Gender and Development in Africa

August 14, 2015

Looking at the Millennium Development Goals set by the UN, three out of the eight goals are related to empowering women. After reading several studies relating to gender equality and women’s empowerment, I have come to understand that investment in women education is the first step in achieving these goals. Education can play a big role in contributing to the wellbeing of a society by improving the productive capabilities of the labor force; this has positive implications for the National GDP. Women in developing countries are economically disadvantaged because of their limited access to education, which affects their participation in economic activities. After reading Amartya Sen’s book “Development as Freedom,” I learned a lot about the role of women in achieving sustainable development. Empowering women through education prompts economic growth and consequently leads to development, mitigating conflicts in different parts of the world. Similarly, the human capital model emphasizes the importance of education for an individual’s productivity, as well as its impact for economic output. I have read several studies that demonstrate the significance of female education in promoting economic growth in Africa. The main question is how to address these issues to the African continent. The first step is for women in Africa to understand their value in the economy and to acknowledge the importance of education. Most importantly, African governments are responsible for addressing the issue of gender inequality and are also responsible for empowering women by making education both accessible and affordable.
It is crucial to understand that half of the African population is comprised of women who are underrepresented in the country’s economy. The continent’s development is deprived of the economic value that this “missing” demographic could contribute to the labor force. We have to continue explore ways to address African countries to develop policies that could foster female education. In this capitalist society, the different groups of economic stakeholders often oppress women. Therefore, it is critical that women are empowered so they can have equal economic, social and political opportunities that will undoubtedly improve Africa’s economy.

A day in South Africa…

August 9, 2015

Dr. Christopher Mitchell’s two-day lecture on the topics of reconciliation, restoration, restitution and translation justice was very informative and valuable. I learned the impacts of these processes on the different parts of the world which previously encountered episodes of war and violence. The lecture also gave me the right tools to reflect on my personal experience in post apartheid South Africa. Having lived in Swaziland for seven years I have had several opportunities to visit South Africa. Mandela’s work towards reconciliation has transformed South Africa from racial apartheid to democratic majority rule. His fight against racial oppression has always inspired me and I was fortunate enough to visit his cell in Robben Island, South Africa, where he was imprisoned for 27 years.

In my first few visits to South Africa, I was disappointed to witness several forms of segregation based on race. The experiences I had there made me disillusioned about unity in South Africa despite Mandela’s and Steve Biko’s work towards empowering black people and unifying the country. I realized that there were still loopholes and doubts based on the results of reconciliation efforts after the apartheid.

The first time I personally felt discriminated against because of my race was during a weekend in 2006. My class was taken to a game resort for a weekend retreat in Nelspruit, South Africa. Nelspruit is a small town populated predominantly by white people. On the trip, all the students were black, except one of my classmates. We all wanted to go for a swim after we realized how hot it was when we arrived in Nelspruit. When we went to the swimming pool, all the people in the pool were white. A few of my friends immediately jumped in the pool, and what I saw a few minutes after was shocking. All the white people in the pool suddenly started moving to one side, away from where my friends were. Additionally, all the white people inside the pool were also staring at some of us who were outside of the pool. I felt disturbed. I did not know what to do about the white people’s reaction. Gradually, I began to ignore everything, and jumped into the swimming pool. That day was the first time I felt like a minority, and I felt like the white people were looking down on me. I could not swim to the other side of the pool; although there were no physical boundaries to see, I could feel the invisible wall. This made me realize that although there had been an official agreement to end Apartheid in South Africa, the real change of ensuring reintegration of all factions of society in the day-to-day life needs to be worked upon. This requires greater public dialogue and greater focus on ensuring that two people who used to once hate each other can now live in cooperation and encourage greater social engagement with one another.

I stayed a total of seven years in Swaziland, and I made a lot of friends–one of whom became more than a friend, a family member. Rosa Brittain Walker is a white South African whom I studied with, while in Swaziland. After we became friends, her parents became my host family, and I started going to South Africa frequently for holiday breaks. A lot of people would often stare at me when I dined out with her family in restaurants and hotels. Regardless of these issues, many cultural beliefs and values were shared between Rosa’s family and myself over the years. The relationship I have with Britt’s family gave me hope that segregation can be alleviated through integration and reconciliation in South Africa is still a work in progress moving towards the right direction.

Be the change…

August 5, 2015


After the visit to Salinas Valley State Prison, I was overwhelmed by the number of prisoners affiliated with gang violence and I was sad to learn that most of these prisoner were probably unable to see life beyond gang memberships and violence as it’s a predominant part of their culture.

Yesterday’s Mr. Willie Stokes’s testimony gave me a hope that there is a way to change the gang culture for future generations and provide a better opportunity for the youths. Mr. Willie was an example to illustrate that to have a challenging background is not entirely who you would become, instead what you do to come out of those difficulties is what defines you. Mr. Willie’s testimonial was inspirational and moving. For me, his story was a life lesson, not only I learned so much about gang violence in America and the role of women and youths in the process, but also how to be the change that has to happen in our communities. I often blame the ‘system’ as I become cynical about what’s is happening in the streets of many lower-income American communities but Mr. Willie made me realize that instead of waiting for something to change the system, I have to be the change.

I have always been passionate about working in NGOs, helping people access opportunities for education. I have always believed that education is a route to economic development. I had the opportunity to get an international education as a young girl. I would like to help develop a system to ensure every child gets a chance to empowerment. I would like to be part of a movement that helps disadvantaged kids get access to education and ultimately eradicate violence.


Economic Inequality in Developing Countries

July 30, 2015



My name is Emebet Hailemariam Tessema from Harar, Ethiopia and I am one of the participants of the Summer Peacebuilding Program at MIIS.
I really enjoyed today’s lecture on Economic inequality by Dr.Jeff Dayton- Johnson. It was a wonderful learning experience as he integrated figures, discussions and small-group works, which I thought were active learning strategies.

In regard to the topics covered in the lecture this morning, although the lecture was a comprehensive discussion on Economic inequality, it made me think a lot about inequality issues in Ethiopia. Ethiopia is one of the examples of countries where growth rate is rising and education is relatively improving, but an improvement in equalities is deteriorating. Additionally, women in developing countries, such as Ethiopia are economically disadvantaged because of their limited access to education, which affects their participation in economic activities. Society and higher education institutions should pay attention to female education because several studies show that female schooling is one of the most significant sources of human capital, which raises productivity and economic growth. Therefore, empowering women both boosts the economy and minimizes the gaps in equality, which consequently fosters peacebuilding process and development.