An official website of the United States government

YALI Network Town Hall Moderators Share Their Impressions
March 29, 2016

YALI Network Virtual Town Hall graphic (State Dept.)
The YALI Network celebrated their first “Men Ask Women” Town Hall March 16–17. (State Dept.)

When the YALI Network recently came together for a Facebook virtual town hall on gender roles and society as part of the #Africa4Her campaign, network members engaged in one of the most interesting, provocative, intelligent and honest discussions that has taken place on this platform. March 8–9, male network members answered questions from female members, and March 16–17, the roles were flipped and women had the chance to answer questions from men. Tasked with keeping the conversation lively, positive and informative were the YALI Network members who served as moderators and contributed their time, knowledge and experience.

Reflecting on the hundreds of questions, answers and comments, the Fab 5 reflect on what they learned, why they enjoyed the town hall format, and what they hope those who shared their own experiences and beliefs will take away from it.

Cinderella Anena of Uganda

Cinderella Anena of Uganda (Courtesy of Presidential Precinct)
Moderator Cinderella Anena (Courtesy of Presidential Precinct)

We had a successful turn-up of YALI NETWORK members who actively participated in the virtual town hall on critical issues affecting women and girls in Africa. As a moderator, I was impressed with the energy and the nature of questions raised — simple, tough and thought-provoking. Notwithstanding the tough questions we had to battle, I’ve learnt a lot from this conversation and observed that issues like gender roles and social norms influence our attitudes on how women are treated. We need to address regressive attitudes, create awareness and have meaningful discussions on why we must invest in women and girls. This and many other questions helped us to engage and explore lots of issues and ways to deal with them. This virtual town hall has been incredible, more than a platform to learn from but also connect to all the gender equality advocates, aspiring leaders and women’s right activists, to mention but a few. You all have been a great audience; I can only imagine how lively it would have been if this was a live/physical town hall. Let’s keep the conversation going. Together we can make #Africa4Her.

Abdi Edao of Ethiopia

Abdi Edao of Ethiopia (Courtesy of Abdi Edao)
Moderator Abdi Edao (Courtesy photo)

I was impressed by active participation of women in denouncing renewed hostilities against professional and financially sound women in recent years as some men expressed that they were too threatened by their success and fear to join them in marriage. I observed that this kind of forum can raise the power of women’s voices that will have tremendous multiplier effects and lead to gender equality in Africa.

I experienced from this forum and one I myself hosted this March on YALI face2face that there is enough awareness from women and men to support women in the fight against the male dominance.

Ruddy Kielo of the Democratic Republic of the Congo

Ruddy Kielo of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (Courtesy of Ruddy Kielo)
Moderator Ruddy Kielo (Courtesy photo)

Being moderator at the virtual town hall organized by the YALI Network was an opportunity to review gender thoughts, especially on the education role in investing in women and girls. As Nelson Mandela also thought about, education has a great transformational role to play. We can read it as women asked “Why do men fear us?” and this is a real problem in Africa. I can boldly say that effective women and girls’ empowerment will not occur until men are well educated in the understanding that at the layer of skills, privilege and access, they are totally equal to women!

Frehiwot Negash of Ethiopia

Frehiwot Negash of Ethiopia (Courtesy of Frehiwot Negash)
Moderator Frehiwot Negash (Courtesy photo)

I got many insights from the virtual town hall. We can praise women who have done a lot for their country. Most of us have heroes of men. Men have been dominant on such things. I am sorry to say this, but it’s the reality. After the first virtual discussion I have started #TheWomenTheMediaNeverShowsyou campaign on Twitter because there are women who are excellent football players, doctors, CEOs, pilots, entrepreneurs, presidents and so on. We have been told these are male professions. We have to change such things.

The YALI Network Town Hall discussion was fruitful. Some 60 percent of men stand with us, which is a good thing to see, and some 40 percent want to see men dominant in every aspect. And everyone expressed their feelings frankly. Some have expressed their view on women where we as women must improve, like giving up our careers when we get married even though we may disagree. Some comments were from men who don’t like when the young girls achieve.  It’s a matter of jealousy and I think it can happen to any gender. Women have heroes of men most of the time, and most of the men are willing to help us on gender equality. Some have used hasty generalization based on a single experience and also they have made the issue to be like siding with one gender, which is not the right thing to do.

Chinomnso Traffina Ibe of Nigeria

Chinomnso Traffina Ibe of Nigeria (Courtesy of Chinomnso Traffina Ibe)
Moderator Chinomnso Traffina Ibe (Courtesy photo)

The virtual town hall meeting is indeed an assessment tool that has revealed the position of Young African Leaders concerning gender equality. Young men are ready to give women opportunities to make a difference and develop, but some men still expressed many fears about women “riding” over them. For many of the young women, I could see them waking up to take leadership roles rather than hiding. In all, everyone made sincere comments on how they felt on the subject matter without using offensive words; that I must commend. We need to do more of this, and I am glad to be part of it anytime.

To read or contribute to the virtual town hall discussions, visit our Facebook posts from Week 1 and Week 2