EMELDA MUSONDA, Lusaka
A SOCIAL media specialist and author Simon Mainwaring said “a better world requires teamwork, partnerships, and collaboration, as we need an entire army of companies to work together to build a better world within the next few decades. This means corporations must embrace the benefits of cooperating with one another”.
Mainwaring’s sentiments resonate well with the theme under which the second annual Graca Machel Trust Networks Conference was held in Maputo, Mozambique recently.
The conference which brought together GMT women networks namely New Faces New Voices (NFNV), Network of African Businesswomen (NABW), the Network of African Women in Agribusiness (AWAB), Women in Media Network (WIMN), Graça Machel Alumni Network (GMAN) and women federations from 17 African countries was held under the theme “If you want to go fast go alone, if you want to go far go together”.
The trust believes that if economic and social transformation of African women is to be achieved, there is need for collaboration among various networks and players.
According to GMT chief executive officer Nomsa Daniels, “The premise of the Trust is that together we are stronger. We believe in the power of collective action; in uniting people and networks around a common agenda and using coordinated approaches to tackle complex problems at local, regional and global levels”.
As a way of acknowledging the work that GMT networks and other women organisations are doing on the continent and their impact on communities, the Graca Machel Trust this year introduced a number of awards for its networks.
At a colourful gala dinner held during the conference, Zambian networks namely: Zambia Federation of Associations of Women In Business (ZFAWIB), New Faces New Voices (NFNV), African Women In Agri-Business (AWAB) and Women In Media Network (WIMN) were collectively presented the Best Collaborating Champion Award under the Trust’s special awards category.
The award recognises the country that championed and sustained in-country network collaboration and communication.
During the presentation of the award, GMT Women’s rights co-ordinator Korkor Kujo said Zambia demonstrated the best example of network collaboration by setting up a communication channel through which they share activities, joint planning, support each other’s activities and draw on the expertise in each of their networks.
Ms Kujo also said the joint networks demonstrated collective support for GMT projects such as Women Creating Wealth, the Food Basket project as well as the cassava cluster development initiative.
Under the Founder’s awards category, Zambia Federation of Associations of Women In Business walked away with the Network of African Businesswomen award.
The award which was jointly awarded to ZFAWIB and the Federation of Women In Business (Femme) of Mozambique is a recognition of the federations’ best practice of running an umbrella body.
ZFAWIB is a national organization which supports entrepreneurial activities of women across all sectors.
ZFAWIB executive director, Maureen Sumbwe expressed happiness at the awards saying it is inspiring that Zambia could be recognised at continental level.
Ms Sumbwe said the award is a clear demonstration that Zambian women networks have provided the best example of collaboration.
“The awards demonstrate the strength in working together and poolling resources and talents together. It is good we have been recognised outside the country, it is evident that we are the flagship of networks on the continent,” she said.
Ms Sumbwe also said the impact of the women networks is evident through the number of women venturing into business and in particular areas which were mainly the domain of men.
“Women have become more knowledgeable and confident about their businesses. We now have more women who are financially empowered and able to put three square meals on the table and pay school fees,” she said.
She further said impact is also evident through the women who are receiving recognition across the globe.
She said the “Entrepreneur of the Year – 2017” winner, Gwen Machiya was also selected to be one of the two African enterprenuers to represent the continent in Japan.
And Women in Media Network (WIMN) member Ruth Kanyanga Kamwi said the award is a reflection of the network’s hard work in contributing to changing the narrative.
“As we strive to tell positive stories of women and children, we need the women from all sectors of life to open up and share their stories. When we women stand together, things move and we see development.
‘‘WIMN is the latest network among the GMT networks and already our impact is been felt, the collaborative award is evidence of that. The award will motivate us to work even harder,” she said.
Other Zambian networks that were represented at the conference are: New Faces New Voices (NFNV) under the chapter leadership of Penny Mapoma which advocates for women’s access to finance and financial services. The network aims to bridge the funding gap in financing women-owned businesses in Africa and to lobby for policy and legislative changes that impede women’s financial access.
The African Women in Agribusiness Network (AWAB) which is headed by Elly Mwale addresses challenges in food security and identifies opportunities for women in the agriculture sector.
Women Creating Wealth, a one year enterprise development project under New Faces New Voices was also represented at the event by a member of the current cohort, Njekwa Lumbwe.
Other awards given during the gala diner included the Founder’s award which went to WIMN members – Renee Ngamau of Kenya and Selma Inocencia Inocência of Mozambique.
The Network of African Women in Agribusiness award went to Malawi while the New Faces New Voices chapter award was jointly given to Kenya and Nigeria.
The Women in Media Network – Most stories published award went to Cameroun’s Ayuketah Eleanor Manyi.
The Impact award which recognises the chapter with the best programmes and projects being implemented went to Tanzania’s Network of African Women in Agribusiness.
Mrs. Graça Machel who personally presented the Founder Awards to the deserving winners said, “The awards being presented tonight represent our acknowledgement and celebration of the innovation, tenacity and leadership that each of the women and networks bring as creators of change in Africa. I am immensely proud of their work and achievements and I hope that these awards will spark even greater waves of change. I challenge you to use these awards as motivation to collaborate on common projects that will drive transformation and development in critical sectors of our economy.” She added, “To all the winners, you are an inspiration. Keep growing and motivate the next generation of leaders.”