The Young African Women Leaders Forum, a two-day workshop and conference for women from across Africa, will take place in Johannesburg and Soweto, South Africa, June 21–22. First Lady Michelle Obama will address the conference and participate in some of its activities. The forum is being sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, the U.S. Embassy in South Africa, the U.S. Agency for International Development and the White House.
"When you connect with other young people …when you share your thoughts and ideas and take the time to listen to theirs…you begin to realize just how much you have in common. You see that whether you live in New York, New Delhi, or Nairobi…so often, we share the same values, the same goals, and the same dreams," says the first lady.
Participants will interact in breakout groups that will focus on education, entrepreneurship, and health. Community service projects will constitute an important part of the forum. These projects will give the young women leaders first-hand experience with community issues, as well as the opportunity to work together with local leaders to address urgent needs and challenges.
To expand the discussion of young women’s leadership in Africa, the Department of State’s Bureau of African Affairs dedicated its Facebook page to a discussion of the forum’s themes, challenges and solutions. A private Facebook group page entitled, "First Lady’s Forum with Young African Women Leaders," was also created for forum participants to introduce themselves and get acquainted before the actual forum. Facebook participants on both pages are enthusiastic about the Obama's involvement, and support her agenda of helping empower women across Africa.
Objectives of the Young African Women Leaders Forum
—To use the activities as a platform for young Africans to express their aspirations and values
—To help empower young African women
—To learn how to become better partners in building a more just, democratic and prosperous future for all of Africa’s peoples
Voices of Young African Women Leaders
Shamima Muslim, Ghana: "It’s a clarion call to many young women and men across the continent to begin to think about the continent differently, and to begin to take the little actions that will truly reform and revolutionize the continent for the better."
Palesa Shongwe, South Africa: "When you use resources in the community to help people in need, what you create is something that ripples out and has larger, long-term consequences."
Lesego Sekano, South Africa: "It is up to every African to be the change they want to see in the continent."
Check out BET.com for daily updates from the first lady's trip. Twitter users can also track updates about the first lady's experiences and interact with others who are following the trip with the hashtag #youngafrica.
(Photo: AP Photo/Charles Dharapak, Pool)