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Dakar Biennale: From red swimmers to floating teapots

One of the largest events in the African modern art world, the Dakar Biennale, has returned for its 14th edition – after a four-year gap because of the coronavirus pandemic – featuring hundreds of pieces from artists from around the world.

Exhibits have popped up throughout Senegal’s capital, including in galleries, fine art centres, restaurants and hotels.

The theme for this year is Ndaffa, which means “to forge out of the fire” in the Serer language.

One of the artists, British-Nigerian painter Tunji Adeniyi-Jones, said his time in Senegal had inspired his work.

His pieces, including the blue and red one pictured below, centre on dance and movement.

Dakar Biennale: From red swimmers to floating teapots

“I absorbed everything in my surroundings and that manifested in some paintings that were a bit more fluid and expressive,” he said. “There was more spirit in the work.”

Another Nigerian artist, Tyna Adebowale, said she was touched by how welcomed she felt in Senegal. She was particularly inspired after spending several days with an elderly woman who would go on to become the voice behind her paintings.

Her work, she said, is an exploration of feminism through the lens of that Senegalese matriarch.

“Senegal is this very beautiful spirit,” she said. “Inserting yourself in a space where you don’t understand the language but you still feel at home – it’s beautiful.”

Two painted portraits of a women smoking a pipe.

The main exhibit is being held at the Ancien Palais de Justice in Dakar and is composed of 59 artists from nearly 30 countries.

The month-long event is expected to attract 250,000 visitors, as it did when it was last held in 2018, when around 50,000 travelled to the Senegalese capital from abroad for the festival.

One work, by Nigerian artist Ngozi Ezema, features hundreds of strings beaded with bits of clay suspended in mid-air.

From the front angle it takes the shape of a teapot being tipped into a teacup.

A viewer looking at the artwork of Ngozi Ezema, which looks like a teapot suspended in mid-air.

The piece represents the effort Ezema pours into her various endeavours: her work, her children and her marriage. Often the teacup is cracked and unable to be filled – she rarely has a chance to enjoy the tea.

Another striking piece of artwork is found on Dakar’s coastal walkway – a red swimmer by Senegalese artist Diadji Diop.

Diadji Diop's sculpture of a red swimmer.

The sculpture symbolises the emergence from the pandemic and a moment to catch one’s breath.

During the biennale outdoor spaces have transformed into walkable exhibits and performance halls.

Performers dance along the coastal walkway on May 21, 2022 as part of the Dakar Biennale.

Some of the other artists being features at the festival are from the United States, Mali, Rwanda and France.

Moses Hamborg’s work, pictured on the right hand side in the photo below, was on display at the opening of the Black Rock gallery on 20 May.

The work of Moses Hamborg (on the right) which is a painting of two black women.

He has been in Dakar for the last two months and is impressed by how integrated art and culture are in everyday life.

“I feel like the biennale’s been going on for a while. It’s on the streets of Dakar everyday,” he said. “Senegal is such a welcoming place and I feel so lucky to have been able to access that.”

Meanwhile, back at the Ancien Palais de Justice, the work of Malian artist Abdoulaye Konaté was on display on 21 May:

Viewers walk past work by Malian artist Abdoulaye Konaté at the Ancien Palais de Justice on May 21, 2022 as part of the Dakar Biennale. The artwork features varying shades of blue and contains what looks like the moon.

At the same event on the same day, paintings by Rwandan artist Gilles Dusabe were on display:

Photographs of black bodies by Rwandan artist Gilles Dusabe hang.

As was the work of French artist Louisa Marajo:

An installation by French artist Louisa Marajo is displayed at the Ancien Palais de Justice

Senegalese artists are also front and centre at the Biennale, including works of Aissa Dione:

Viewers admire a piece by Senegalese artist Aissa Dione at the opening of the Black Rock gallery. The artwork looks like a hammock-like structure.

And these sculptures by Abdou Fary Faye:

Sculptures by Abdou Fary Faye

Alioune Diagne, who uses a combination of figurative and abstract styles, is known for his paintings inspired by daily life in Senegal:

Woman looking at a paining by Alioune Diagne

The biennale, which started on 19 May, will run until 21 June.

One of the attendees, from New York City, said he admired how the art he had seen around Dakar acted as a mirror.

“It responds to what’s around, it doesn’t add fluff. It doesn’t overcomplicate things,” Devin B Johnson commented.

News Politics

2023: Gov. Ikpeazu emerges PDP candidate for Abia South

Gov. Okezie Ikpeazu on Tuesday picked the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) ticket to contest for Abia South Senatorial District seat in the 2023 general election.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Gov. Ikpeazu, the lone aspirant, emerged unopposed as the party’s candidate at the Enyimba International Stadium, Aba.

