The African Union/Diaspora African Forum (AU/DAF), in collaboration with the Republic of South Africa, African Union Commission and NEPAD Planning and Coordination Agency on Friday, June 12, 2015, hosted an awards banquet in line with the 25th African Union Summit Theme for 2015: “Year of Women Empowerment and Development Towards Africa’s Agenda 2063.”

The event was co-chaired by South African Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Maite Mashabane and the Ambassador and Dr. Erieka Bennett. It was televised and live-streamed globally.

The African Women of Excellence Award Ceremony and Dinner was held during the on-going 25th Ordinary Session of African Union Heads of States and Government at the Michelangelo Hotel in Sandton City, Johannesburg, Republic of South Africa.
According to Dr. Erieka Bennett, Head of Mission (AU) Diaspora African Forum Committee, the Award was conceived as a platform to recognize women of Africa and African descent who have contributed to the struggle for political, social and economic independence at various levels of engagement with excellence.

The presentation categories were ‘The Living Legends Award’ in recognition of the elders who have paved the way and ‘The Women of Excellence Award’.

Recipients of the ‘The Living Legends Award’ were Nigerian business magnet Dorothy Anyiam-Osigwe, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, President of Liberia and the first female Head of State on the continent, Joyce Banda, former President of the Republic of Malawi, Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, current AU Chairperson and Winnie Mandela, South African anti-apartheid heroine and wife of former President of South Africa, late Nelson Mandela.
Recipients of ‘Women of Excellence Award’ were Saida Agrebi of Tunisia, Nardos Bekele-Thomas of Ethiopia, Dr. Arikana Chihombori of Zimbabwe, Graca Machel of Mozambique, Justice Victoria Okobi of Nigeria, Nana Konadu Agyeman Rawlings of Ghana, Sama Salifu of Ghana and Dr. Julieti Tuakli of Ghana.
In her acceptance speech, Malawi’s former President Banda thanked the organizers of the event for ‘recognizing’ her, observing that sometimes people selflessly work towards improving other people’s livelihoods without knowing that other people are noticing.
Said Dr. Banda: “I have learnt through my own experience that women and girls and the underprivileged need our support and encouragement if they are to break free from bonds of poverty and abuse”.

“Women need economic empowerment while the girl child needs education. If a woman cannot support her family economically, children tend to drop out of school early. When a girl drops out of school, they end up in early marriage and most often die from pregnancy related complications because they are still young when they conceive.”

President Banda said there is still a lot more to be done to change women’s livelihoods and she was committed to continue making her contribution towards ensuring that the marginalized of the society, especially women and children, have access to opportunities that would help them achieve their full potential in life.

Said Dr. Banda: “I will work: I will work; and work until the work is done.”

I n her speech, Liberian Sirleaf said there will be more women Presidents in Africa in the next years, saying “Joyce Banda and I are not the end of the journey”.
Tusekele Mwayongo
JUNE 12, 2015
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