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The Action Thread Part Two

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Cyclone Idai: Death toll passes 500 in southern Africa

Cyclone Idai has left 500 people dead and devastated southern Africa’s most vulnerable

By Lynsey ChutelMarch 22, 2019

Cyclone Idai has devastated the Mozambican city of Beira and turned it into an inland lake. The city of 500,000 people is at the epicenter of one of the worst natural disasters to hit southern Africa in decades.

Mozambique, Malawi, and Zimbabwe are still coming to terms with the immediate impact and aftermath of the storm, a week after it made landfall on southeast Africa’s coast, ripping through the region at speeds of up to 194 km (120 miles) an hour. An estimated 1,6 million people are believed to be affected, towns and villages remain submerged, and the death toll in the three countries has surpassed 500.

Idai’s timing and target could not have been worse, hitting already vulnerable communities in some of the continent’s poorest countries just before harvesting season.

The extent of the inland flooding from Beira.

Floodwaters spilling out from the region’s Pungue and Buzi rivers now cover a massive 2,165 sq km-area (834 square miles), according to the UN, far exceeding the width of the initial storm. The water levels created inland islands, marooning hundreds of people across the region, and stretching rescue operations.

Flooding from Idai has almost completely submerged Beira, cutting it off from the rest of the country. The emergency wing of its central hospital is non-operational, a major grain terminal has been damaged, and dam has collapsed outside of the city, according to the UN’s Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System.

“Beira is pretty much paralyzed, with many…going hungry, and without food and shelter,” resident Samuel Fenis told the UN Environment agency. At least 242 people have died in Mozambique alone. As the extent of the damage unfolds, it’s becoming clear that president Filipe Nyusi’s estimate that as many as 1,000 people are dead could be confirmed.

Cut off in Mozambique.
Destruction in Beira.

After making landfall in Mozambique, Idai travelled more than 300 km (186 miles) to Zimbabwe, killing at least 139 people, with dozens more still missing. It travelled across Sofala and Manica provinces, leaving behind flooding so severe that entire villages have been wiped out. The area remains inaccessible, with an estimated 100,000 people stranded, according to the UN, making it difficult to ascertain the true extent of the damage. As rescue workers wade through the disaster zone, there are reports of people still huddling on rooftops, waiting to be rescued. Families have resorted to digging through mudslides to find their relatives still trapped.

Zimbabwean president Emmerson Mnangagwa has declared two days of national mourning. Already facing a protracted economic crisisand food shortages, Zimbabwe has issued desperate calls for aid and assistance in rescue missions.

“Whatever crops that were being grown despite the drought have now been destroyed in the floods, and these districts will need the help of the international community now more than ever,” Paolo Cernuschi, Zimbabwe country director at the International Rescue Committee, said in a statement.

The cyclone did not cross into Malawi, but the resulting floods killed at least 56 people, and displaced 82,700.

A family dig for their son in Zimbabwe.
Rescuers in Zimbabwe.

Aid agencies have made desperate appeals for funding, revealing the extent of the devastation. The World Food Programme says it needs $121 million to help those affected in Mozambique alone. The UN aid agency’s operations in Malawi will require $10.3 million for just two months of assistance. In Zimbabwe, $5 million will be needed to provide food, logistical support and a response in the affected districts where 90% of property has been damaged.

UNFPA and Unicef have also dispatched teams to the region to assist women and children, whose vulnerability is exacerbated in disasters such as this.

Most vulnerable.

The storm’s impact shows the need for better preparedness and warning systems, the UN environment agency has said. As the extent of the damage wreaked by Idai is revealed, state and non-governmental agencies are flocking to the affected region to help, and discovering that Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe will need far more than expected.

Sign up to the Quartz Africa Weekly Brief here for news and analysis on African business, tech and innovation in your inbox

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This Ethiopian entrepreneur is breaking tradition to empower women

24 October 2018 4:48PM UTC | By: ABLE


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In this series, we’re introducing you to strong and savvy female entrepreneurs from Ethiopia who have partnered with social enterprise and lifestyle brand ABLE.