Chief Ndidi Okereke, the Returning Officer, while announcing the result, said 198 delegates were accredited for the exercise.

Okereke said Ikpeazu polled a total of 198 votes and emerged unopposed as the winner of the primary election.

Speaking after the exercise, Ikpeazu thanked the party leadership, and lauded the conduct of the election which he described as “clean and transparent”.

He said he was poised to evolve programmes and policies that would change the fortunes of Abia South Senatorial District in the days ahead.

Ikpeazu said he would deliver quality representation and protect the interest of the people, if he emerged winner at the 2023 senatorial election.

“I want to thank the delegates from the six local government areas and dedicate this victory to our statutory delegates.

“They have been excluded from today’s exercise not because of any wrong on their part but because of some laws that have not received assent from Mr President.

“I am particularly interested in women, youths and the voiceless. I pray that Almighty God will through the instrumentality of the mandate you have given me, the power, strength, opportunity and privilege to serve Abia South people to the best of my ability,” he said.

News

Dakar Biennale: From red swimmers to floating teapots

One of the largest events in the African modern art world, the Dakar Biennale, has returned for its 14th edition – after a four-year gap because of the coronavirus pandemic – featuring hundreds of pieces from artists from around the world.

Exhibits have popped up throughout Senegal’s capital, including in galleries, fine art centres, restaurants and hotels.

The theme for this year is Ndaffa, which means “to forge out of the fire” in the Serer language.

One of the artists, British-Nigerian painter Tunji Adeniyi-Jones, said his time in Senegal had inspired his work.

His pieces, including the blue and red one pictured below, centre on dance and movement.

Dakar Biennale: From red swimmers to floating teapots

“I absorbed everything in my surroundings and that manifested in some paintings that were a bit more fluid and expressive,” he said. “There was more spirit in the work.”

Another Nigerian artist, Tyna Adebowale, said she was touched by how welcomed she felt in Senegal. She was particularly inspired after spending several days with an elderly woman who would go on to become the voice behind her paintings.

Her work, she said, is an exploration of feminism through the lens of that Senegalese matriarch.

“Senegal is this very beautiful spirit,” she said. “Inserting yourself in a space where you don’t understand the language but you still feel at home – it’s beautiful.”

Two painted portraits of a women smoking a pipe.

The main exhibit is being held at the Ancien Palais de Justice in Dakar and is composed of 59 artists from nearly 30 countries.

The month-long event is expected to attract 250,000 visitors, as it did when it was last held in 2018, when around 50,000 travelled to the Senegalese capital from abroad for the festival.

One work, by Nigerian artist Ngozi Ezema, features hundreds of strings beaded with bits of clay suspended in mid-air.

From the front angle it takes the shape of a teapot being tipped into a teacup.

A viewer looking at the artwork of Ngozi Ezema, which looks like a teapot suspended in mid-air.

The piece represents the effort Ezema pours into her various endeavours: her work, her children and her marriage. Often the teacup is cracked and unable to be filled – she rarely has a chance to enjoy the tea.

Another striking piece of artwork is found on Dakar’s coastal walkway – a red swimmer by Senegalese artist Diadji Diop.

Diadji Diop's sculpture of a red swimmer.

The sculpture symbolises the emergence from the pandemic and a moment to catch one’s breath.

During the biennale outdoor spaces have transformed into walkable exhibits and performance halls.

Performers dance along the coastal walkway on May 21, 2022 as part of the Dakar Biennale.

Some of the other artists being features at the festival are from the United States, Mali, Rwanda and France.

Moses Hamborg’s work, pictured on the right hand side in the photo below, was on display at the opening of the Black Rock gallery on 20 May.

The work of Moses Hamborg (on the right) which is a painting of two black women.

He has been in Dakar for the last two months and is impressed by how integrated art and culture are in everyday life.

“I feel like the biennale’s been going on for a while. It’s on the streets of Dakar everyday,” he said. “Senegal is such a welcoming place and I feel so lucky to have been able to access that.”

Meanwhile, back at the Ancien Palais de Justice, the work of Malian artist Abdoulaye Konaté was on display on 21 May:

Viewers walk past work by Malian artist Abdoulaye Konaté at the Ancien Palais de Justice on May 21, 2022 as part of the Dakar Biennale. The artwork features varying shades of blue and contains what looks like the moon.

At the same event on the same day, paintings by Rwandan artist Gilles Dusabe were on display:

Photographs of black bodies by Rwandan artist Gilles Dusabe hang.

