GEN Y Report from
The Global Women’s Forum for the Economy and Society,
October 16 to 18, 2013, Deauville, France, 2013
Reported by Zanele Mabaso, iLIVE2LEAD Ambassador from South Africa
ilIVE2LEAD Global Ambassador, Zanele Mabaso had the opportunity to interview South Africa’s prominent business leader, Theo Sewo, CEO of African Women’s Development Fund, who has played a major role in international and social development issues, advocacy, facilitation, policy and organizational development. Theo Sewo’s work on women’s rights has covered a range of activities, but has had a special focus on the promotion and protection of women’s rights in armed conflict situations. The well-spoken Theo shared what it takes to be a woman in the 21st century: “To be successful you need to have a strong sense of yourself, because if you don’t; you will get distracted by other people’s perceptions of you.”
Theo has played a vital role in the development of women through the African Women’s Development Fund, where she has worked to evaluate and strengthen women focused development programs in Africa. Theo shared what the African Women’s Development Fund aims to achieve and how it contributes to the sustainable development of young women in Africa. She said: “The Africa Women’s Development Fund is the first continent-wide foundation for African women, it was set up by African women and salutes the work of African women’s organizations. AWDF tries to get funds to the organizations that can bring change to their communities.” Theo mentioned how they also aim to bring about a change in the perception of African women, by supporting African organizations led by women across the continent.
Being in a world where young people want to not only be heard, but do things that will revolutionize their current oppression and situation. Theo shared what impressed her about young leaders and what she would want to see more young people do. “I admire the energy and the ability young leaders have to cross many cultural and national boundaries and work together effortlessly.” She, further, explained would she like to see more young leaders work with current leaders, as she believes there is great power in intergenerational communication, where the younger generation dialogues and exchanges insights leading to change with the older generation. “I’d also like to see young people tackle head-on some of the issues we elder leaders haven’t managed to solve yet—helping to draft solutions and create positive change where innovative ideas and change is needed.”
I, personally, believe in exchanging knowledge and ideas on issues that oppress women relating to women rights such as, social injustice, and violence against women. We need to dialogue with other young leaders and come up with, not only innovative solutions to addressing these issues, but also make appeals and recommendations to global organizations that have the power to implement and foster the change that creates a better world for young women in developed and developing countries.
Theo has extensive experience working with grant making organizations and foundations. She currently serves as a board member on the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation (a multi-million pound grant making organization); is a Trustee of Comic Relief and the Chair of its International Grant Making Committee; and is a member of the Africa Advisory Board for the Stephen Lewis Foundation.
Addressing thousands of women at the opening of the Women’s Forum, sitting on a panel with exceptional women leaders– Maria Livanos Cattaui, Nina Gardner, Ann Walker Merchant, and the President of the Women’s forum, Veronique Morali,– Theo spoke profoundly about how women have the ability to influence policies through effective collaboration. She added: “Girls and women are not victims; they now know how to create change and make a difference. But they lack the funds to do so.” Her words resonated with many when she said; “When women work together and collaborate, we work differently.”
Theo is also an Advisory group member of the ‘Every Child a Reader’ literacy initiative, a member of the British Refugee Council Leadership Group, and a board member of the Graça Machel Trust. Not only is she an outstanding and powerful leader, but she is an example of an individual that exemplifies a true role model– committed and dedicated to her work and those of others.
Today, young women are rising across all nations and becoming pioneers and advocates of change. Theo concluded with words of motivation and encouragement to these young women, who aim to create change within their communities. “There is a great generation of young people with new ideas and new ways of thinking , where those ideas have the ability to reshape the older ways of thinking and doing things. This is your moment, make the most of it, and your ideas and don’t let people tell you cannot succeed, because you can indeed make a big difference to this world,” she said.
“Women rights are not just women’s rights, they are indivisible.” – Theo Sewo
iLive2Lead is a youth leadership-training program based in Washington, D.C., that conducts training in various nations in each region of the world. iL2L brings the most exceptional young leaders together for International Leadership Summits and works with them to develop social initiatives which they lead back in their home nations, thus creating global examples of social responsibility and a ripple effect of impact worldwide.