Semhal Guesh grew up in Ethiopia hearing a phrase many young girls her age did not: “You can do whatever you want.”

Now 27 years old, it’s no coincidence that Semhal has become a designer, architect, and entrepreneur. She now runs Kabana, a leather production company in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s capital and largest city, and through her company, she helps other women realise their full potential.

“Most of my life, my father told me I could accomplish any ideas that I had; that I had no limits,” said Semhal. “In Ethiopia, every family is male-dominated and sons are given more chances than daughters. But with my dad, that was not the case.”

Semhal recognizes that if she had grown up in rural Ethiopia or with parents less encouraging than her own, she might have been expected to stop her education at 12 years old and get married. Instead, Semhal dreamed of becoming an astronaut or an astrophysicist because she hadn’t seen a lot of women in those professions. But it was architecture that won over Semhal for the ability to create something both beautiful and functional.

ABLE_KABANA_SEP_2018_BY_ARON_SIMENEH-294While studying for her Bachelors in Architecture, she picked up a few leather samples at a local market and began designing with it. Suddenly, her dormitory transformed into a small workshop with a handful of women hand stitching products to sell at bazaars.

“By day, we’d go to lectures and we’d make leather products at night,” said Semhal. “It was more about the joy of designing and turning our work into an actual reality. It wasn’t to earn money. It was something we could do together.”

After graduation, Semhal began working in architecture full-time while still managing to grow her leather business. Her supervisor at the architecture firm saw her passion and encouraged her to spend more time focused on her growing leather company until she eventually made the decision to devote all her time to Kabana.

“It was a hectic time, but my motivation was seeing how the job and income were changing the life of my first employee,” said Semhal. “She came to me with minimum knowledge or experience, but I taught her how to cut and stitch leather and design development. In time, I saw her changing, knowing what to do, and unafraid to share her ideas because she had the freedom to speak out. I thought ‘I’m paying somebody who supports their family. I’m part of the generation that’s creating opportunities and income for her.’”
Today, Semhal and her staff of 31 are in high demand, thanks in part to her background in architecture, which gives her an eye for design and an understanding of technical specifications. Kababa creates handmade leather bags, wallets, folders, and custom products for clients in Ethiopia, the U.S., and Sweden.


On a mission to give other women the same support she has received, Semhal is focused on motivating the women she hires to expect more for themselves. She enrolls her employees in different training programs to help them realize their value and potential, invests in their new business ideas through loans, offers paid time away from work, mentorship, and coaching.

“Everyone is shy in Ethiopia, especially girls,” said Semhal. “I tell my employees about myself, how I got to where I am, and that not everything is easy. Then I push them to have a conversation with other women. I want them to know they don’t have to be closed off.”

ABLE_KABANA_SEP_2018_BY_ARON_SIMENEH-294Thankfully, Semhal believes her country’s view of women is changing, evidenced by recent changes such as the government’s decision to back women’s education and the creation of various leadership and professional associations.

As more doors open for women in Ethiopia, Semhal continues to raise the bar on women’s equality, safety, wages and benefits in the workplace. Through her company’s partnership with ABLE, Kabana has undergone the ACCOUNTABLE social impact audit and found opportunities to improve her wages, maternity leave policy, medical coverage, and employment practices.

ABLE_KABANA_SEP_2018_BY_ARON_SIMENEH-294“Ethiopia doesn’t have a set minimum wage policy,” said Semhal. “When ABLE introduced liveable wages to KABANA, it gave us a new benchmark.”

“I want to show that you can be an entrepreneur and be young and a woman,” said Semhal. “It takes a lot of convincing, but I’m not one to back away from a challenge. Breaking the tradition starts with hearing the stories about other women and their success.”