As was the work of French artist Louisa Marajo:

An installation by French artist Louisa Marajo is displayed at the Ancien Palais de Justice

Senegalese artists are also front and centre at the Biennale, including works of Aissa Dione:

Viewers admire a piece by Senegalese artist Aissa Dione at the opening of the Black Rock gallery. The artwork looks like a hammock-like structure.

And these sculptures by Abdou Fary Faye:

Sculptures by Abdou Fary Faye

Alioune Diagne, who uses a combination of figurative and abstract styles, is known for his paintings inspired by daily life in Senegal:

Woman looking at a paining by Alioune Diagne

The biennale, which started on 19 May, will run until 21 June.

One of the attendees, from New York City, said he admired how the art he had seen around Dakar acted as a mirror.

“It responds to what’s around, it doesn’t add fluff. It doesn’t overcomplicate things,” Devin B Johnson commented.

News

Dakar Biennale: From red swimmers to floating teapots

One of the largest events in the African modern art world, the Dakar Biennale, has returned for its 14th edition – after a four-year gap because of the coronavirus pandemic – featuring hundreds of pieces from artists from around the world.

Exhibits have popped up throughout Senegal’s capital, including in galleries, fine art centres, restaurants and hotels.

The theme for this year is Ndaffa, which means “to forge out of the fire” in the Serer language.

One of the artists, British-Nigerian painter Tunji Adeniyi-Jones, said his time in Senegal had inspired his work.

His pieces, including the blue and red one pictured below, centre on dance and movement.

Dakar Biennale: From red swimmers to floating teapots

“I absorbed everything in my surroundings and that manifested in some paintings that were a bit more fluid and expressive,” he said. “There was more spirit in the work.”

Another Nigerian artist, Tyna Adebowale, said she was touched by how welcomed she felt in Senegal. She was particularly inspired after spending several days with an elderly woman who would go on to become the voice behind her paintings.

Her work, she said, is an exploration of feminism through the lens of that Senegalese matriarch.

“Senegal is this very beautiful spirit,” she said. “Inserting yourself in a space where you don’t understand the language but you still feel at home – it’s beautiful.”

Two painted portraits of a women smoking a pipe.

The main exhibit is being held at the Ancien Palais de Justice in Dakar and is composed of 59 artists from nearly 30 countries.

The month-long event is expected to attract 250,000 visitors, as it did when it was last held in 2018, when around 50,000 travelled to the Senegalese capital from abroad for the festival.

One work, by Nigerian artist Ngozi Ezema, features hundreds of strings beaded with bits of clay suspended in mid-air.

From the front angle it takes the shape of a teapot being tipped into a teacup.

A viewer looking at the artwork of Ngozi Ezema, which looks like a teapot suspended in mid-air.

The piece represents the effort Ezema pours into her various endeavours: her work, her children and her marriage. Often the teacup is cracked and unable to be filled – she rarely has a chance to enjoy the tea.

Another striking piece of artwork is found on Dakar’s coastal walkway – a red swimmer by Senegalese artist Diadji Diop.

Diadji Diop's sculpture of a red swimmer.

The sculpture symbolises the emergence from the pandemic and a moment to catch one’s breath.

During the biennale outdoor spaces have transformed into walkable exhibits and performance halls.

Performers dance along the coastal walkway on May 21, 2022 as part of the Dakar Biennale.

Some of the other artists being features at the festival are from the United States, Mali, Rwanda and France.

Moses Hamborg’s work, pictured on the right hand side in the photo below, was on display at the opening of the Black Rock gallery on 20 May.

The work of Moses Hamborg (on the right) which is a painting of two black women.

He has been in Dakar for the last two months and is impressed by how integrated art and culture are in everyday life.

“I feel like the biennale’s been going on for a while. It’s on the streets of Dakar everyday,” he said. “Senegal is such a welcoming place and I feel so lucky to have been able to access that.”

Meanwhile, back at the Ancien Palais de Justice, the work of Malian artist Abdoulaye Konaté was on display on 21 May:

Viewers walk past work by Malian artist Abdoulaye Konaté at the Ancien Palais de Justice on May 21, 2022 as part of the Dakar Biennale. The artwork features varying shades of blue and contains what looks like the moon.

At the same event on the same day, paintings by Rwandan artist Gilles Dusabe were on display:

Photographs of black bodies by Rwandan artist Gilles Dusabe hang.

As was the work of French artist Louisa Marajo:

An installation by French artist Louisa Marajo is displayed at the Ancien Palais de Justice

Senegalese artists are also front and centre at the Biennale, including works of Aissa Dione:

Viewers admire a piece by Senegalese artist Aissa Dione at the opening of the Black Rock gallery. The artwork looks like a hammock-like structure.

