A great initiative for African women: Patricia Lee-Sang writes about a new initiative to empower African women, founded in Britain by the broadcaster, cultural critic and gender rights advocate, Mariella Frostrup.

Author:Lee-Sang, Patricia

WHAT DO THE BRITISH deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg, Bineta Diop (who has been named in TIME'S and New Africans top 100 list of most influential people for 2011), Mariella Frostrup (a British broadcaster, cultural critic and gender rights advocate), and film stars such as Renee Zellweger, Colin Firth and Cuba Gooding Junior, have in common? They are all involved in supporting the Gender Rights, Equality and Action Trust (or GREAT for short), founded by Frostrup.

Why gender rights? Because globally, despite international conventions, treaties and Millennium Development Goals, women are still so far away from gender equality. For instance, women make up 75% of the world's illiterate people, do two thirds of the hours worked but earn io% of the world's income, and therefore not surprisingly, make up the majority of the world's poor.

What is more, the biggest cause of injury and death of women worldwide is domestic violence.

In the UK, Mariella Frostrup and her other three trustees - Karen Ruimy, Jason McCue and Marc Carter - celebrated their charity gala evening at one of London's newest and most luxurious five-star hotels. The Hotel Corinthia which "was thrilled to be supporting such an important cause", provided a stunning location for GREAT's exclusive party.


The grand finale of the charity evening was a private auction which raised hundreds of thousands of pounds towards the first Pan African Centre for Gender, Peace and Development, the project of GREAT's flagship partner, Femmes Africa. Solidarke (FAS) in Senegal, headed by Bineta Diop.

In stark contrast to the grand splendour of the evening is the critical situation of the majority of women in Africa, whom it was all for. According to Mariella Frostrup:

"The challenges facing women living on the African continent are varied, complex and everyday. But one thing is certain: when women are excluded from social and political life, communities break down. Many of the problems that afflict Africa stem directly from women's lack of position in society. When women have the status and power to engage, children thrive, communities flourish, and nations prosper."

GREAT has four long-term aims: First: To award African presidents who do the most to support gender equality; second: to support FAS to build the first Pan African Centre for Gender, Peace and Development; third: to raise awareness and funds for specific gender equality grassroots projects in Africa; and fourth...

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