At today’s closing ceremony, the Fellows and guests were welcomed by Ms. Adowa Abame. First to speak was Ms. Maame Yelbert-Obeng, Board member of the Moremi Initiative and Africa Program Director in the Women’s Earth Alliance based in Berkeley, California. Ms. Yelbert-Obeng led the fellows in song:
Moremi sisters, are we together?
We are one, eh, eh,
We are together,
We are one.
The harmonies of the group differentiated them, showing that each of them is unique. Together, they sang beautifully.
Then, Professor Akosua Adomako Ampofo said that she hopes that important friendships or coalitions have formed, that earth-shattering projects have been developed. She hopes that fellows will never lose sight of the importance of advocacy and change, because the status quo is not what it should be for most people living on earth. “I have a lot of hope for your generation … irrespective of what my generation does, you will claim your space.”
Ms. Abame said that her insight was very important, and furthered “though our generation may not give you the opportunity … don’t let anything stop you to claim your space.” People will be able to help you with your vision, she said, but you have to drive it yourself. Make use of everything that they have acquired here, including friendships and enemies—no one has to remain your enemy. Most importantly, do whatever you set out to do. The essence of change is that you have a project you want to address. You will face difficulties, but think to yourself that you are the one who must help your community. She invited the fellows to send e-mails, call, or even sms her if they have questions. Also, she said, don’t put yourself in a box and don’t imagine that real life will allow your plan to move smoothly. Every challenge creates an opportunity to do something else, something better. Be open to diversifying so that you can support your beneficiary group, because it is that group, and not your project as you had planned it, that is most important. By all means, affect change with them.
To be whole women, and whole leaders, is most important for Ms. Yelbert-Obeng.
Diversify yourself and don’t stay in a box; bring all of you have to the table. She said “We can bring ourselves into spaces as whole people … we have bowed down our heads [to men] so long and not been whole women in the places we need to be.” A big challenge she articulated is fragmentation of ourselves and therefore our vision. Our friendships and our relationships should not be compartmentalized and fragmented. To soar, this sisterhood needs to life each-other up. Raising someone up can be done out of a small gesture, but to move forward we need to be in that space where we can raise each other up. She then sang “You Raise Me Up” by Josh Groban for the fellows. At the end of the song, the fellows were all standing and hugging each-other.
Then, we heard from recently-elected President of the 2011 Moremi Fellows, Ndidi. She said that it’s extremely important to keep the network alive and not loose contact with one-another. Ndidi thanked to the Chair and Board for their planning and facilitation of such a meeting of young women. This opportunity lets young women see that there are others doing well in their projects, and they inspire one-another to do better in their own communities.
Finally, Mawuli Dake, co-chair of the planning committee, said a few words. In the past three weeks, there have been challenges, and there was a risk in beginning the conference. He hopes that we can all look back and say it was worth it. In terms of talent, emerging women leaders have certainly been found. But it takes more than talent, he said, to be a leader. It takes sacrifice and humility to serve in a way that makes a difference. He had three important points to give to the fellows. First, he said to believe in your ability to make change. A lot of time is spent complaining, but you have to be committed to do something about it and it is possible to make much difference. One fellow of 2009 from Nigeria said “We must provide the leadership we deserve,” and it is up to the fellows to make that change because each of them have unique positions in their communities. Second, you can never assume to know it all. Africa needs to be smarter in utilizing time and resources. So, to grow as leaders and young professionals, you have to work harder and more effectively. Third, be each-other’s keeper. As your sister’s keeper, you must look beyond the past three weeks. The most important aspects of the Moremi fellowship are beyond these three weeks, but opportunity depends on you to make the best of it. There are extreme circumstances under which some fellows may have to do their work. However, he shared a story about how his class’ network from Columbia worked together to release one of their own after he was arrested in DRC. Lastly, he thanked Board members and volunteers for their unpaid work. He wished the fellows strength, inspiration, and solidarity. He said “let’s continue to collectively bring change to the continent … It is your time to lead.”
Once more, Ms. Yelbert-Obeng led the fellows in “We Are One”.