And these sculptures by Abdou Fary Faye:

Sculptures by Abdou Fary Faye

Alioune Diagne, who uses a combination of figurative and abstract styles, is known for his paintings inspired by daily life in Senegal:

Woman looking at a paining by Alioune Diagne

The biennale, which started on 19 May, will run until 21 June.

One of the attendees, from New York City, said he admired how the art he had seen around Dakar acted as a mirror.

“It responds to what’s around, it doesn’t add fluff. It doesn’t overcomplicate things,” Devin B Johnson commented.

News

Female enrollment in tertiary education seeing steady progress at Webster University Ghana Campus

According to the 2021 Population and Housing Census, Ghana’s female population in tertiary institutions is 5.6 million, with a total male population of 15.2 million.

In 2017, female enrolment in tertiary education was 13.53 percent, while male enrollment was 18.68 percent. This calls for major adjustments to raise girls’ enrolment in tertiary education in Ghana.

But the numbers at the 2022 graduation ceremony of the Webster University, here in Ghana, revealed that indeed the efforts to increase the enrollment of girls is seeing steady progress as majority of its graduates were women.

At the event which took place on Saturday, it was all smiles for graduates, Management, family, and friends of the graduands.

The overall best graduating graduate student, Abigail Owusu, and the overall best graduating undergraduate student, Olivia Claesson, shared their excitement with JoyNews.

Female enrollment in tertiary education seeing steady progress at Webster University Ghana Campus
Overall best graduating graduate student, Abigail Owusu

“It’s so awesome, I think it’s such an honor and I am so grateful to have been nominated for the position of a valedictorian”, Abigail said.

“I feel very proud and I’m also very glad that I followed my gut, telling me that you should actually go and study in Ghana”, Olivia said.

Female enrollment in tertiary education seeing steady progress at Webster University Ghana Campus
Overall best graduating undergraduate student, Olivia Claesson

Speaking after the ceremony, the Chief Executive Officer of Vodafone Ghana, Patricia Obo-Nai stressed the need for women to be supported to realize their goals.

“It is a delight to see so many women graduating today. I have always said that women are fifty per cent of the population of Ghana and so when you see them pursuing their careers, pursuing their education and wanting to contribute to society, I think it is phenomenal and they should be supported,” she noted.

The Academic Director, Dr. Linda Deigh, also explained why there are more females graduating from the University this year.

Female enrollment in tertiary education seeing steady progress at Webster University Ghana Campus

“Today, with our graduates it might seem that we have more women than men, but I don’t think that it is deliberate or intentional, it is just their approach that we take in delivering the learning experience women take,” she said.

Touching on the activities of the school, during the period under review, the Dean of the George Herbert Walker School of Business and Technology, Dr. Simone Cummings, noted that, despite the onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic, the school’s academic calendar, was not disrupted.

She explained that the students were already familiar, with virtual learning methods, hence there were minimal challenges during the early days of the pandemic.

Female enrollment in tertiary education seeing steady progress at Webster University Ghana Campus
Dean of the George Herbert Walker School of Business and Technology, Dr Simone Cummings

“We have been offering the zoom format for the past five years or so, what we call our network format in which we offer students the opportunity to take classes by zoom. So when the pandemic hit, we were able to transfer all of those students over to zoom format very easily and it worked well for us,” she explained.

A graduate, Joshua Fiifi Asante, who also doubles as a worker, explained how he navigated the cumbersome task of combining his lessons with his economic engagements.

“The Webster experience has been an amazing one…Combining work and school has not been an easy one but by grace we have been able to come this far and I’m excited about the new possibilities that a Webster education offers every Webster student”, he said.

Education they say is the key to success, and with more people having access to same, especially the girl child, there is no telling how far society will be transformed.

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News

CAN condemns killing of women, children in South-East Nigeria

The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Kaduna State has lamented the massacre of Fatima, her unborn child and four children by criminals and terrorists in Anambra as a dangerous omen for the sustenance of Nigeria’s peace and unity.

A statement by Rev. John Joseph Hayab, CAN Chairman in Kaduna said, “CAN see the massacre of Fatima, her unborn child and four children by criminals and terrorists in Anambra as bad for Nigeria’s peace and unity.”

The Christian body said it read the story of the killing with sadness and disappointment, noting the extent to which evil activities have expanded in the country while good people are divided and silent.

The association regretted that killings of human beings are no longer a serious matter, lamenting that the people have been divided by tribe, region, and religion which has made it impossible for them to collectively condemn the evil around them or fight the evil they are seeing as a united force.

