Joining a distinguished roster of speakers, including Ambassador Amina Salum Ali of the African Union to the United States, Mr. Awadhi Zuberi Athumani, President of Tanzania’s Urban and Rural Engineering Services LTD applauded WETATI Founder, Margaret Dureke, and the organizers of the WETATI 4th International Women’s Convention during their Town Hall Forum kickoff at the University of Maryland College Park Nyumburu Cultural Center.
Mr. Athumani was the recipient of the “The WETATI Man Ambassador ‘Achieving The Impossible In Business’ Award 2015.” Mr. Athumani was also chosen as one of the entrepreneurs from Tanzania to attend the US-Africa summit in August of 2014 here in the USA with President Barack Obama. The experience inspired him to return to Tanzania with a renewed vigor to empower other Tanzanian businesses to improve business opportunities in Tanzania and internationally.
The theme of the WETATI (Women Empowered to Achieve the Impossible) Convention this year was “Entrepreneurship, Women and Leadership.” The 4 day event from March 26 to 29, did in fact bring together a dynamic group of business leaders, government and diplomatic officials as well as leaders of non-profit organization, energized to network and encourage women to forge partnerships for success.
The Town Hall Forum was moderated by Sabetha Mwanbenja, Managing Director at Covenant Bank for Women Tanzania Limited, who also was the keynote speaker at the WETATI Gala Dinner.
In his panel remarks, Mr. Athumani emphasized the importance of promoting collaboration between African women business leaders and their counterparts here in the US. He commented that culturally, women in Tanzania are not encouraged to succeed as entrepreneurs beyond running small enterprises. He explained that the main impediment for women in Tanzania is their access to collateral, such as land, through which they can qualify for credit that will allow them to start large businesses. Mr. Athumani encouraged women in America to reach out and bridge the gap to work with the many well educated women in Tanzania and empower them to succeed.
A fellow panelist at the WETATI Convention, Jessica Kamala-Mushala, Founder of SHINA Inc and Owner of JM Accounting Services LLC, focused on the challenges she faced as a young girl growing up in Tanzania and credits her mother for her success because “she dared to educate her girls.” Her advice to the audience: “We need to take responsibility to empower ourselves for the next generation.”
In February 2015, Jessica Mushala was invited by Mr. Athumani and his company, Urban and Rural Engineering to travel to Tanzania, where she and Shina colleague, Rose Woodruff, provided training to businesspeople on how to build bridges across the seas to conduct business with Americans. A special session was conducted for Tanzanian businesswomen on pursuing economic opportunities. Ms. Mushala is a strong advocate for women’s rights and has supported income generating projects which enables her to have an in-depth understanding of the challenges facing women in Africa.
WETATI’s organizers selected an impressive array of Town Hall panelists which also included Her Excellency Amina Salum Ali, Ambassador of the African Union to the US. As the African Union’s first woman ambassador, Ambassador Ali is committed to promoting women’s rights and children’s issues. She is also the founder of Zanzibar Women Welfare Trust, an NGO that supports the development of women and children to combat devastating health issues like HIV/AIDS. Ambassador Ali is a member of IDB Bank’s Eminent Women’s Panel to help mainstream women’s development policies in the bank.
WETATI recognized Ambassador Amina Salum Ali for her accomplishments by bestowing upon her the WETATI INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC BRIDGING THE GLOBAL GAP AWARD 2015.
Other speakers included Her Excellency Dame Deborah-Mae Lovell, who served as the first female Ambassador from Antigua and Barbados to the US and OAS. She shared her recipe for success: always walk with a confident gait and always be remarkable. She credits her accomplishments to her determination to stand apart and highlighted that women must always have a voice.
The Panamerican-Panafrican Association’s Associate Director, Lisa McFarren-Polgar, also addressed the Town Hall Forum discussing her recent attendance of the United Nations 59th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women. She stated that an important theme addressed at the UN Session, was that despite improvements in legislation, there continues to be a clash between passing new laws and cultural and traditional values that prevent the full access to women’s economic empowerment, because it is the traditional and cultural values that often still prevail. Lisa Polgar also serves on the Board of Director of Shina Inc.
The list of Town Hall panelists also included:
Jainaba Ceesay, Vice President Senior Branch Manager at M&T Bank who shared her life story and how through education, perseverance and determination she attained her life’s goals.
Sheila Lee, Founder of Learning Everywhere, which advocates that nothing is more important to economic and societal prosperity than building global learning communities everywhere, thanked the women who came before her and paved the wave for her success. Her advice to the audience was, “If you want to go fast go alone, if you want to go far, go together.”
Sandra Eberhard, Executive Director of WPEO-DC, a regional affiliate of the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC), the nation’s leading advocate of women-owned businesses and third party certification organization, commented that “when women do well, our communities do well.” Her company is responsible for certifying more than 475 businesses each year as 51% woman owned, operated, managed and independently run. Sandra supports an operation of women business enterprises that generate more than $3.1 billion dollars in revenue and employs more than 30,000 workers in the Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C. territory.
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