Working with international and African partners, Vital Voices will bring together 200 emerging women leaders and girls from throughout Africa. The Summit will recognize the critical role that African women and girls can and must play in moving the continent forward to achieve greater, health and welfare and more stable governments and economies. It will build the capacity of over 200 emerging women leaders and girls throughout Africa and create a powerful new network across sectors, while shining a spotlight on the advancements that African women leaders have made over the past decade and proven strategies they have employed for change.
The Summit will highlight the untapped potential posed by adolescent girls in Africa. To this end, The Nike Foundation has made a significant commitment of ,000 to the Summit to support the development of the Rising Voices: Leadership & Mentoring Program which will enable the participation of 50 African girls and young women in the Summit. Younger participants will be paired with more experienced participants to build mentoring relationships to enable girls to reach their potential. Additionally, a youth centered leadership retreat and training program will be organized prior to the start of the Summit and a Rising Voices public forum on the fourth day of the program so that young women and girls can discuss their challenges, successes, and vision for the future before an audience of established leaders.
The ExxonMobil Foundation's Educating Women and Girls Program will support the participation of 50 established and emerging women leaders from targeted countries across Africa. The Starbucks Coffee Company will support the participation of emerging women business leaders from Rwanda. Individual and anonymous donors have also committed to supporting the participation of leaders working to combat HIV/AIDS.
The 200 African participants will be joined by fifty international experts and leaders for a series of dialogues and public forums around key issues, as well as practical capacity-building and leadership training sessions.
Each of the first three days of the Summit will be organized around a key thematic pillar: 1) African Women as an Economic Force and Girls' Education; 2) Increasing Women's Legal and Human Rights; and 3) Political Leadership & Peace-building. The challenge of HIV/AIDS and the need to empower and protect African girls will be integrated throughout to highlight the implications of both issues on the health, economic growth, and social development of their countries, as well as the connections among HIV/AIDS and girls' education, gender based violence and trafficking in women and girls.
During these forums and discussion group sessions, participants will share best practices in addressing challenges that face women while exploring ideas for future projects. The fourth day of the Summit will be dedicated to practical hands-on training in areas such as communications skills, leadership techniques, advocacy, negotiations, accessing capital and strategic planning. The final day of the Summit will be dedicated to developing ideas for new collaborative projects and setting goals for the future. International experts will offer experience and help guide the discussions. Recognized global leaders, both male and female, will lend their voices to champion the critical issues discussed and increase media attention for African women's leadership. Participants will also take part in site visits to local organizations to see first hand how women and girls are changing the face of South Africa through grassroots initiatives.
The Summit will result in the development of the on-going Vital Voices African Leadership Initiative for Women & Girls. The initiative will enable participants to stay connected to each other, exchange and access information and resources through a password protected, dedicated website - RisingVoices Online, supported by the Nike Foundation. Leading up to, during and following the Summit participants will be able to connect through the on-line social networking community to share information, access resources and continue to build relationships and partnerships. Additionally, Vital Voices will respond to the challenges identified by working with partners and program participants to implement some of the innovative partnership ideas explored at the Summit. Vital Voices will foster the development of follow-up projects and training programs around key themes of the Summit. Opportunities have already been explored for follow-up projects with Summit partners such as: the development of a working group of business, political and community leaders to combat HIV/AIDS; the creation of a public education campaign to enhance the leadership of girls and young women; the implementation of an annual African Women's Leadership Training Academy; the establishment of a new public-private partnership to combat human trafficking; and the formation of an exchange program between African and Chinese women leaders representing business and civil society.
The challenges confronting Africa - HIV/AIDS, poverty and violence - are both complex and costly. In addressing these challenges nations will need the strength and involvement of the entire global community. The empowerment and equality of women and girls must be a central component of these efforts. Recent studies commissioned by the World Bank and the United Nations agree that investing in the development of women and girls, particularly in Africa, is one of the smartest investments a nation can make to increase health, economic opportunity, political stability, and human rights. However, across Africa females are among the poorest of the poor, increasing numbers of young women are living with HIV/AIDS, many are suffering from violence at home and during times of war, and very few hold decision-making and leadership positions. Economists and political leaders alike have noted that nowhere in the world is women's leadership more needed than in Africa.
In response to this need to increase the leadership capacity of women and girls, Vital Voices launched a series of Strategic Leadership Dialogues, held throughout Africa, in the fall of 2005. These programs, included women leaders representing human rights groups, healthcare organizations, businesses, academia, community, and government sectors in Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya and South Africa. The discussions allowed us to assess key issues and challenges faced by African women leaders, explore best practices employed by African women in addressing these challenges, and identify unmet needs and opportunities. The issues of HIV/AIDS, poverty, and governance are deeply intertwined. Repeatedly, African women stressed the need to mentor the next generation while working together across sectors as a means to share proven strategies and develop innovative new solutions for addressing the major challenges facing Africa.