He lamented, “We have read the story of the Killing of Fatima, her unborn child, and four children in Anambra with sadness and disappointment about how evil activities have expanded in our country while good people are divided and silent. Life in our country has become so cheap with the raising of many evil criminal groups in every part of the country.

“Killing of human beings is no longer a serious matter because the people have been divided by tribe, region, and religion which has made it impossible for us to collectively condemn the evil around us or fight the evil we are seeing as a united force.

“CAN cannot keep quiet when evil is destroying the land. We all must know that when there is an injury to one then that injury is to all and evil only triumphs when good people keep quiet and look the other way.”

The group urged the federal government to go after Fatima’s murderers and all others who have killed any Nigerian from any region or of any identity.

“Until our government and our law enforcement agencies go after all criminals and murderers and justice is seen to have been done on all murderers this evil will not stop and the murderers will not see their crime as evil but instead, they will smartly make us fight amongst ourselves and pay less attention to their crime,” the statement reads.

The body commiserated with Fatima’s family and prayed to God for comfort, saying that CAN would also continue to preach peace, pray for peace, and speak truth to power and against every wrongdoing in Kaduna State and Nigeria as a whole.

News Politics

2023: Gov. Ikpeazu emerges PDP candidate for Abia South

Gov. Okezie Ikpeazu on Tuesday picked the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) ticket to contest for Abia South Senatorial District seat in the 2023 general election.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Gov. Ikpeazu, the lone aspirant, emerged unopposed as the party’s candidate at the Enyimba International Stadium, Aba.

Chief Ndidi Okereke, the Returning Officer, while announcing the result, said 198 delegates were accredited for the exercise.

Okereke said Ikpeazu polled a total of 198 votes and emerged unopposed as the winner of the primary election.

Speaking after the exercise, Ikpeazu thanked the party leadership, and lauded the conduct of the election which he described as “clean and transparent”.

He said he was poised to evolve programmes and policies that would change the fortunes of Abia South Senatorial District in the days ahead.

Ikpeazu said he would deliver quality representation and protect the interest of the people, if he emerged winner at the 2023 senatorial election.

“I want to thank the delegates from the six local government areas and dedicate this victory to our statutory delegates.

“They have been excluded from today’s exercise not because of any wrong on their part but because of some laws that have not received assent from Mr President.

“I am particularly interested in women, youths and the voiceless. I pray that Almighty God will through the instrumentality of the mandate you have given me, the power, strength, opportunity and privilege to serve Abia South people to the best of my ability,” he said.

News Politics

2023: Gov. Ikpeazu emerges PDP candidate for Abia South

Gov. Okezie Ikpeazu on Tuesday picked the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) ticket to contest for Abia South Senatorial District seat in the 2023 general election.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Gov. Ikpeazu, the lone aspirant, emerged unopposed as the party’s candidate at the Enyimba International Stadium, Aba.

Chief Ndidi Okereke, the Returning Officer, while announcing the result, said 198 delegates were accredited for the exercise.

Okereke said Ikpeazu polled a total of 198 votes and emerged unopposed as the winner of the primary election.

Speaking after the exercise, Ikpeazu thanked the party leadership, and lauded the conduct of the election which he described as “clean and transparent”.

He said he was poised to evolve programmes and policies that would change the fortunes of Abia South Senatorial District in the days ahead.

Ikpeazu said he would deliver quality representation and protect the interest of the people, if he emerged winner at the 2023 senatorial election.

“I want to thank the delegates from the six local government areas and dedicate this victory to our statutory delegates.

“They have been excluded from today’s exercise not because of any wrong on their part but because of some laws that have not received assent from Mr President.

“I am particularly interested in women, youths and the voiceless. I pray that Almighty God will through the instrumentality of the mandate you have given me, the power, strength, opportunity and privilege to serve Abia South people to the best of my ability,” he said.

News Politics

2023: Gov. Ikpeazu emerges PDP candidate for Abia South

Gov. Okezie Ikpeazu on Tuesday picked the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) ticket to contest for Abia South Senatorial District seat in the 2023 general election.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Gov. Ikpeazu, the lone aspirant, emerged unopposed as the party’s candidate at the Enyimba International Stadium, Aba.

Chief Ndidi Okereke, the Returning Officer, while announcing the result, said 198 delegates were accredited for the exercise.

Okereke said Ikpeazu polled a total of 198 votes and emerged unopposed as the winner of the primary election.

Speaking after the exercise, Ikpeazu thanked the party leadership, and lauded the conduct of the election which he described as “clean and transparent”.

He said he was poised to evolve programmes and policies that would change the fortunes of Abia South Senatorial District in the days ahead.

