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“Before others empower us we must empower ourselves; it is a shame if we do not believe in the leadership of women,” Kenya’s Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary, Amina Mohamed said.

“Half of the world is made of women and the other half is born by women,” Amina Mohamed teased; “There are today two women leaders in Europe and just one in our continent. We need a proportionate number of women leaders,” she challenged women leaders during the opening session of the African Women Leaders Symposium, held in Nairobi, Kenya from 24-25 August.

“We must first accept each other. We go through stages where we can’t even trust women in leadership,” she cautioned.“It is a shame that this continues to happen. We should all strive to be women of substance. We have to vote for women. Ask yourself, why should anybodyelse do for you what you are not committed to do for yourself?” she posed.

Amina Mohamed, a woman of many first, is the first woman to hold the foreign ministry docket in Kenya. She said, women must also make individual contribution to change the status quo if at all the continent is to achieve the required gender balance.

Oxfam International Director Winnie Byanyima, co-convener at the event reflected:“We need to keep challenging ourselves, walking the talk, and overcome stereotypes and triumph. I often walk alone and it’s hard,” she said sharing the challenges women face. “We try to be homogenous among women and yet we are not. We should be women who dare, break the rules, take risks and get hurt but also keep being happy,” she added.

She said women should also acknowledge the milestone achieved in the world today, and how things are changing already for women.

Capital’s Managing Editor Teguest Yilma was also one of the speakers at the break out session on Intergenerational Learning. She noted“the foundation of intergenerational solidarity is gender equality, tolerance and social inclusiveness.”

“We need to instill such values and considerations from early childhood, in our schools and our day-to-day life, so as to build the social fabric that upholds greater understanding and respect between people; be it man or woman, young or old, poor or rich, black or non-black,” she said.

“Africa has incredible resources we can build on to reach the stage where we all see and treat each other as fellow human being, where any variation across gender, race, color or other does not matter anymore…” she concluded.

According to data from the UN, the current status of inequality between men and women in getting economic opportunities means there could be gender parity only by 2133 if nothing is done.

In Ethiopia, 39 percent of parliamentarians are women, a high number compared to other African countries. Although the primary school enrollment rate of girls in Ethiopia has almost doubled from 21 to 42 percent in the last decade, the majority are unable to transition to secondary and tertiary school due to distance, personal security and economic challenges. As girls grow older, academic participation becomes increasingly difficult as it takes time away from essential income generating activities. The percentage of female students enrolled in university is only 30 percent and five percent drop out in the first year. At the same time, female-led instruction at the university level is extremely low at only 10 percent.

Former Justice Minister of Kenya Martha Karua, Special Envoy for Gender and Vice President of African Development Bank Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi and constitutional lawyer Betty Murungi were among the notable women who participated in the meeting that convened over 180 women leaders around Africa.

The forum was organised by UN Women and Oxfam.