Angela McLeod 2015

Angela Macleod, Immediate Past President at UN Women National Committee Aotearoa New Zealand, Past President, BPW New Zealand and Councillor, Upper Hutt City Council, New Zealand, was invited by Fikun Trust (, an NGO based in New Zealand as Guest Speaker at a Nigerian National Day Fundraising Dinner on October 1, 2015.
In a beautifully moving speech, she drummed up support for projects in Africa including the #BringBackOurGirls campaign, Young BPW solar project and the Prevention of Child Marriage project.
“Let there be life!
Glory be to the Lord
I greet the house we stand in
I greet the land outside
I greet the local people
I pay tribute to our ancestors/to the dead
I give thanks for those of us living
Greetings to you all
It is my absolute pleasure to address you tonight.  It really is.  When I was a teenager I wanted to go to Africa.  Not for a holiday but to share my knowledge, my farming knowledge.  And I had a plan.
I was going to be a farmer – go to university to learn the theory, farm for a few years, be an advisor for a few then work in Africa, with someone like VSA.  I grew up on a farm, was involved with all aspects of it – and that was the plan.  Made sense to me – farm kid, university, more experience, share it.  It made sense to take my knowledge and work with communities in Africa to support their development.
The wild dogs cry out in the night.  Not sure why Africa, but that was the plan.
However, the universe decided that wasn’t the plan – at all.  I was involved in a serious motor vehicle accident at the end of my final year of study towards a Bachelor of Agriculture at Massey University.  I had passed my exams and was heading to Bombay, south of Auckland, to celebrate with a classmate when an accident changed the direction I was heading.  Quite literally.  My injuries were so serious that there was no chance of me ever farming. I spent nearly three months in hospital, a year in full rehabilitation and it was five years before I got back in to the part-time workforce.  And another five before going full-time.
As they grow restless, longing for some solitary company, I know that I must do what’s right.
The universe has a funny way of getting its way so that ten years was spent learning things – anatomy, patience, the importance of family, love and the support of the community, and that our brain and heart know no bounds.
I still wanted to work in Africa or in development of some kind and back then ACC were more supportive than they are now so I went back to university after my full year of rehabilitation.  And I did a post-graduate Diploma in Development Studies – it was new back then, now there is a Masters programme and you can even do a PhD!  I was re-training so that I could still do International Development and in this year I heard about Trade Aid and what they were doing for development.  That proper development comes in a partnership; that fair trade is where it’s at and that most of those that need this support are women.  I learnt that the story behind the product is important and that education campaigns to tell New Zealanders about this and that they can provide a practical solution is empowering.
Then…mum introduced me to a woman’s organisation with International affiliations – and the rest they say is history.
As sure as Kilimanjaro rises like Olympus above the Serengeti.  I seek to cure what’s deep inside, frightened of this thing that I’ve become.
I became an advocate for women.
And let’s face it, women need advocates like me.  They need those who are not afraid to speak out, they need those who can analyse policy, convert it in to key messages, tell the world those messages, who are not afraid to lobby the decision-makers to change their policy, who can get groups together to raise money for projects that empower women all over the world.  Women need empowered women like you and me to change the world – because the world needs changing.
Because it’s not good for women and therefore families, communities and economies.  There are so many reasons for empowering           women and they all basically fit in to those three spaces in the universe – and they are not mutually exclusive.  Empower women and we change the world.
It’s gonna take a lot to drag me away from you,  there’s nothing that a hundred men or more could ever do
Empowering women in good for families, communities and economies.  You know it, I know it.
I hear the drums echoing tonight.
The universe knew about my dream to support Africa with my knowledge and here I am tonight.  See, I spent two years running the International Federation of Business & Professional Women with the President, who was based in Australia, from home.  Made up of approximately 30,000 members all around the world divided in to five regions…and…guess what…one of the regions is Africa…and guess what…they have projects that aim to empower women in Africa.  My role was to advise the President with her communications and I managed the communications – the public relations and in this time, 200 girls got stolen from their school, families, and community in Chibok.  It broke my heart not nearly as much as I imagine it did yours.  BPW Nigeria were one of the organisations involved with the #bringbackourgirls campaign – from inception.  One way we could support was tell the world about it and to lobby our governments to urge the Nigerian government to do something.  To bring those girls back to their homes and families.  They’re still not back and it’s been over a year.
The Bring Back Our Girls Family has paid an advocacy visit to the new president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari. The president received the BBOG Family as concerned citizens not as antagonists. As part of the meeting, Mr President was presented with the Citizens Solutions Against Terrorism document. At different locations across the country, the movement continues its daily sit-outs and its demand for the rescue of the abducted girls and improvement in the security system of the country.
There must be such a huge sense of loss in Chibok – and how disempowering must that be.
We are in a position to do something.  Because even though we still have work to do here in New Zealand to remove the barriers to the empowerment of women, they are first world barriers.  And our work to remove these barriers has taught us how to do it for others.  Our Nigerian sisters need us.
The women of Nigeria need us to work together to empower them.  They’ve had a rough time.  Pre-colonial, colonial to post-colonial, to the now – where are we now?  Still in post-colonial or is there a new threat?  Corporate greed, land grabbing, market driven economics, militant nationalism, food insecurity, growing fundamentalism in all religions – none of which empower women.  And is this thing neo-liberalism or is it more basic – is it just the fact that we don’t have enough women running the joint?
There is much we can do.
I bless the rains down in Africa
Gonna take some time to do the things we never had
Support community projects targeted at numeracy, literacy and income generating skills for out-of-school adolescent girls and young women in rural communities with the goal of improving their livelihood patterns and providing them with agency to contribute to decision-making roles within the family and community.
Support a solar Energy Power project in rural communities with little or no access to electricity from the national grid. The aim is to assist school children to study at home in the evenings.
Support projects which are working to prevent child marriage especially given the UN resolution to do so.
Support community projects to change the culture needed to meet Nigeria’s ban on female genital mutilation.
The gender pay gap in New Zealand of 12%, only 14% of women on private sector boards, only 30% of women in Parliament, and 1 n 3 suffering at the hands of their intimate partner really are first world problems in the grand scheme of things.
We have much to do to support the empowerment of women in Nigeria.
We can do this.
Let’s partner with others to empower women and let’s enable this through funding.
Who sees the beauty in you, Maman Afirika?
Don’t cross your arms and stand still
We have to work day and night
To make you stronger, Maman Afirika
Kia ora!”

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