Ikpeazu said he would deliver quality representation and protect the interest of the people, if he emerged winner at the 2023 senatorial election.

“I want to thank the delegates from the six local government areas and dedicate this victory to our statutory delegates.

“They have been excluded from today’s exercise not because of any wrong on their part but because of some laws that have not received assent from Mr President.

“I am particularly interested in women, youths and the voiceless. I pray that Almighty God will through the instrumentality of the mandate you have given me, the power, strength, opportunity and privilege to serve Abia South people to the best of my ability,” he said.

News Politics

2023: Gov. Ikpeazu emerges PDP candidate for Abia South

Gov. Okezie Ikpeazu on Tuesday picked the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) ticket to contest for Abia South Senatorial District seat in the 2023 general election.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Gov. Ikpeazu, the lone aspirant, emerged unopposed as the party’s candidate at the Enyimba International Stadium, Aba.

Chief Ndidi Okereke, the Returning Officer, while announcing the result, said 198 delegates were accredited for the exercise.

Okereke said Ikpeazu polled a total of 198 votes and emerged unopposed as the winner of the primary election.

Speaking after the exercise, Ikpeazu thanked the party leadership, and lauded the conduct of the election which he described as “clean and transparent”.

He said he was poised to evolve programmes and policies that would change the fortunes of Abia South Senatorial District in the days ahead.

Ikpeazu said he would deliver quality representation and protect the interest of the people, if he emerged winner at the 2023 senatorial election.

“I want to thank the delegates from the six local government areas and dedicate this victory to our statutory delegates.

“They have been excluded from today’s exercise not because of any wrong on their part but because of some laws that have not received assent from Mr President.

“I am particularly interested in women, youths and the voiceless. I pray that Almighty God will through the instrumentality of the mandate you have given me, the power, strength, opportunity and privilege to serve Abia South people to the best of my ability,” he said.

News Politics

NPP UK Branch elects new executives

The United Kingdom Branch of the Governing New Patriotic Party [NPP], has held an executive election to choose new leaders to steer its affairs for the next four years.

The elections, which was held on Sunday, 22 May, 2022, had Mr. Kingsley Adumattah Agyapong (Wofa K) being elected as Chairman.

Other elected executives are; Mr. Alex Mensah (1st Vice Chairman), Mr. Ibrahim Abdul- Mumuni (2nd Vice Chairman), Mr Otuo Acheampong (Branch Secretary), Mr. Charles Asmah (Treasurer), Mrs Patricia Achiaa Boakye (Daakyehemaa)- (Women Organiser), Mr. Richmond Kwame Boateng (Branch Organiser), Mr. Ike Prince Asante (Youth Organiser) and Mr. Issah Ayumah (Nasara Coordinator).

The UK Branch of the party is made up of London and all members from various Chapters which are semi-autonomous in their decision-making and resource mobilisation.

All the Chapters held their elections peacefully before the general Branch elections.

The new Chairman, Mr. Kingsley Adumattah Agyapong, takes over from Derrick Kwaku Nkansah, whose tenure has expired.

The leadership of the party said it was hopeful that the new leaders will help the mother party in Ghana as well as the government to achieve all of its election 2020 promises to breaking the 8.

News

Opportunity International supports customers with interest buy-down and guarantee facility

Opportunity International Savings and Loans Limited, a leading Savings and Loans company in Ghana in collaboration with the Visa Foundation is implementing an Economic Recovery and Rebuild Initiative (ERRI) project to help reduce the impact of COVID-19 on businesses of its existing clients through interest buy-down and guarantee facility.

With funding support from the VISA Foundation, the ERRI commenced in June 2021 and comes to a close in May 2022.

The main objective of the ERRI was to help reduce the interest burden of our existing clients by reimbursing them with 50% of their interest amount. This is to reward our loyal clients while also encouraging new clients and defaulters to repay their loans so that they can benefit from such interventions.

The beneficiaries of this facility comprised of individual women clients or groups with majority of women membership. Eighty-five percent (85%) out of the total eight hundred and fifty-two (852) beneficiaries were women.

One key qualification criteria used in the selection process for these clients was to complete their loan repayment without defaulting at the end of the maturity date and with a minimum loan cycle of seven after which the client benefits from the interest buy-down, in the form of a 50% interest refund.

To avoid the culture of loan delinquency, the guarantee facility was not communicated to the beneficiaries. However, the agreed discounts were applied to the accounts of qualifying applicants.

Additionally, The UPS Foundation which is similar to the VISA Foundation redesigned its program to create the financial and managerial capabilities of Persons with Disabilities (PWDs), as well as connect them to both financial resources and the market through interest buy-downs to help lessen the impact of COVID-19 on their businesses. Given this reason, the project reduced the interest rate for PWDs for both existing and new clients. A total of fifty-six (56) PWDs benefited from the project, with 31 of them being women.

