On “International Women’s Day,” WomenWerk launched their inaugural daytime forum, which included a young professionals panel and evening gala event to “celebrate the rich and positive contributions of African women across the globe.” Face2Face Africa spoke with the organization to find out about their recent event in addition to their future plans.
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Co-founders Demi Ajayi and Nekpan Osuan are advancing the next generation of young African leaders. They started the WomenWerk organization as a movement to bring women and men together for a modern take on International Women’s Day. “We are very proud of our 2014 program. When we started, we did not envision such great support for both the forum and the gala!”
The sold-out event was held at John Jay College of Criminal Justice (CUNY) and boasted more than 300 guests. It included a diverse group of university student senators; guest speaker Brittany J. Steward; New York City College of Technology’s Student Government President Lucas Almonte; education and community leader Inez Barron, Congresswoman Barbara Lee, and many other distinguished panelists and honorees from Africa and the United States.
“Our goals for this year were met squarely: we aimed to provide a platform for both women and men to discuss relevant success and challenges faced by women in urban settings who care about international issues and see themselves as valuable change agents in improving the status of women.”
This year’s exclusive event was themed, “The Century of the African Woman,” and was co-sponsored by MUI-The PR Company, CUNY University Student Senate, Columbia African Students Alliance, and Incognito Entertainment. Ijeoma Genevieve Mbamalu, founder of MUI-The PR Company and DJ Universe and renowned for his Afro beats music and global events, hosted the evening’s celebration.
The 2014 panelists, guest speakers, and honorees included a special guest honoree: President Bill Clinton and The Clinton Foundation received the Ally of the Year award for their global and economic initiatives.
Honorees included scholar, physician, and filmmaker Dr. Mehret Mandefro who received Image of the Year. Mo Abudu received Entrepreneur of the Year as the founder of Ebony Life TV, Africa’s first global Black multi-broadcast entertainment network. Farhana Hassan, CUNY scholar at Baruch College, received the Student Leader of the Year award for her achievements and campus leadership. Also honored as Student Leader of the Year was first-generation Nigerian-American City College student Deborah O. Ayeni for her research work in pathology.
New York City Councilwoman Barron received the Leadership in Public Service Award for her civil and human rights reform and education, and CUNY Trustee Freida Foster received the Leadership in Higher Education Award for her dedication and commitment to education equality. Service Organization of the Year was awarded to Friends of FAWE. Champions for education and human rights and the Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to world–renowned development economist Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala for creating financial relations and economic access in Africa.
After this year’s successful launch, WomenWerk plans to host an even larger event that will attract additional attendees, telling Face2Face Africa, “Our goal for 2015 is to attract even more men and women in celebrating International Women’s Day. We hope to feature more great honorees and a panel with male thought leaders who can speak to relevant issues.”
One of this year’s panelists, Lillian Ajayi, founder and CEO of Global Connections (GC4W) shared, “Whatever path you decide to follow, commit to it. People cannot discredit you if you work hard.” It is this type of messages that founders Ajayi and Osuan hope will reach many more women. For that reason, on March 7-8, 2015, WomenWerk will again honor dynamic individuals who are committed to impact and improve the welfare and access of women in different sectors.