a parent of a 10-year-old, you might be wondering how to help such a tender child understand entrepreneurship and the value it offers. Take a deep breath, and admit that the journey of raising a young entrepreneur is not as hard as you think, you can also try out these few tips.

Here are a few ways to Instill entrepreneurship in a child.

  1. Educate them on Financial literacy by teaching about the importance of savings and investments.
  2. Help your kids recognize that the world around them is full of business opportunities, and finding them just requires some careful observation, self-drive and creativity.
  3. Make them realize they can turn their passion to a business venture. If your child loves animals, you can explore buying her a horse and have her ride the children in the neighborhood for a small fee.
  4. Encourage them to learn even while they fail. It is true that school teaches children that failure is bad but in order to raise a successful entrepreneur, you must help the child realize failure is not entirely bad since it helps us learn from our mistakes.
  5. Let them practice the act of sticking to plans. Successful entrepreneurs are those who have learnt how to take the right steps at the right time.

As important as it is to raise children who will become successful entrepreneurs, you must also make sure not to push too hard on the child especially when you discover she has no passion for entrepreneurship or business. Therefore, as a sensitive mother you must bear in mind that children succeed easily and better when they follow their path of interest.

Research have proven that children possess highly creative ability as well a quick learning capacity, why not explore these by offering them an express opportunity to use their head, perhaps they may be able to create shocking innovations.  

By Eloke-Young Splendor

When you’re in your 20s and 30s, the right lifestyle and screening tests can go a long way to keeping you healthy. These simple steps can greatly benefit you.

1. Start a Heart-Healthy Diet-and-Exercise Plan

Skip the fried and fatty foods, and try to get at least half an hour of exercise every day. Eating right and keeping active are the gifts that keep on giving.

If you set up these habits now, the benefits will last a lifetime. And if you plan on having children someday, it’s a good idea to take a multivitamin that gives you plenty of folic acid — between 400 and 800 micrograms a day. Start taking folic acid at least 1 month before you plan to get pregnant, and keep it up during your first trimester.

2. Work on Your Relationship with Your Doctor

Find one you trust. Before your appointment, make up a list questions, such as: What contraceptive method is right for me? What’s the best way to prevent STDs? What vaccines do I need?

3. Know Your Family Health History

Did your sister, mother, or grandmother have breast cancer or heart disease before they turned 50? Does diabetes run in the family? These are important questions to ask your family to help your doctor figure out your own health risks.

4. Don’t Forget Key Screening Tests

Make sure you get a Pap test to check for cervical cancer every 3 years starting at age 21. If you’re 30 to 65, you can keep getting a Pap test every 3 years, or you can get it along with an HPV test every 5 years. That other test is useful because most cervical cancers are caused by an infection with HPV (human papillomavirus).

If you’re sexually active and have a higher risk for STDs, get tests for chlamydia and gonorrhea every year. Take an HIV test at least once, more often if you’re at risk. Also consider tests for other STDs like trichomoniasis, syphilis, and hepatitis B.

Check your blood pressure every 2 years if it’s normal (lower than 120/80). If it’s high, or you’re at risk for high blood pressure, you’ll need more frequent checks and diabetes screening tests. Also, get your cholesterol tested, and ask your doctor how often that needs to be done. 

Source: WebMD

The gender imbalance seen in terms of women political representation has been a topic in most gender gatherings for decades. In a recent interview with the Amazons Watch Magazine, HON. Mrs. Santi Bai Hanoomanjee, the first female speaker of the Mauritius National Assembly, bares her mind on the challenges women in political leadership are faced with and how women can brave these challenges and be more involved in the political sphere. Excerpt:

  • You have a track record of working in a male dominated industry. Amazons Watch Magazine readers would love to know more about your career journey and some of your accomplishments.

Right at the start, I must say that I have always been a very determined person. This trait of my character has, to a great extent, shaped my career and brought me where I am today.

At the very young age of 19, I joined the civil service of Mauritius. Gradually, by dint of hard work and perseverance, I climbed the professional ladder until I reached the then highest rank in the civil service, that of Permanent Secretary. For your information, a Permanent Secretary is the closest collaborator of the Minister. He/she is the person responsible, amongst others, for advising the Minister on the formulation of policies of the Ministry. He/she is also the administrative head overseeing the implementation of policies decided by Government.

At every level in my career, I have always endeavoured to bring about meaningful changes. I have served in several Ministries, including the Prime Minister’s Office, the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Agriculture, the then Ministry of Women’s Rights which later became the Ministry of Gender Equality, Child Development and Family Welfare and the Ministry of Finance, amongst others. I seized the opportunity of my posting at the Ministry of Women’s Rights to initiate, as far back as 1984, several projects aimed at furthering women’s rights, such as, inter-alia, the review of discriminatory legislation against women, and improving the literacy rate of women in the country.   