On successful implementation of the ERRI project, a survey was conducted within the beneficiary communities to ascertain the impact of such an intervention and how the assistance has improved their lives.

An overwhelming majority of ninety-five (95%) of our clients hailed the project as an important intervention at a time when COVID had disrupted many local and global production and distribution systems. These responses are clear attestations of the positive impact that the ERRI project has had on our loan clients and Opportunity International as a business.

Most importantly, the Opportunity International brand has been established within the beneficiary communities as one committed to not just conducting the business of banking but also to the overall development of its customer base.

Opportunity International Savings and Loans Limited is a leading savings and loans institution in Ghana. Opportunity International is at the forefront of delivering transformational financial services to help transform the lives of clients.

The Institution serves over 610,000 depositors with loans, deposit products, and other services across 10 out of the 16 regions of the country. It operates in 23 countries across the globe serving nearly 10 million clients with the Global office in Chicago, USA.

The Visa Foundation is the philanthropic arm of Visa, works with charitable organizations to support underserved people and communities. As its central focus, the Visa Foundation is committed to helping low-income, financially underserved micro and small enterprises around the world to thrive and prosper.

The UPS Foundation is a leading UPS’s global citizenship efforts and philanthropy since 1951. The UPS Foundation’s philanthropic approach centres on four focus areas: health & humanitarian relief, equity and economic empowerment, local engagement and planet protection.

News

GSMA to improve women’s digital safety with Mobile tokenisation

The start of the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the shift in how people get access to information, services and conduct business.

As governments in most countries implemented hard lockdowns to curb the spread of the pandemic, mobile phones allowed people to stay connected and access critical services and information.

This contributed to the growth of mobile internet usage, with over 3 billion people in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) now accessing the internet on the palms of their hands.

In LMICs, the majority of women own a mobile phone and over half now use mobile internet. However, compared to men, women are seven percent less likely to own a mobile phone and 15 percent less likely to use mobile internet.

This is particularly evident among women who are the most underserved, including those with low literacy, low incomes, who live in rural areas, or have a disability.

The wide-ranging benefits of mobile technology are evident in the everyday life of underserved communities, especially in LMICs. Not only do mobile phones enable access to voice and communication services, but they are also often the only way to access the internet and digital financial services such as mobile money.

Access to mobile money accounts can help to unlock a variety of secure and life-enhancing services including savings, credit and insurance products and utilities.

Improving women’s uptake and use of mobile services and mobile money can reduce the gender gap, offering women the chance of greater empowerment and autonomy over their personal and financial affairs and helping them become increasingly digital citizens.

The need for women’s safety in mobile technology

In many parts of the world, mobile network operators are working to understand and address the various barriers that women face trying to access and use mobile technology. Along with social norms and discrimination, one of the key barriers include those relating to safety and security.

While access to mobile phones can help women feel safer, they can also be a conduit for threats, highlighting the inconsistent relationship between mobile technology and women’s safety. Such inconsistencies can act as a barrier to access and usage; limiting a women’s use or ownership of a mobile phone altogether.

One of the primary ways that women can feel unsafe when using mobile technology is through mobile-related harassment, including unsolicited phones calls and text messages. This is in part due to the misuse of mobile numbers obtained by agents or at points of sale, which are commonly shared with the agent or merchant when making transactions.

Approach for tackling the problem

The GSMA Inclusive Tech Lab is collaborating with GSMA Connected Women and MTN Ghana to explore innovative ways in which tokenisation of mobile phone numbers can be used to improve security for women, and customers more broadly.

Tokenisation is a technology in which a sensitive data element is substituted by a non-sensitive equivalent, referred to as a token, that has no exploitable meaning or value. Additionally, this can assist to ensure that users feel secure when accessing mobile money services.

This mobile tokenisation solution has been developed to improve safety and security for women who are using their mobile money accounts for cash-in and cash-out of money and performing a payment at a merchant location, but it showcases just one of the use cases where a user’s sensitive data, such as a phone number, can be replaced with a token – a non-sensitive, context-restricted number.

The customer can request a token at any time over SMS or USSD. Using the token number, the customer has access to a variety of mobile money services, avoiding the disclosure of their mobile phone number. On the other side, the agent does not need to do anything different. The phone number field can be filled with the token number and the transaction will proceed normally. If desired, the user can delete the token and request a new one.

