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Following Make Every Woman Count’s call for submissions for our Pan-African Women's Day Contest for 2022, we received thoughtful and creative entries from across the continent. MEWC announced the awardees during our virtual celebration on the 28th of July. Congratulations to all entrants for their innovative and diverse submissions on the theme of ‘Financial and Economic Inclusion of African Women’! You did not make it easy for our six judges to select the first, second and third place winners. MEWC proudly showcases the top ten submissions on our blog and social media to continue the celebrations and important discussions over the coming week.



1. Starting with the winner of our competition, Njambi Esther Gathitu from Kenya wowed the judges with her skilled embroidery on canvas, 'Wangari'. 

Artist's Statement:

“It is a depiction of an African woman trying to break free from the economic and social constraints that limit her freedom of thought and independence to exist without sacrificing her femininity. The small box represents the economic and social constraints. The hot pink and dark blue colors were used to emphasize the feminine aspect of the idea.” 

Judges' Commendations: 

'Wangari' is a powerful visual that responds to the theme, creates a strong emotional impact and demonstrates artistic skill and effort. It allows for the viewer to identify with the woman based on her (or his) experience, to think of the challenges but also the solutions. The shape and colour are well-linked to the intellectual and economic freedom and human development of women.



2. In second place, Lyly Nzié (from Cameroon) sent shivers down our spines with her emotive poem ‘Sexospecificités’.


All alone, you cannot change the world
Freedom is not given but taken
Your story is written by you and no one else

Since Eden you are reduced
to the being born from the rib of man
your greatness would be hidden behind his
Very poetic way to say that you live in his shadow
Mother of humanity, title that veils the deep evil
Do we treat you like this
Because you had us expelled from paradise
Or because of the weight of custom?
Do we treat you this way
because we see you as a threat
Or because of religious constraints?

All alone, you cannot change the world
Freedom is not given but taken
Your story is written by you and no one else

Your beauty, your charms, open you more doors of hotels and restaurants
than bank accounts and access to financing
Many would give you their place in heaven
Think of asking for a place in parliament, in the senate
the board of directors, the local council...
Where you will expose and defend your sexuality

You can't change the world by yourself
Freedom is not given but taken
Your history is written by you and nobody else but you

Objects of prejudice, discrimination,
And of marginalization
With equal competence you are paid less
You are called the weaker sex,
Could it be because you have no pectorals or abs?
You would not understand anything with the concepts
of money, banking and finance.
Your place is in the kitchen
In farm work
For that, very early on your schooling is stopped
Holding your hand to remake the world is costly
In the eyes of the capitalists
So cultivate yourself,
Because the world is evolving and if you want to play a role in it
prove every day your value to misogynists
The challenges are numerous
Your mothers could not
jump on the bandwagon of the industrial revolution
Let your little sisters not miss the high-tech one
Brandish your best success stories to them
That they will take as a model
That they become aware of the fight you are leading
Because you are doing it for them
One day they will take over
Strengthen their capacity, feed their interest
For what remain "men's jobs".
They who make all that you build collapse
by disgracing you with their lack of consciousness.

All alone, you cannot change the world
Freedom is not given but taken
Your story is written by you and no one else

What good is a job, a salary!
The man is the head of the family, he can do everything
It's only ignorance,
they don't know what a vital outlet you are
They are full of arrogance
They think they know your needs
which they take little account of
In their political agenda
It is bad faith
They know that this is essential for your empowerment.
Because you should not raise your voice.

You can't change the world by yourself
Freedom is not given but taken
Your story is written by you and no one else.

 Judges’ commendations: Sexospecificités is a powerful poem that is beautifully written, captures the theme, connects with the reader, and inspires hope.


3. Williams Tape (from Côte d’Ivoire) won third prize for his reflective essay ‘Inclusion financière : suggestions d’ici pour les femmes d’ici’ ("Financial Inclusion: Local suggestions for local women")

Last May, I took part in a market study on market gardening in Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire. When asked why you don't accept online payments, the respondent, a 50-year-old shopkeeper from the Cocody Blockhaus market, replied as follows: "My customers pay me directly, and so is it for us that they have created it? We didn't go to school, oh, you even look at the girl in the advert that appears on TV, she is very chic. We are caught in the heat of things at the market here; we are not used to that [online payments]."

Beyond the barriers already identified that slow down the financial and economic inclusion of women in Africa, this response allowed me to realize that an advertising campaign can create a feeling of exclusion among the target group in relation to the profile, style of dress, the appearance of the participants and geographic space.

In order to facilitate access to and use of financial services by women in Africa, this essay is based on four proposals and one observation.