At the Ministry of Agriculture, I had the privilege to represent Mauritius in negotiations at the ACP-EU level regarding the Sugar Protocol issues and to attend lobbying missions in EU countries in that connection. I was also closely involved in the major reforms which were brought in trade at the level of the World Trade Organisation and I had the opportunity of attending negotiation meetings in Geneva.

In May 2005, I retired and started my political career by joining the Mouvement Socialist Militant political party. This decision was motivated by my strong desire to serve my country with the rich experience acquired after spending 33 years in the civil service.

In July 2005, I was elected for the first time in the largest constituency of the island and I was re-elected in the same constituency in May 2010.

I served as a Member of the Opposition in the National Assembly from July 2005 to March 2010 and also from July 2011 to October 2014.

From May 2010 to July 2011, I was appointed Minister of Health and Quality of Life and in that capacity, I focused my efforts to raise the standard of the public health services for the ultimate benefit of the population.

Finally, following the general elections of December 2014, I was elected the first woman Speaker of the National Assembly. I used my influence to advocate for the setting up of a Parliamentary Gender Caucus. I must acknowledge that my proposal received a positive response from all the political parties in the House and thus, a cross-party Parliamentary Gender Caucus became a reality in March 2017. I am currently its chairperson.

  • As the Speaker of the National Assembly of Mauritius and also being the first woman in the nation’s history to hold this post, what will you say is the major threat to the participation of women in top executive positions?

As a woman, I would say that there are a number of socially acquired gendered roles and norms which tend to act as limiting factors to the full capacity development of women. Although women can be equally, if not more, capable and qualified as men, they always have to work harder than men in order to prove their worth.

So, having in place an accompanying conducive gender sensitive environment remains one of the key dimensions of equitable participation at higher levels of decision making. Moreover, one of the components of a gender sensitive structure includes the use of gender sensitive language so that a certain level of respect towards women can be maintained.

The Parliamentary Gender Caucus of the Mauritius National Assembly commissioned a study in 2017 with a view to establishing the baseline situation on the status of gender equality in sectoral Ministries in Mauritius. The study revealed that there is no discrimination against women in the civil service. At the level of the private sector, recent studies reveal that there still exist some inequalities that needs to be straightened out so as to have more women at board room level. Moreover, all sectors must respect the principle of equal pay for equal work but with equal qualifications and experience. At the same time, organisations should address barriers that remain invisible at the first glance but which lead to the glass ceiling effect. These unconscious bias in the corporate world continue to be a challenge to gender equality.   

  • Annually, the achievements and contributions of women are celebrated in the month of March. The theme for the 2019 International Women’s Day is Balance for Better. From your viewpoint, what possible measures can governments take to create a gender-balanced Africa?

Across the globe, statistics reveal that gender has been a key determinant in the distribution of the benefits of social and economic development. Advancing gender equality could add USD 12 trillion per year to the economy by 2025, according to the Mc Kinsey Global Institute.

It is well-known that women comprise 50% of the global population, but have far less representation in many key cross-sections of society. For instance, the average representation of women in formal politics remain around 24% at the global level. Moreover, there is a persistent wage gap between the salary of men and women.  Concurrently, the United Nations has recognized that the pursuit of gender equality through Goal 5 is a “pre-condition” for the achievement of the 16 other SDGs. The different commitments made at the regional level also call upon Governments to put in place measures for women’s empowerment and gender equality. Moreover, the success of global development efforts depends on women being fully engaged, which means that they must be given the opportunity to reach their full potential at the different levels of policy making and implementation through gender mainstreaming.

In this context, there are a number of measures, which Governments should consider adopting in order to redress existing gender gaps. The collection of gender disaggregated data remains key to establishing the baseline to measure the existing situation on gender equality and monitor and assess progress made towards equity and equality. In this context, as the Chairperson of the Parliamentary Gender Caucus, I have taken the lead to commission a gender audit in the civil service in Mauritius to measure the status of gender mainstreaming at the policy and operational levels. The Caucus has also commissioned a participatory gender audit on the status of gender equality in the private sector with a view to making proposals to address gender gaps. As the private sector remains a partner for development, roping in the private sector to contribute to women’s empowerment through public/private partnerships and corporate social responsibility measures would contribute to gender responsive investment that would complement government initiatives and maximise on the limited resources that some African Governments are already facing.

Furthermore, Gender Responsive Budgeting should be seen as a strategy to reframe investment analysis as well as to recognise gender as a crucial factor for sustainable development.

Empowering women in Africa must start with ensuring that they have access to education. It is a fact that education enables individuals to earn their living. This, in turn, leads to improved living standards, through the fulfilment of basic needs. Concurrently, women should have access to proper health services to enable them to remain healthy, to reduce unnecessary disability and premature death. Women who are deprived of education and who are in poor health cannot earn wages and become a prey to poverty. Such situations lead to a feminization of poverty.