ABLE is publishing its lowest wages to protect and empower the fashion industry’s most vulnerable workers, most of whom are women. To provide consumers with complete transparency, all their partners must go through the rigorous and exhaustive ACCOUNTABLE assessment, evaluating their workplace’s equality, safety, wages and benefits, with a particular emphasis on women. To learn more about ABLE’s #PUBLISHYOURWAGES movement that inspires consumers to demand greater transparency of their favourite brands, visit www.livefashionable.com/publishyourwages.

ONE welcomes the contributions of guest bloggers but does not necessarily endorse the views, programs, or organisations highlighted.

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5 statements from Mandela that we should all be inspired by

17 July 2018 6:06PM UTC | By: ROBYN DETORO


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Nelson Mandela accomplished more in his lifetime than most people even dream of and his legacy is built upon the persistent messages of hope, encouragement and wisdom he shared with the world.

Perhaps most importantly, Mandela’s gift of speech and ability to inspire continues to unite people in the belief that they too have the power to take action and create change.

On what would have been his 100th birthday, we’re doing our part to make sure his legacy lives on by sharing some of the most inspirational things he said.


Here are the five quotes we reflect on time and time again to motivate us in our fight to change the world!

1. “Sometimes it falls upon a generation to be great. You can be that great generation.”

2. “Freedom cannot be achieved unless women have been emancipated from all forms of oppression.”

3. “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

4. “Our children are the rock on which our future will be built, our greatest asset as a nation.”

5. “As long as poverty, injustice and gross inequality exist in our world, none of us can truly rest.”

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5 incredible female entrepreneurs you need to know

5 incredible female entrepreneurs you need to know

24 September 2018 11:50AM UTC | By: EMILY MILLER


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It’s not easy being a female entrepreneur anywhere in the world. But for women and girls living in countries where they’re denied the freedom to control their own finances it’s even harder to build a successful business.

We know how vital women’s economic empowerment is. When women and girls control their finances, it doesn’t only change their lives, it can change their communities, countries, and the world for the better. If gender gaps in work and society were narrowed, global GDP would increase by at least $12 trillion by 2025! How is that for amazing?

That’s why we’re taking the time to celebrate some of our favorite female entrepreneurs who are living the slogan “empowered women, empower women” and bringing gender gaps to a close:

1. Ellen Chilemba

At just 18, Ellen Chilemba founded Tiwale Community Based Organization — an organization empowering women and girls across Malawi with business and leadership skills. The Tiwale team has trained over 150 women and helped 40 start their own businesses! Ellen’s dedication to women’s economic empowerment hasn’t gone unnoticed. She’s been featured in Glamour, Forbes, and even “Humans of New York”.

2. Victoria Awine


(Courtesy of Cargill)

“I have worked in a cocoa plantation in Sefwi for as long as I can remember,” says Victoria Awine, a cocoa farmer in Ghana. This cocoa entrepreneur has owned and operated her own farm on 3 hectacres of land since 1980. But in 2014, Victoria enrolled in the Cargill Cocoa Promise — a program that provides female farmers access to training, financial services, and other key resources. Victoria’s crops have increased production threefold since her enrollment and the extra income is helping her support her four children!

3. Wilhelmina Myeonway Cooper

Wilhelmina Myeonway Cooper is an entrepreneur in Liberia’s fashion industry. (Courtesy of Myeonway Designs.)

Wilhelmina Myeonway Cooper is an entrepreneur in Liberia’s fashion industry. (Courtesy of Myeonway Designs.)

Wilhelmina is a Liberian fashion entrepreneur who did something few women in her community do — started her own pop-up shop. After launching Myeonway Designs, Wilhelmina realized she couldn’t afford a shop for customers to purchase her bags. So, she brought together other small business owners in the community to launch a space where they could all sell their products.

“I’ve been fortunate to be surrounded by amazing women who are really impressive, who want the best for you, and the best for themselves and this country,” Wilhelmina says. Despite facing many challenges, she has grown her pop-up enterprise from 9 vendors to 50!