The adaptation of advertising spots to the morphology of the main target. Whether visual or auditory, the content of each advertising campaign must reflect the image of uneducated women, since they represent the majority of women active in the informal sector. This approach will foster a sense of inclusion and recognition among the individuals.

Sensitizing rural men to the role of women. Until now, men living in rural areas, whom I call "conservatives", identify women with domestic tasks and child reproduction. This justifies their hostility towards women's access to education. [We need] to sensitize this segment of the population in a culturally sensitive manner to the concept of gender equality, to make them understand the benefits of women's literacy for the couple, the monitoring of children, the woman herself and her community. During this sensitization, it would be wise to remind them that the literacy of the young girl does not represent a danger to the respect of the spouse in the couple's life.

Encourage family planning in both rural and urban areas to reduce the amount of time women spend inactive during the prenatal and postnatal periods. In order to reduce the time spent on childcare and domestic activities. 

Promote living together and social cohesion in order to limit political and intercommunity conflicts and the risk of statelessness. The recurrence of crises and conflicts in Africa leads to the displacement of populations, and the destruction and loss of documents (birth certificates, national identity cards, certificates, etc.) legitimizing the identity of individuals. This places some women in stateless situations. However, the opening of Mobile Money, or even of any account related to a financial service, is conditioned on the possession of one of these documents. In this context, the promotion of living together and the consolidation of social cohesion appear more than ever as essential parameters for the economic inclusion of women in Africa.

Moreover, a large proportion of women in Africa have a culture of saving through tontines**. If women prefer tontines to formal financial structures, it is undoubtedly because of the trust and membership procedures and the forms of communication around this economic model. It would be in the interest of the banks to create this climate of trust by basing themselves on this model, and by communicating more in vernacular languages.

** A tontine is an association of people who, united by family ties, friendship, profession or region, meet from time to time to pool their savings to finance personal or collective projects.

Judges’ Commendations:

The applicant didn’t just give an overview of the issue women face economically, he/she also provided solutions to solve some of these problems. I felt that the theme was in direct response to the call and there is hope. I also like the imagination and creative side, where the applicant referred to a lived experience.

In no particular order, below, we present the remaining submissions which made it to the top 10 of the contest.

4. Chrispin Kimani from Kenya

Artist's Statement:

"I am submitting an art piece which I finished painting on June 10 this year. It's an African futurism simple piece. If African women are truly empowered and given equal opportunity to achieve goals on a global scale for they'd have African women astronauts going to space on missions to help propel human knowledge and technology forward."

5. Emmah Machokoto from South Africa:


Scores of people on the African continent continue to bear the brunt of the inequalities created by colonialism, capitalism, racism, and bad governance. Unfortunately for women and girls, another layer is added by the inequalities created by patriarchy which is deeply ingrained in various informal and formal institutions. Against this backdrop, many women are excluded from participating fully and meaningfully in the mainstream economic, political, social and cultural activities of their respective countries. While it is commendable that the African Union has declared 2020-2030 as the Women’s Decade of Financial and Economic inclusion, the declaration will remain a pipe dream for a majority of the affected women if corresponding drastic and strategic changes are not implemented to reverse the effects of years of discrimination and exclusion. Acknowledging the intersectionality of colonialism, capitalism, racism, bad governance and patriarchy and the role they play in the continued discrimination, marginalization and exclusion of women from the mainstream economic activities within the region, can be an effective and useful lens through which solutions to the dilemma can be formulated. 

Where are the gaps?

Despite the limitations that are disproportionally imposed on African women by unpaid care work compared to their male counterparts, women still contribute significantly to the continent’s formal and informal economic activities. According to the African Development Bank, African women own one third of all businesses in Africa. Women in Africa also account for the 70 percent of the informal cross border traders. It is therefore important to increase and strengthen their participation in their national and regional economies. Without rehashing why women are excluded, this article will briefly list some of reasons for the continued existence of gender gaps, being:

* Fewer women at policy making levels both in country and within regional the various regional bodies

* Continued existence of disempowering cultural and religious beliefs and practices

* Higher levels of school dropouts by women and girls.

* Low quality of numeracy and literacy skills attained in the under-resourced government schools.

* Limited access by women to credit facilities and markets

* Little or no gender mainstreaming within developmental policies

* Little or no gender responsive systems

Bridging the gaps

There are several regional and international human rights instruments which have been used over the years by women’s rights activists to push for the promotion and protection of women’s rights within the region the more prolific one being The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women of 1979. While these have helped the cause thus far, focus and emphasis needs to be put on the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (Maputo Protocol) as it is “homegrown” and speaks more specifically to the issues faced by African women. If used effectively by governments, the Maputo Protocol will change the complexion of gender related issues in Africa. Solutions for the financial inclusion of women can easily be framed within the four corners of that document. It is not enough to keep putting words and promises on paper without implementing them effectively. African leaders must therefore be held strictly accountable to the demands of the Protocol. Let us look at how the protocol can be used to bridge the identified gaps.

