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A cross-section of participants at the conference in Dusseldorf / © AWE

African women in Europe on the move

African women from across Europe and guests from Africa gathered recently at the prestigious Maritim Hotel in the western German city of Dusseldorf. The conference with the theme “Leadership and Integration for Change” was attended by more than hundred participants.

The meeting was organised by African Women in Europe ( AWE ). Founded in 2008 by Joy Wanjiru Zenz and Wambui Njau, AWE has organised a series of events, including conferences, meetings and award ceremonies, in different cities in Europe since its inception.

Ms Zenz gave the open speech in Dusseldorf and presented a paper on the importance of building self-confidence and “knowing who you are”.

The conference was subsequently addressed by expert speakers in different fields, including founders of organisations, chief executives of companies, doctors, lawyers, human rights activists and artists.

The powerful and inspiring speakers were Madam Muzvare Makoni, founder and chief executive officer of Girl Child Network, Kenya; Veye Tatah, founder and editor of Africa Positive magazine; Susan Jumoke Fajana, who delivered a talk entitled Economic Empowerment: From Surviving to Thriving; Dr Susan Enjema Aweh, a specialist doctor practicing in Germany; Dr Anna Mwirigi, a Consultant Haematologist; and Prof Beverley Hunt of the St. Thomas NHS Foundation Trust in London.

Other speakers were Dr Harnet Bokrezion, founder of Bootcamp Africa and consultant for Africa at the UN, EU and Oxfam; Jennifer Obaseki, human rights expert, legal practitioner and entrepreneur; Phoebe Ruguru, filmmaker, poet and writer; and Jenny Chika Okafor, lawyer, civil rights advocate and political commentator with a passion for women and girls’ rights.

Since its inception, AWE has organised nine meetings and conferences in different cities in Europe and has given out awards to women with outstanding achievements and who have made notable contributions towards development in the diaspora and back home in Africa. The first award ceremony was held in Berlin in 2011 followed by the one in London in 2013 and in Rome in 2014. The last award and conference in Geneva last year attracted over 400 women from all over Europe.

AWE mobilises women, empowers and supports upcoming and existing entrepreneurs, and positively reflects the image of the African woman in Europe. The organisation pursues these objectives by offering an information and networking platform, promoting sustainable partnerships among members, and offering training, conferences and workshops online and offline. AWE has over the years attracted over 1,000 African women who support, encourage and inspire each other while investing both in Europe and in Africa in support of Africa’s economic development.

Ms Zenz said that the idea of networking African women came to her when she moved from England to Germany and had difficulties tracing some of her friends living in Germany. After thorough discussions with friends including co-founder Wambui Njau on the need for networking African women, the idea was born to set up a platform for them to discuss issues and share ideas. // Ousainou Bayo

More information about AWE at: www.africanwomenineurope.eu

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