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Israel Is Home From Home For This Ethiopian

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Pnina Tamano Shata

Pnina Tamano-Shata’s earliest childhood memory is receiving a bag of fudge at a refugee camp in Sudan. Since then she has traveled a long way, becoming the first Ethiopian woman to hold a seat in the Israeli parliament and host her own current affairs show on mainstream TV.

Born into a religious Jewish family in the Wuzaba village in northern Ethiopia, Tamano-Shata’s grandfather was a Rabbi (Jewish spiritual leader). He could trace his lineage to the first Jews who arrived in Ethiopia between the first and sixth centuries. A staunchly religious community, they practiced their rituals completely isolated from Jews in the rest of the world.

When Tamano-Shata was three years old, word arrived of a new way to travel to the Jewish homeland, Israel, and thousands set off.

“We were very afraid of the Ethiopian authorities at that time. On the way we were attacked by robbers, women were raped and children disappeared. We ran out of water before we reached the refugee camp in Sudan and a lot of people from our community died,” she recounts.

From 1934 to 1999, four waves of Ethiopian Jews arrived in Israel. They number more than 125,000 today.

“Trucks came to take us to an airplane that was waiting for us at a secret meeting point. I remember the Israeli soldiers. They gave us water and candies and bananas.”

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Tamano-Shata, her father and four siblings were separated from her pregnant mother and two sisters.

“Our truck arrived on the tarmac but my mother’s had broken down along the way. People were dying in the refugee camp and we didn’t know if she had also died or not. It was a very hard year for me until the Mossad (Israeli secret service) located her and brought her to Israel. I always say I am lucky because I found my mother and since then God has been taking care of me.”

But life in Israel was also difficult. The country was struggling to integrate these newcomers from mostly rural, remote regions of Ethiopia into a relatively modern country. Tamano-Shata received her first pair of shoes only after arriving in the Jewish State.

“In the first two decades after we came to Israel, the government’s policy was to help and help and help. It was like we were the poor in need. They invested a lot of money but forgot a really important thing – to ask us what we wanted. Only in the third decade did we find our voice and start saying to the government it’s not a problem of money, you need to work more on integration.”

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As a new immigrant, she was painfully aware of the language barriers, cultural differences and lack of knowledge of how their new country worked that prevented many Ethiopians from advancing. She became an activist at an early age, studying law and then moving to journalism and ultimately politics.

“Because of its history, Israel was created to be the home of the Jewish people no matter where they came from. But I don’t think the government understood the challenges black immigrants faced, which are different to those experienced by Jews who came from Russia and elsewhere. For Ethiopian Jews, a Jewish minority in Ethiopia and a black minority in Israel, there was suspicion on both sides at first.”

Over the years that suspicion has eroded in no small part because of the integration and success of people like Tamano-Shata. In recent years, she has turned her attention to getting more women into government because although 52% of Israelis are female, less than 30% hold high office.

“We see progress at the municipality level but unfortunately the ultra-Orthodox (very religious) parties still motivate for legislation that keeps women from top positions. Also, Israel’s biggest problem is security and that’s another reason why women are kept outside the main issues.”

She has always been a great advocate of social issues, arguing that they are part and parcel of security.

“We need to speak loudly and work hard. But never forget where we came from. Our old generation sacrificed a lot to come home to Jerusalem, to the land of our forefathers.” – Written by Paula Slier and Andre Toporvski Dryzun

Sport

Caster Semenya Releases List Of Experts For Battle With IAAF At CAS

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Caster Semenya has released a list of experts she will call in her appeal hearing at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) this week in her fight against regulations aimed at lowering the testosterone levels of hyperandrogenic athletes like her.

The South African 800-metres double Olympic champion on Monday expressed her disappointment after the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) revealed the names of their five witnesses for the proceedings in Lausserne.

She called it a breach of confidentiality rules ahead of a five-day appeal that could have far reaching consequences for sport. The IAAF deny any wrong-doing.

She will call on a range of experts from various fields, and used the announcement of their names, through her lawyers, to reiterate her stance on the IAAF’s proposed regulations.

READ MORE | ‘From Zero to Hero’: The Queen Of The 800 meters Caster Semenya

“The IAAF regulations do not empower anyone,” the statement said. “Rather, they represent yet another flawed and hurtful attempt to police the sex of female athletes.

“Ms Semenya’s courage and perseverance in her fight to run free is an inspiration to young athletes in her home country of South Africa and around the globe.”

The IAAF regulations stipulate that women with elevated testosterone take medication to reduce their level before being allowed to compete, but only in the middle-distance events of between 400- and 1500-metres where it is claimed the advantage is most felt.

IAAF President Sebastian Coe told reporters on Monday that the regulations are aimed at leveling the field between hyperandrogenic athletes and those with normal levels of testosterone.

The IAAF’s previous attempts to regulate testosterone in female athletes fell foul of a CAS ruling in 2015 following an appeal on behalf of Indian Dutee Chand, who had been banned from competing because of her high levels.

CAS claimed in their judgment that the IAAF had not provided sufficient evidence that hyperandrogenic athletes gained a significant advantage due to their testosterone count.

A verdict could take up to a month, according to CAS.

The experts who will testify in support of Semenya are listed as:

  • Prof Veronica Gomez-Lobo, Obstetrics and Gynecology at Georgetown University and the Director of the DSD (Differences of Sexual Development) Clinic at the Children’s National Health System in Washington‚ DC.
  • Dr Alun Williams, Director of the Sports Genomics Laboratory at Manchester Metropolitan University.
  • Professor Eric Vilain, specialist in gender-based and endocrine genetics‚ including DSD, who has consulted to the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
  • Professor Roger Pielke Jr, director of the Sports Governance Center at the University of Colorado.
  • Professor Dankmar Böhning, Chair in Medical Statistics at the University of Southampton.
  • Professor Richard Holt, expert in Diabetes and Endocrinology at the University of Southampton.
  • Professor Anthony C Hackney, University of North Carolina‚ with joint appointments in the Department of Exercise and Sport Science and the Department of Nutrition School of Public Health.