Fewer women at policy making levels 

Dealt with under Article 9 of the Maputo Protocol. If followed through women will be included at the highest levels of decision making not just nationally but within regional bodies like the African Union. More importantly development agreements like the African Continental Free Trade Area should include the voice and participation of women. 

Higher levels of school and tertiary dropouts/Quality of education

Dealt with under article 12. It implores States to promote the enrollment and retention of girls in schools and other training institutions and the organization of programmes for women who leave school prematurely. Data shows that the higher level of education a person gets the higher their chances of becoming economically empowered, whether as employees or entrepreneurs. Governments should therefore show a willingness to follow through what they put on paper and put the laws and the policies in place that will make it possible for women and girls to stay in school and tertiary institutions as this will increase their chances to join the formal or informal job markets from a more informed and empowered point of view. More resources should be channeled towards state schools to improve the quality of education attained there. Technical and vocational training, apprenticeships and other non-formal programmes should be promoted as alternatives. 

Disempowering cultural and religious beliefs and practices

Dealt with under articles 5 and 17 which call for the end of harmful practices and the inclusion of women in the formulation of cultural policies. Women’s voices within many societies are muffled because they are not included which is why some are not empowered enough to want to get involved in the economic and political spheres which they view as the purview of men.

Gender mainstreaming/Gender Responsive policies

Dealt with under article 2 more specifically (a) and (d), which respectively state that State Parties shall “include in their national constitutions and other legislative instruments if not already done, the principle of equality and ensure its effective application” and “take corrective and positive action in those areas where discrimination against women in law and in fact continues to exist.”

Access by women to credit facilities and markets

Women have limited access to credit facilities and markets due to discriminatory practices by financial institutions or because women do not apply mostly due to lack information regarding these institutions and how credit facilities can help boost their businesses. Financial literacy can create a link between women and the relevant markets and institutions. More efforts should therefore be put in place to increase awareness, financial literacy and physical access to markets and credit institutions and facilities and creation of entrepreneur financing programmes that are specific for both rural and urban based women.

6. Innocent Tuy Mwendo from the DRC

Title : Loincloth of Inspiration

it was an evening, if not a night
and together we thought about life
to our days so acres of the past
and to our future, this horizon sometimes dark and blue

it was raining hard, yet
and I was behind your back, if not in your arms
and the thunderbolts, everywhere, whispering
you asked me softly:
"Do you love me?
I answered: "It is impossible not to love you, mother
And you cried...

O Ebony woman, from Africa and the West Indies
Woman of the river
you who defies the waves and storms
Woman of the fields of the North and the South
you who ploughs, weeds and harvests the seeds
Woman of the mountains
Woman of the valleys
Women of the city
seller of gold and pearls
of happiness and joy
I hear your voice sounding the knell of discrimination, outraged hatred
I hear your steps trotting towards a brighter future  
Woman from here or elsewhere
Woman of Port-au-Prince
From Paris, Goma or Brazzaville
Woman sung in the Rochelau orchestra
Emblematic woman, drawn in the Senghorian poem
Beyond your daily wounds, the world owes you love and respect
Woman of colors
perhaps from paradises never explored
I admire your fairy face, azure sky, where the hope of a whole people shines
I admire your curves as round as the famous Nile basin
I admire your hands as productive
Mother of the world, renew your loincloth of inspiration
Rise up, wake up
The rooster has crowed, the work has begun again
Rise up, wake up
and make this ruined world a haven of peace and progress.

7. Takou D. Assié from Côte d’Ivoire

8. Ibrahima Imorou from Benin

Women's economic and financial inclusion: soon to be a reality in every corner of Africa.

Women's empowerment has been accompanied by their financial and economic inclusion. Long left behind, women are now the hope of a developed Africa. Not only because they are empowered, but also because they are gradually gaining access to finances that meet their needs. So, there are several reasons to have hope on women, who have become the key element for Africa.

Women are the market makers in Africa, and their access to financial services will only accelerate Africa's commercial development. Fortunately, many projects have been set up to support women's financial inclusion. These projects have enabled African women, and Beninese women in particular, to grow their businesses, to ensure their empowerment and therefore, to be independent women. Among these projects, we have the African Center for Economic Transformation (ACET) which aims to determine and evaluate the effectiveness of existing financial inclusion initiatives, as well as their relative success or failure in achieving their objectives in selected sub-Saharan countries. The project has empowered many women through the financial services provided.

