Amujae Leaders Oley Dibba-Wadda and Cornelia Kruah-Togba joined moderator Mharaf Worku and Fatima Al Ansar, Head of Mission at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Mali at the Center for Strategic Studies, for a webinar on ‘Women in Public Leadership.’ Hosted by the African Leadership Academy’s AL for Governance Network, the webinar was the first of a series of conversations that will highlight the stories of inspiring women in public leadership across the African continent.
To kick off the discussion, Oley talked about the importance of having women involved in public leadership:
“Politics is a tool that we structure ourselves. Whether we as women like it or not, it governs the aspects and the ways we live, and by not participating in politics we allow others to decide for us, so we need to engage young women at a very early age about decision making and how to be part of it.”
Oley then went on to talk about the differences in leadership in the public and private sectors, addressing the inaccurate assumption that government leaders lack the innovation and efficiency to solve complex problems.
“I don’t think leaders in government services are less effective than leaders in other industries…The criteria for electing a leader in public office is not the same as the criteria for leading in an industry, or a leader who owns his or her business and who obviously depends on that business.
But having said that, we have seen cases where effective leaders within the region and outside of the region have a vision and dare to be bold, to think outside of the box, to challenge the status quo and transform their countries.”
In the context of public leadership, Cornelia shared some important lessons learned through her own experience running for office in Liberia, noting the challenges faced by women politicians, particularly in Africa:
“Running for office in an African setting is different because you have to deal with all the different cultural and societal barriers that are there for women. You have to not just prove that you are qualified or competent… but you also have to prove that you can balance your work and being a woman, being a mother, being a wife, which I am.”
Cornelia also shared her perspective on how men could be better allies to women:
“I think the way we can get men to be allies, first and foremost, is to engage them on the importance of having both genders in force. We need to engage them not just on the fact that we are females but that issues surrounding women, issues affecting women and children are things that we might have added knowledge on, that we might have more insights on.
So we want to meet them at a point where they feel it is not as though we are asking them to be allies because we need their help, but because they need us if this agenda at the national level should be progressed.”
To watch the full ‘Women in Public Leadership’ webinar, click here.