In addition, as we are transitioning into the digital revolution, Governments should ensure digital literacy at grass root level, especially targeting women. However, I have to admit that this will not be an easy task to achieve as it will require a lot of resource. We must bear in mind that in some remote areas of Africa, women might not even have access to a mobile phone which is the basic digital tool. Access to Internet connection remains another major challenge.

At the macro level, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), women in this day and age perform three-quarters of unpaid care work, with a total of around 13% of the world’s GDP, which is not translated into economic power, nor accounted for in the GDP. In the context of African economies, women’s work in the informal sector is also not accounted for as part of the GDP. Regulating this sector would ensure that women’s economic and social contribution is acknowledged.

Eliminating Gender Based Violence (GBV) should remain high on any government’s agenda for the safety of the community. Concurrently, GBV bears both tangible and intangible costs. GBV is too costly to ignore.

Furthermore, Government policies need to appreciate the diversity of women’s identities- there is not a “one size fit all policy”. Government policies and programmes should be responsive to the different priorities of women from different socio-economic backgrounds, as well as cultural specificities that shape gendered power dynamics. Programmes should be formulated and implemented accordingly. The use of specific gender sensitive indicators would contribute a long way to monitor and evaluate the impact of these programmes on intended beneficiaries.

Understanding women’s practical and strategic needs is a key dimension to putting in place relevant policies and programmes, with the accompanying costed action plans to address those issues that are of importance to advancing women’s empowerment. Having both a top-down and bottom-up approach would ensure a diversity of representation of issues and ensure that women’s practical and strategic concerns at the grass-roots are mainstreamed into government’s shorter terms plans and vision.

  • Women sometimes find it difficult to balance social life, family and career. What model do you use to strike a balance between these aspects of your life?

I must point out that, over and above all my professional roles, I am a mother of three daughters. As such, I have numerous family commitments. Balancing these with my demanding career and active social and political life has not always been straightforward. Fortunately, I have had the opportunity to live in a family setting where we have been socialised to value the male and female gendered roles. I have also benefited from the understanding and unflinching support of my husband and my children.

Personally, I have realised that it is very important to shortlist my priorities, relating to my work and family commitments. Quite often, I am faced with changing priorities and I have to balance what is urgent and what is important. This is where a good planning of activities becomes vital.

Getting my priorities sorted out has helped me to assess the amount of energy that I should invest on my responsibilities at different levels. I always reflect carefully on what issues cannot be compromised, those that are non-negotiable and those that are important to myself, my family and my professional commitments. Being clear on these answers helps me to prioritise, to make the necessary adjustments and to plan my future course of action.

Over my 40 years of career, I have come to the realization that maintaining work-life balance requires constant adjustments, compromises, and sacrifices, but also that it is essential to take the time to spend with my family as such moments help me to re-energise and to keep working. I always strive to strike a mental and physical balance through regular exercises.

Overall, I may say that I have been able to maintain the correct balance in my life: I have had a distinguished career while simultaneously ensuring that my children also successfully complete their university studies and embark on their own professional careers.

  • In African countries, the participation of women in political activities is significantly low compared to the rest of the world. How do you think African women can be encouraged to get involved and break into the political sphere?

One of the strategies that have been adopted at the regional level remains the institutionalization of the quota system and affirmative action. At the international level, the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) calls upon State Parties to put in place temporary special measures to redress existing gaps.

Evidence suggests that local politics remain a platform for women to leap into national level politics. In Mauritius, at the local Government level, there is a positive legislative measure that stipulates that 30% of candidates for elections should be women. As a consequence, at present, there are 33% of women elected at local government level.  Although I must acknowledge that women representation at Parliament level still remains low for Mauritius at only 12%.

At the level of African countries, two countries can be considered as shining examples in terms of women political representation, namely Uganda and Rwanda. Uganda’s 9th Parliament comprises 38% of women as a result of affirmative action enshrined in the Constitution. As regards Rwanda, the percentage of women in Chamber is 64% as a consequence of the 2003 Rwandan Constitution which provides for a minimum of 30% quota for women in all decision making organs, covering the bi-cameral Parliament, political parties and other government bodies.     

However, there is much work which is required upstream so as to reach the desired level of women participation in politics. To my mind, this work should start with the family. Both boys and girls should be provided with equal education and development opportunities. The girl-child should not be caged in gendered roles.

Providing young girls right from an early age with self-assertiveness, leadership, advocacy and lobbying skills remains crucial to shaping them into young leaders. Eminent female figures in politics, both past and present, such as Indira Gandhi, Golda Meir, Margaret Thatcher, Angela Merkel, Theresa May, should be used as role models to inspire young women aspiring to join politics.  

Above all, African political leaders must be fully sensitized to the need to create space for women to join their parties. The presence of women should be welcome. This sensitization should be backed with appropriate legislative framework to create an enabling environment. Most importantly, in the thrust to bridge the gender gap, men should be roped in as partners or as male champions pushing the cause for gender equality.   

  • What is the best way for Amazons Watch Magazine readers to connect with you?

I may be contacted by email to shanoomanjee@govmu.org .