In addition, women's innovations are being encouraged throughout Africa. This is a step, a hope and a springboard to break the sexist myth. Just like men, women have the opportunity to innovate and finance their innovation to share their experience with the world. The woman is no longer the automaton of the house, she is no longer passive in front of the problems, she is no longer influenced like those of the previous years. The African woman of today impacts, innovates, influences. Because we have understood that all sustainable development goes through the woman. That is why in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), in particular SDG 5 (gender equality and economic empowerment of women) has been attributed to them. Given this aspect, one could conclude that women's financial inclusion is becoming a reality in Africa. But more efforts are needed. Otherwise, we are going to see this beginning fall apart.

9. Chimène Kouekeu Ngoukam from Cameroon

Title of the short story: WOMENWORTH

Mom is already back from the field. It is 6:30 pm, Bafoussam time. My little sister and I were waiting for her impatiently. She used to come back at 4pm from her field activities. This day, we planned a special evening of corn and roasted plums among us girls. Lola and I have already started to clean up the food that we are going to choose. This month of June is a wonderful time of harvest for farmers and consumers of course. This period of June is also for me the course of my torment.

It has been three weeks since I returned to the family home. Faced with the murmurs of the neighbours in the neighbourhood contrasted with the hot tears of my mother. After obtaining my Baccalaureate in Bafoussam, seven years ago, I went to the capital Yaoundé. I studied there for 3 years to obtain a professional degree in Business Management. For a long time, I was an assistant director or manager in several small companies in Yaoundé.  Faced with the Corona virus crisis in 2020, I lost my last job. I tried to find a new job. It turned out to be a complex exercise like looking for a cowrie shell under a herd of oxen. However, one day I managed to be selected for a job interview in a reputable company. During the interview, my interviewer told me that being a woman and single did not help me to get the executive position in their structure. Disconcerted, I still managed to ask him why he had called me for the interview. It seems that my name made them believe that I was a man; Renee Bissima.

My fiancé decided to ask me to leave because he didn't want a housewife and consumer. And to think that during all these years, I was the one who paid our rent and the bills. Without even thinking about saving. My mother in the village didn't have a bank account and she had done well for herself during my childhood, I said. My fiancé had claimed in a suave tone that he was saving his salary as a telecommunication engineer to come and provide for me. After the wedding everything would be better for us.
So here I am in Bafoussam with no income, no savings and no husband.

Mama put her basket noisily on the kitchen floor, without waiting for Lola or me to come and help her. "The crops did pretty well this year, I'm glad," she said. We rushed to empty the container; so many big ears of corn. What a joy! Lola went straight to get our stash of plums already prepared for the feast.

I watch my daughter's eyes shine at the sight of the corn on the cob, it makes me happy. Her story often makes me think that I have failed in my duty as a parent. I contemplate the fine features of my daughter under her dark complexion. Her beautiful brown eyes like those of her father. Ah, if only he were here. Maybe he would know what to do. Shuape help me.

On my way back from the field I rented; my husband's family got his land back when he died; I went to the community hut where a new CIG*** is based. It gathers all the women farmers in order to help them better manage their plantations and trains them in financial education. Each woman in the CIG now has a bank account and health insurance. Nevertheless, the management of the CIG is a bit amateurish. I offered my daughter's services to the women and the village chief. Her father and I dreamed of her being a businesswoman, but managing a CIG is better than nothing.

Two days later, the village chief called Renee in the presence of the members of the CIG and entrusted her with the management of the CIG. "My daughter, we believe in your abilities. You have studied for a long time. I only have sons, but if I had a daughter like you I would be even happier."

Unwilling tears flowed from my eyes without warning. It was in the fold that I was finally given my chance, plus the village chief. A man. Patriarch.
At the end of Monday. I had three days since the announcement to get ready to face my new position. Finally, I created a current bank account AND a savings account, like all the women of CIG and I was entitled to health insurance.

Three hundred and sixty-five sunrises saw Renée working hard in the CIG of her village in Bafoussam. Open-minded, she decided to assist in the creation of similar CIGs in other villages in West Cameroon. And even in the East of the country. The fruit of two years of hard work was the creation of her management firm: WomenWorthPro. Beyond the CIGs, she accompanies all types of enterprises and projects mainly carried out by women. She moved to Douala, the economic capital.

In the village, rumor had it that Renee had won the prize for the best start-up in Central Africa. Her mother was very proud. Lola would tell anyone who would listen that Renee is her big sister, declaring afterwards: "One day I will be like my big sister."

The end.

*** Common Initiative Group (CIG) is an autonomous and private organization, freely created, owned, administered, funded and controlled by its members.

10. Moses Ojo from Nigeria


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