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The Right Connections

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“The world needs a lot of help,” sighs Lilian Ajayi-Ore at the other end of the line in New York the Friday evening we speak to her from Johannesburg.

“If we are being completely candid, we have to sacrifice personal moments to do some of the things we all want to,” says Ajayi-Ore, founder of the Global Connections for Women Foundation (GC4W), a recipient of the Best of Manhattan Charity award for three years.

As she speaks, you can hear Ajayi-Ore’s year-old son Alexander Emmanuel in the background.

“As a mom, you never get an off day,” she laughs. “But he is the youngest of all the people I support.”

READ MORE: Highly Adaptable And Totally Indestructible

You can sense the adulation in her voice, both for her son and her other “priorities” – the young people she trains and the women and girls she creates opportunities for through her foundation, which has a reach of 3.5 million people worldwide.

“I am a women and girls global advocate, who believes in the importance of creating programs that provide a unique opportunity to assist them in succeeding in life. I am also a believer in partnerships and collaborations that will essentially create more open doors for women and girls to succeed,” says the 34-year-old go-getter from New York, originally from Nigeria.

The reason for these belief-systems could be her upbringing by a strong mother who was a single parent. She says her mother, Chief Temitope Ajayi – and her contributions to her community – was the inspiration for GC4W.

“She is also known as ‘Mama Diaspora’,” says Ajayi-Ore on her mother, who connects and creates job opportunities for the youth in Nigeria. “I could go on and on about her.”

READ MORE: Shea’s A Force

Currently pursuing a doctorate at the University of Pennsylvania, Ajayi-Ore is also a Harvard graduate and professor at New York University, School of Professional Studies.

More recently, she says she created and designed “the very first ‘Teach Gender Equality’ course and ‘Planet 50/50’ project on Microsoft”.

“This is to enable a global collaboration that fosters an environment where students can play a role in creating solutions for promoting gender equality and women empowerment,” states Ajayi-Ore.

She previously worked at the United Nations (UN) in New York, representing the Mission of Nigeria. She also spoke to people in the NGO space to see where she fit in.

That’s when she had an epiphany and decided to create a global connection and work to create solutions where inequalities lay. Ajayi-Ore visits Nigeria twice a year and also has plans for programs in Africa.

More Africans In The Diaspora

Iman is a supermodel and entrepreneur from Somalia. One of her country’s most famous exports, when she first arrived in America, people assumed she was “African royalty”. She also started her own line of cosmetics. The combination of her successful business and modeling career has made her very famous and respected.

Lupita Nyong’o is a multi-talented actress best known for her role in the Hollywood hit 12 Years a Slave. Born in Mexico, she was eventually able to move to Kenya. Early in her career, Nyong’o hit lead roles in film productions and movies, taking several awards home, including an Oscar. She is also a film director, having written and produced several of her own works.

Eunice Cofie is an entrepreneur, originally from Ghana, who combines the use of traditional African medicine with modern science to create a brand of products. Using her knowledge in chemistry/molecular biology, and her wits, she founded Nuekie, an innovative health and beauty company for people of color. She was the World Economic Forum’s Young Global Leader in 2012.

Rebecca Enonchong is a technology entrepreneur who founded the company AppsTech. Originally from Cameroon, she moved to the US in her youth. Her career grew quickly. In 1999, she founded AppsTech serving over 40 countries.

Adiat Disu, honoree of the 20 Youngest Power Women In Africa 2014 on forbes.com, is an entrepreneur and fashion designer born in Nigeria. Also the founder of Africa Fashion Week New York, as a brand strategist, one of Disu’s goals is to spread and promote African brands and culture to the world. Disu believes helping other entrepreneurs achieve their own dreams is just as important as reaching her own.

 – Compiled by Arvind K Pillai

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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