05/01/2010

Exclusive Interview: Empowering the African woman

Press AfricaNews Journalist Kingsley Kobo, reporter in Abidjan, Ivory Coast interviewed Marieme Jamme .

How do we help African women? What can we do to give them a better-deserved education? How is polygamy affecting them and their health? And how do we enable them to find themselves, have self-esteem and look forward to societal progress? One woman has the answer! Mariéme Jamme is a Senegalese-born, London-based Social Entrepreneur and CEO at SpotOne Global Solutions Group.

She is also an “African women affairs” advocate. Groomed across four continents, this 35-year-old olive-skinned workaholic bears a decade-long burden for African women. She yearns to see her Black sisters strong and independent. She craves for their emancipation, to become not eternal receivers of men’s money but shakers and movers of the modern society.

Mariéme spoke with AfricaNews reporter, Kingsley Kobo, on Tuesday, unearthing her recipe for empowering African Women.

AfricaNews (AN)
Many African girls I spoke to about you and your vision feel you are a rather very fortunate African woman and so quite different from them who still live on the continent. Do you think so?

Mariéme Jamme (MJ)
Thanks for this interview. I am very honoured. I guess you can say that I am very fortunate, but there is no difference between the women in Africa and myself. I was given opportunities that they did not have, an opportunity to get an education I suppose, but they are as capable as me.

AN
After more than 40 years of independence, does Africa still have any hope to hang on in coming close to the West?

MJ
Absolutely, Africa has big hopes! Our human capital is the most progressive human capital in the world. We can for sure align ourselves with the West and do well for generations to come. We have incredible people that are doing so much for the continent, we should learn from them.

AN
One of your companies – SpotOne Global Solutions Group – based in England, has been helping foreign companies to establish in Africa thus creating jobs for the youths; any encouragement from the governments of these countries?

MJ
No, Not yet! SpotOne is a private-owned company with its headquarters in Paris. We have been helping US IT companies to enter a new Market for nearly eight years. Recently we have been opening entities in Africa, to support decisions makers on trainings, using the best Business solutions and Best practices.

We have not got any encouragement from governments so far, but would like to partner with them especially on their Program of Educations and Trainings.

AN
As an African woman who has lived and studied in Europe, the US and Asia, what do you think Africans really lack and why have they remained in this lack?

MJ
I don’t think Africans lack anything major that cannot be changed or modified. I think our problem is a mentality problem, and this is due to our social and cultural educations the colonial systems left in place etc… We need to be more credible and reliable and given opportunities. We need to start learning in the hard way, just not pretending that we know. I find this to be a big issue in my recent visits in Africa.

AN
One of your core objectives is to empower African women through education and vision. What does this really entail?

MJ
Ah, ok! Well I believe that if you educate an individual or give them education you improve the world. Education is a basic right for every human being. Education does not have to be going to school and learning the alphabet, but it’s also teaching individual basic skills of health, and how to be human beings.

AN
There is this big problem right now in Africa. Despite some efforts by governments and NGOs, to make the continent desirable, the youths are still yearning to fly to the West. What solution can you give that hasn’t been heard of before?

MJ
Well I think the answer is clear, we all want to have a good life. I think it’s time for our governments to start looking after their people. They need to take care of the youths because they are our future. People don’t like living in war zones, or in poverty, I was born in poverty and I am still seeing poverty in its depth.

Billions of dollars have been spent since my birth, billions of promises made, still my country (Senegal) is very poor, and how do you justify that? I will say to African governments to include young people in their parliament and listen to them. They have the keys of our future. Africa is beautiful, have lots of potentials, but people are still very poor. This is not Good.

AN
According to recent statistics from UNICEF, there are more than 60,000 African prostitutes across Europe, some of which are teenagers; and the report says the number is growing. How do we curb this?

MJ
I have seen this report and it does make me feel very sad. But again we need to tackle poverty at its core. Give education to these girls. These girls are desperate girls that have nowhere to turn to. Unless we help them, we will see the rise in many years to come.

AN
A great number of African women still lack education; still suffer sexism in the society; are still under the bondage of polygamy. What do we do?

MJ
Campaign and Mobilisation - I would think to be honest. I think those two are essentials. In Africa, unfortunately, women still are reduced to nothing. They work extremely hard and are the roots of the families. I can’t believe in 2009 women don’t have their voices heard. I think polygamy is not good for our society. We need to educate men to also change their mentalities and think differently of women. Social and cultural legacy are affecting the development of women in Africa.

AN
Why preparing questions for you, a 42-year-old Ivorian woman in Abidjan asked me to ask you this: “I am married with three children. My husband womanizes; I hear he has two serious mistresses. Should I henceforth insist on protected sex with him, so that I wouldn’t contract the dreaded HIV like some housewives here have?

MJ
Thanks for this question. I would say to that woman to indeed protect herself. She has a basic right to say no to that nonsense. She needs to respect herself. She needs to insist on her husband wearing Condoms. At least she will be in control of her own health.

AN
Most African girls crave to remain young in order to please their men, what can you say to them?

MJ
That's a funny question: I don't think this just an African girl issue; even women in the West like to keep young to please their men. I personally think that a woman needs to take care of herself, look after her health, her life and her diet. Every man likes a woman who takes care of herself.

In my view, a woman needs to be traditional and modern at the same time but, does not need to be too submissive or do things to please an individual. We need to move from relations of submission to that of convenience, equality and mutual respect. Women also need to have men that take care of themselves. We are all human beings.

AN
Africa 2020 is a programme you and your collaborators have put in place to save Africa in some aspect. Tell us briefly about this?

MJ
Africa 2020 is an initiative that I am currently working on for 2020. 2020 is a big year for Africa. It is 60 years after many African countries got their independence. So it’s a testing time.

I began this project in 2007, so we can see the changes that Africa can make by then (2020) on different subjects. We have plans and strategies in place. Keep following it, it will be fun!

AN
In your own opinion, can you list three African countries where one can comfortably invest?

MJ
Today I would invest in Kenya, Ghana, and Rwanda. They are showing growth, maturity and good governance. They want to do well for their people especially on ICT.

Kingsley Kobo, AfricaNews reporter in Abidjan, Ivory Coast

Copyright © Marieme Jamme 2020. All Rights Reserved.
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