4. Reyna Araceli Reyes Sorto


Reyna dreamed of being a doctor when she was a girl in Honduras, but lack of access to higher education kept her from achieving her dream – but she didn’t let that stop her. With help from Nourishing the Future, a partnership between CARE and Cargill, Reyna mastered entrepreneurial skills to build a new future for herself and her family. Now, she is selling corn to businesses in her community and even putting her new skills to work helping empower other women with the knowledge they need to thrive!

“I feel very motivated and satisfied with what I’ve learned. I’m training as a micro-entrepreneurial leader in issues such as women’s leadership, accounting, business ideas, and food security.”

5. Sylvie Isimbi and Freedah Nyirahakiziyaremye

“Internet is everything for us,” says Sylvie, the store manager of Turikumwe Art Center. Using social media, Sylvie is bring attention and attracting new customers to the shop’s handmade clothing. More than 70 single mothers are benefiting from Sylvie’s social media advertising, including Freedah. The skyrocketing sales have helped Freedah afford her children’s school fees and save money to build her own home!

If you believe female entrepreneurs can change the world, add your name to our Poverty Is Sexist open letter.

Content in partnership with Cargill

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5 feminist lessons from Melene Rossouw and Phoebe Robinson

March 26 2019 | By: SADOF ALEXANDER


Take action for women everywhere

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It’s not every day two amazing female activists get together to discuss equality. But that’s exactly what happened when Phoebe Robinson and Melene Rossouwwere together in Zambia recently! They joined each other for an Instagram Live interview where they talked all things on equality and empowerment.

Phoebe Robinson is a comedian, best-selling novelist, and podcaster for Two Dope Queens and Sooo Many White Guys. When she’s not taking the internet by storm, she’s advocating for ONE and (RED)!

Melene Rossouw is an attorney in South Africa. She’s also a founder of the Women Lead Movement (WLM), which educates women on their constitutional rights, how to campaign, and how to hold governments accountable. You might recognize her as one of the spokeswomen of our gender equality open letter!

There’s plenty of incredible insights in their conversation. But if you weren’t able to catch their full Q+A live on our Instagram, don’t worry! We’re breaking down the biggest takeaways (including — a lot needs to be done before we achieve gender equality).

Here are five things we need to achieve gender equality according to Melene + Phoebe:

#1. Demand world leaders to act


On International Women’s Day, we released our fifth annual Open Letter to world leaders. Over 40 co-signers, including Melene, contributed to this letter that demands genuine progress towards gender equality.

Why? Melene put it best:

“While you are dragging your feet to put in place a comprehensive policy and the framework that will protect women, that will promote women’s interests, they are being abused. They are being victimized. They are being sidelined. They are being undermined every day of their lives. And that, we are saying, is unacceptable.”

#2. Create change locally


World leaders need to step up for women everywhere. While their role in equality is essential,  we need local change, too.

“The promotion of gender equality should start at the family,” says Melene. “As much as gender inequality is a pervasive issue that touches on education, touches on health, poverty, economic opportunity … it starts in the family. It is how we are brought up. It is how we become accustomed to certain gender roles.”

Local communities can bring about big changes, as well. Community engagement is a huge part of Melene’s work at WML.

“We believe that the solutions to most of these social ills, including the issue of patriarchy and the issue of gender inequality, can only be solved in communities,” says Melene.

#3. Inform women and girls on their rights


How is Melene fighting for gender equality? By teaching women and girls about their rights. When people are aware of their rights, they have the power to demand change. But without that knowledge, women and girls may not know that they can fight back, or how to do it.

“How do we start empowering women to become change agents in their community if they don’t even understand that they have rights and can enforce these rights?”

Melene is on a mission to achieve gender equality through human rights. If we’re ever going to end extreme poverty, women and girls must have equal opportunities to succeed.

#4. Provide education for all


Educating women and girls on their rights is vital, but the learning can’t stop there. Access to education opens a world of opportunities for people everywhere. But, the world leaves women and girls behind too often.

Before they went live on Instagram, Phoebe and Melene spent the day with female students who dream of growing up to be journalists, teachers, and nurses. The girls they met love learning and have incredible ambition.