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  • Dr Lih-Mei Liao, clinical and health psychologist in the United Kingdom who has worked extensively with women diagnosed with a range of DSD conditions.
  • Dr Payoshni Mitra, teaches Sport Sociology at Birkbeck College‚ University of London and works closely with athletes with hyperandrogenism and DSD from the Southern Hemisphere.
  • Ashley LaBrie‚ Executive Director of AthletesCAN‚ an independent organization that represents the interests of all national team athletes in Canada. –Reuters

-Nick Said

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Current Affairs

‘Time For Business To Roll Up Its Sleeves’

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Busi Mabuza has just been appointed Chair of the South African chapter of the BRICS Business Council. Also the chairperson of the Industrial Development Corporation, she speaks to FORBES AFRICA about her plans for trade and investment. 


What is your first point of focus as the chair of the South African chapter of the BRICS Business Council?

It is still early days. I am just lucky I was appointed to the BRICS Council last year… In my few months, my sense was that the sister countries in BRICS were much more organized in terms of what it is they are looking for and in bringing a coordinated voice of business. We were still trying to get there in terms of coordinating our efforts and channeling our objectives and making sure we agree on the priorities.

I look forward to, first of all, picking up from where others left off. This is a council that has been around not long after 2010, and it has a long-enough track-record.

I think where things have been done well, we just need to make sure they are done better. Where there are gaps, I’d like for us to close those gaps. On the administrative side, I have noticed our sister countries, the business councils of the other countries, are much more coercively organized, more streamlined, business has a very strong voice and business facilitates all of it.

I would like to see that engagement with all corners of business, big and small. I think there is room for everybody there. If one looks at the African continent, the majority of the population is young people. If we sit in those meetings without understanding the voice of the youth, without talking to and addressing the issues of the youth, we will be left behind.

I think it is an opportunity to make sure business rolls up its sleeves and we actually benefit from the linkages our political principles have cemented.

As a woman in leadership, how will you navigate this space?

It is one that also challenges me ideologically. I never wanted to be labeled ‘the first black woman [in anything]’, and yet I have worked most of my life in environments where it has been lonely just by the mere fact that when the guys are talking rugby, I want to talk about something else.

Rugby is great, I also enjoy that, but it is also good to talk about other things. One success factor when one is thrown into such environments is to [bring] others in deliberately. I’d love to demonstrate to the women out there that there are opportunities such as these and we need to be there and we need to show up at our best in terms of our game.

We need to work diligently because when it comes to the results and output, the assessment won’t be based on whether you are a man or woman, it will be based on what you deliver tangibly. South Africa has an opportunity to make the other BRICS countries aware that women have to be at the table and we do it through our actions rather than just talk.

What is on the 2019 agenda for business in South Africa?

With this being new days, I believe in consultation. I believe in making sure I understand the mandate I have been given. I understand what the Department of Trade and Industry is about, and their focus on creating export opportunities because that will grow our trade.

I understand their focus on empowerment, because as a country we do need to see a better profile and reflection of society in the economic space. The focus will continue to be on trade and investment, as we move along, I would like for us to do this in an inclusive manner.

Which sector will South Africa prioritize?

I would definitely take a cue from the president’s [Cyril Ramaphosa] focus on agriculture. Agriculture is fantastic for this continent because we have land, we have the people and if you look outside South Africa, there is water. The resources are there.

The other side of the coin is that agriculture can be a great employment opportunity. Agriculture is getting more technical and technology-intensive and that excites me. If we had a trading bloc arrangement, we will be talking much bigger opportunities within the country.

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Woman

Danai Gurira: ‘Fully Feminine And Fully Fierce’

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The film Black Panther  received critical acclaim worldwide. Zimbabwean actor Danai Gurira from the film chats about the impact it has had on her life.

January 29 marked the first anniversary since the release of the Black Panther movie.

Worldwide, it grossed more than $1.2 billion ranking as the tenth top-grossing film of all time.

At the 2019 Golden Globes, which took place on January 6, the movie was nominated for three awards and was rumoured to be nominated for an Oscar, which will be hosted on February 25.

Danai Gurira, who plays the part of General Okoye, represented a fierce and strong woman.

One of the most notable scenes in the movie was when she took off her wig and used it as a weapon.

She chats to FORBES AFRICA about the impact the movie has had on her life.

What did being part of a movie like Black Panther mean to you?

It was a really amazing experience to be a part of and, of course, in my own work as a playwright and an actor, I’ve always been seeking to give the voice of the African more of a global resonance and response because I always wondered why we didn’t have that.

So, the beauty of being a part of a project that did do that and being able to play a character who was fully feminine and fully fierce and unapologetic about it allowed me to really be a part of something I wanted to see growing up.

I had always yearned to see stories like that, with such amazing characters I got to work with in that world, in an Africa un-colonized and excellent and thriving. And it was really an amazing feeling to be a part of that.

Did you expect such a huge response from the global audience?

The response, I mean, we couldn’t have predicted that, but I think we were all excited. Peter, Chadwick [Boseman] and the people I got to work with were excited to see this pass; even if we weren’t part of it, we would have supported it.

It has been a great experience to have and to know that people have had the response they had and we are just thankful.

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