Interview with Theo Sowa

The 9th Edition of the prestigious annual Womens Forum in Economy and Society Global Meeting and conference was held in France Deauville from 16-18 October 2013. Ilive2lead International which is an organisation that plays a significant role in professional development of women from developing and developed countries around the globe, conducts youth leadership training programs in fields of Government and Advocacy, Sustainable Development, education (to name a few), in different countries in regions every year. They do this through their exceptional International Leadership Summits, being an ILive2Lead Global Ambassador was invited alongside 5 other young women from 5 different countries to represent the youth delegation of official media representatives at the Global meeting. On the first day of the forum, I got the opportunity of getting to know an incredible woman who has played a major role in the development of women across the continent for many years. A truly well accomplished  pioneer of change and inspiration to many:  Theo Sewo, the CEO of African Women's Development Fund:

With the challenges that women face in the world of work where most industries are still made dominated and women are rising as role models for more young women leaders to follow in their footsteps. The well-spoken Theo shared what it takes to be a woman in the 21st century: “One has to be strong, have a clear vision and work hard” Theo added that the most important element was to have a strong sense of self : “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.”

Theo has played a vital role in the development of women through the African Women’s Development Fund where she currently heads as CEO, she has worked on women’s rights issues covering  a range of activities with a special focus on the promotion and protection of women’s rights in armed conflict situations, as well as work evaluating and strengthening 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 Africa women, it was set up by African women and signifies the work of African women’s organisations in Africa. AWDF tries to get funds to the organisations that can bring change to their communities”, Theo mentioned the changing of perceptions from people about Africa and women in Africa and how they aim to bring about change on the perceptions through generic organisations lead by women across the continent.

Being in a world where young people want to not only be heard but do things that will revolutionarise their current oppression's and situations. Theo shared what impressed her about young leaders and what she would want to see more young people do. “I like the energy and the ability young leaders have to cross many boundaries and work together effortlessly.”  she further explained would she like to see more young leaders work better with current leaders as she believes there is great power in inter-generation where the younger generation dialogues and exchanges insights leading to change with the older generation proactively, “also to see young people tackle together, head on some of the issues we haven’t managed to solve yet . Drafting solutions and creating positive change where change is needed”.  I, personally, sincerely believe  exchanging knowledge and ideas on issues that oppress women and relating to women rights  such as, social injustice and violence against women,  amongst a few with other young leaders and coming up with not only innovative solutions to addressing them but making appeals and recommendations  to global organisations that have the power to implement and foster the change will  assist in creating a better world for young women in developed and developing countries. 

Theo has extensive experience of working with grant making organisations and foundations. She serves currently as a board member of the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation (a multi million pound grant making organisation); 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.
Having addressed thousands of women at the opening and welcome of the Women’s Forum by the program committee, 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 know how to create change and make a difference. But they lack the funds to do so.” and resonating with many when saying; “When we work together, we work differently.”

 With young women rising across all nations and being pioneers and advocates of change, Theo concluded with words of motivation and encouragement to 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 make it, because you can indeed make a big difference to this world.”

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 Gra├ža 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.

“Women rights are not just women’s rights, they are indivisible – rights are indivisible” – Theo Sewo

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