Catherine Onyemelukwe

Author, Blogger, Speaker

Could They Do It?

Executive Director UN Women Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka

Executive Director UN Women Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka

Five Hundred Days

The Executive Director of UN Women, South African Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, reminds us that 500 days have passed since the Chibok girls were kidnapped. She urges us to welcome what the Nigerian government is attempting to do, even though Boko Haram is still visibly active.

She has called on all of us to regard the Chibok girls as our girls.

At a speech in Tokyo she said, “UN Women applauds the Buhari Administration in their efforts to put an end to the situation of child abduction that continues to afflict the northern regions of Nigeria. We are encouraged by the mounting news of releases of abducted girls. With the support of the global community, we can counter this scourge of violence in the region.”

I like her next paragraph even more: “To build societies that are conflict-resilient and able to permanently address the root causes of extremist violence requires investing in policies and programmes that support good governance and sustainable development. By definition, this must involve policies and programmes that empower women as decision makers and partners.”

It’s that phrase empower women that grabs me. Why?

Women are as good or as bad as men at leadership. (Actually I think women are often a little better, more willing to cooperate, listen, and take advice, but I won’t argue that now.)  There’s no sense in excluding women based on gender, and for women to be effective leaders, they need education. Further, educating girls leads to many positive outcomes.

As UN Women says, “Gender equality is not only a basic human right, but its achievement has enormous socio-economic ramifications. Empowering women fuels thriving economies, spurring productivity and growth.”

I believe in UN Women’s mission and programs. So I’m now a board member of the US National Committee for UN Women. I’ve agreed to serve on three committees, and am ready to get to work.

UN Women supports education for women and girls as one path to empowerment.

So does Michelle Obama. I admire her dedication to the education of women and girls.

Empower Women Through Education, U.S. Version

Michelle Obama

First Lady Michelle Obama, supporter of education for girls

The First Lady of the United States promotes Let Girls Learna government-wide effort to encourage teen-age girls around the world to stay in school. She’s reaching out to U.S. classrooms to enhance the effort and help our own students learn.

USAID, the United States Agency for International Development, has already been promoting education.

Ms. Obama’s chief of staff, Christina Tchen, spoke about education as a tool to empower women in the magazine Education Week. “The first lady wants to enlist students and teachers in U.S. classrooms to help promote educational equity for girls around the world,” Tchen said.

She said Peace Corps in participating in a few countries. “Peace Corps volunteers in 11 countries, ranging from Albania to Uganda, will complete projects designed by local communities to help tear down barriers that keep girls out of school.”

I’m happy to see USAID, the First Lady, Peace Corps, and American educators working together to support girls’ education.

Tchen said, “U.S. teachers can involve students through free lesson plans and correspondence with Peace Corps volunteers.”

She also described how U.S. students can get directly involved. There is “an online toolkit to raise funds to support individual projects posted by Peace Corps volunteers, such as sending girls to empowerment camps or helping to construct a bathroom at a school.”

She concluded her interview with these words: “I think this is a great way to be sure that our students grow up to be global citizens. … That value of being connected and caring about other parts of the world is a value they will carry with them into adulthood.”

Maybe some of them will become Peace Corps volunteers themselves.

Sometimes I entertain a fantasy, or a wish, thinking there might come a time when there is no need for Peace Corps.

Do you think that’s possible?

Barack Too is For Women’s Empowerment

I had an email from Barack last week. He sent it on Women’s Equality Day, August 26. Did you get it?

“Ninety-five years ago, the 19th Amendment was certified to guarantee the right to vote for women. Today, we celebrate Women’s Equality Day in honor of that milestone,” he said.

Army Rangers Women (AP Photo/John Bazemore) John Bazemore AP

Army Rangers Women (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

He talked about the need for equal wages for equal work. When you think about it, why is this not already standard? Women should have freedom in their reproductive health choices, he said. And the right to take time off to care for a sick child or parent.

“I’ve been fighting for these issues since I took office,” he said. “When I was a child, my grandmother became one of the first female bank vice presidents in Hawaii. She was a pioneer.

“And today we’re seeing more and more firsts. Women are Army Rangers. They’re NFL coaches, and referees. And the 114th Congress includes more than 100 women for the very first time.”

I love the two women who completed the grueling Army Ranger training – first time for women! The Huffington Post had a great article about them. “The U.S. Army’s graduation last week of the first two women, Capt. Kristen Griest and 1st Lt. Shaye Haver, from its grueling Ranger training is just the latest milestone in the military’s long arc toward gender integration,” HuffPost said.

See their Ranger tags!

You Can Fly, But Can You Hide?

Beth and Kelvin in Miami

Beth and Kelvin in Miami

I knew daughter Beth and her husband Kelvin might go to Miami to celebrate their 23rd wedding anniversary on August 29th. Beth had told me Kelvin was pressuring her to go, but she was resisting, having traveled a zillion times in the last few months for work.

On Saturday morning, even before I’d sent a card to them, Beth called to tell me they had flown the day before. But I already knew.


I saw a comment on a photo their daughter Nkiru had posted on her Facebook page the day before: “This is how you look when your parents said they’re going to Miami without you!”

No secrets these days!

Beth looks like she’s glad they went, don’t you think?

Author: Catherine Onyemelukwe

Author, blogger, speaker. Born in New York, grew up in mid west United States, lived in Nigeria for 24 years, back in U.S. since 1986. Advocate for racial justice.

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