But, too often, girls living in poverty face challenges in getting an education. Obstacles like school fees and lead to girls dropping out of school and abandoning their dreams. When girls receive an education, they are better able to combat poverty.

“The key to change everything is education,” says Phoebe.

#5. Make sure everyone plays their part


There are lots of moving parts in the fight for gender equality. No matter where you are, you can contribute to the fight. This includes men, who need to be part of the shift towards a more equal world.

In our daily lives, we can be part of conversations that create a better understanding of the issues and how to solve them. Sharing knowledge between people creates a domino effect that helps bring these issues to light. Making room for equality and activism essential.

“It needs to be part of our everyday life. It needs to be part of our dialogue.”

Are you ready to play your part? You can join Phoebe, Melene, and thousands of people across the world by signing this open letter to world leaders.

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A Kenyan teacher just won the $1 million Global Teacher Prize

By Jenny AndersonMarch 24, 2019

Peter Tabichi, a Kenyan math and physics teacher, won the $1 million Varkey Foundation Global Teacher Prize at a star-studded event in Dubai Sunday (March 24).

Accompanied by his father, Tabichi said the prize showed that “teachers matter” and that “teaching is a noble profession.”

Tabichi left his job at a private school to join the Keriko Secondary School (in Pwani Village, Nakuru, Kenya), where 95% of the students are poor and almost a third are orphans. Drug abuse, teen pregnancies, drop-outs, and suicide are common, and the school has one computer, poor internet access, and a student-teacher ratio of 58:1.

In spite of those circumstances, Tabichi’s science students have won various national science competitions, and qualified to participate at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair 2019 in the US. In 2017, only 16 out of the school’s 59 students went on to college, while in 2018, 26 did.

Actor Hugh Jackman awarded the prize at the Atlantis in Dubai, performing music from The Greatest Showman and offering heartfelt tributes to each of the 10 finalists. Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta, in a video message, said Tabichi’s story showed that Africa is “a young continent bursting with talent.”

The teacher prize ceremony caps the Global Education and Skills Forum, a glitzy three-day conference considered the “Davos of education.” Dozens of education ministers and leaders from around the world joined to discuss teaching, technology, and learning science. On Saturday night, a concert included performances by Rita Ora, Little Mix, and Liam Payne.

The prize was set up by the Varkey Foundation to shine a spotlight on teaching at a moment when there is a severe global teacher shortage and research shows that it will take poor countries up to 100 years to close the learning gap with richer ones. “By unearthing thousands of stories of heroes that have transformed young people’s lives, the prize hopes to bring to life the exceptional work of millions of teachers all over the world,” the foundation said.

The event is a massive celebration of teachers, who often work with little recognition and poor pay in severely resource-constrained environments. Tabichi is the fifth winner of the prize, which has also been won by an American, a Brit, a Palestinian, and a Canadian. Last year’s winner was Andria Zafirakou, an art and textiles teacher at Alperton Community School in the UK whom Quartz recently interviewed.

“Africa’s young people will no longer be held back by low expectations,” Tabichi said. “Africa will produce scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs whose names will be one day famous in every corner of the world. And girls will be a huge part of this story.”

The prize is paid over 10 years. Recipients are meant to have practices that can be scaled, are innovative, and impact the community beyond the classroom. It also awards practices that help children become global citizens, “providing them with a values-based education that equips them for a world where they will potentially live, work and socialise with people from many different nationalities, cultures and religions.”

“If you don’t fail, you don’t learn, and if you don’t learn, you can’t change,” Tabichi said.

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In case you missed Music Generation Carlow's feature on RTÉ's Nationwide two weeks ago, you can view it now on RTÉ Player!

In celebration of Seachtain na Gaeilge Music Generation Carlow's ‘Music @ Mount Leinster’ festival featured on the programme. Each year the festival welcomes 100+ young and professional musicians for a week of Irish traditional music making. Watch the episode back for an insight into this wonderful event!

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