Shaping the perception

The solution was created with a user-first mindset, aiming to keep the interaction intuitive and with changes that do not impact the processes users are accustomed to. With the target user group in mind, this is key to accommodate users’ digital skills and existing behaviours with minimal disruption.

At the same time, the technological solution was designed such that it requires minimal changes to the operator’s current platform. This is possible because the token can have the same format as the current mobile number. In that way, the system interfaces in the same way to access services required by users and agents, requiring only small changes on the server-side and making the solution more easily implemented and deployed by industry players.

It is vital that providers consider women’s mobile-related safety concerns in LMICs to enable access to basic services and provide opportunities for the personal and economic growth of women.

News

Old Mutual celebrates 177th anniversary globally; 10 years in Ghana

Old Mutual Group, a pan-African investment, savings, insurance, and banking group, is celebrating its 177 years of operation globally with the Ghanaian unit also marking its 10th anniversary.

The Ghana unit, which provides insurance and pensions services, has been at the forefront of some of the most innovative insurance and pensions products and services in the country while showing the way when it comes to diversity in the workplace and leveraging technology for business growth.

Chief Executive Officer of Old Mutual Ghana, Tavona Biza, said having operated in Africa for over 176 years, the Old Mutual brand has made a mark as an outstanding and caring brand strongly known for its integrity, sound corporate governance and its contribution towards Africa’s socio-economic development. 

“Old Mutual Ghana provides life insurance and pensions solutions to its customers. We offer the best life insurance packages for corporate organizations and help individuals achieve their lifetime financial goals. Old Mutual Ghana is currently made up of Old Mutual Life Assurance Company Limited and Old Mutual Pensions Trust Company Limited,” he added.

Touching on the company’s achievements and technological advances in Ghana over the past 10 years, Mr. Biza said; “Old Mutual has a strong customer-led approach to our technology strategy. We have made investments in embedding security, ensuring our systems are always on, the simplification and modernization of our technology, ensuring our skills keep pace with the rapidly changing technology landscape and striving for a culture of innovation.”

He added that the company has also introduced a number of revolutionary products and services into the market, chief amongst them is the Old Mutual Retirement Salary Plan, which is designed to provide a steady cash flow – a retirement salary – for people during their retirement years and to alleviate the fears of outliving their savings. “We stand as the first insurance company to bring out this product,” Mr. Biza stated proudly.

Old Mutual Ghana, he added, as part of its digital strategies to be an innovative business, launched an automated WhatsApp chatbot to handle all customer queries and enquiries.

Diversity and inclusion

With 450 staff across nine locations in the country, Mr. Biza touched on the company’s diverse and inclusive structure which has led to 70 percent of its leadership being women, which is higher than corporate Ghana’s average.  

“We will continue to drive diversity and inclusion, innovate around product and customer solutions, attract and retain best talents in the market, impacting the Ghanaian market through financial education programmes and investing in technology,” he said as he nods towards a brighter future for the business.

Marking the historic milestone

Rita Adu Boateng, Customer Experience & Marketing Executive at Old Mutual Ghana explained that Old Mutual Ghana, as part of the celebrations in Ghana, will be interacting with the media to share the brand’s rich heritage and experience in the financial service space; embark on a comprehensive financial education in some selected senior high schools, donate items to students after the financial education programme and top it all off with an interactive session with employees on the brand’s 177 years.

Financial Education

Old Mutual ‘On The Money’ is a Financial Education programme which encourages people to change their financial behaviour and to understand money-related issues and new skills to help maintain positive financial behaviour. With its well-run digital campaign, the financial education programme has reached over 300,000 persons on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn.

The campaign led to Old Mutual winning the Best Marketing Campaign of the Year at the 4th Ghana Insurance Awards.

Social investment during COVID-19

Old Mutual, during the most difficult period of the COVID-19 pandemic, has been very active in supporting communities and institutions at the frontline. The company donated GH¢150,000 worth of surgical gloves and nose masks to three hospitals in Accra and Kumasi.

“We distributed 1,750 branded nose masks in some parts of Accra (Dansoman, Kaneshie First light, Korle Bu junction, Osu Oxford, Gold House runabout and Accra mall) and customers who visit any of our branches

We partnered with Vine Christian High on their online E-Learning platform during this COVID-19 pandemic for all customers (for Grade 7 & 8 / JHS1 / 2 students) and rewarded the best five students with cash prizes and branded Old Mutual souvenirs. GH¢1,200 Education policy was given to the overall best performing student,” Ms. Boateng added.

As a digitally inclined brand, Old Mutual was and continues to be very active with social media campaign on how to keep financial stability and impact in the COVID-19 pandemic. “Covid saw an introduction of our hybrid system where employees both work from home and the office intermittently. The introduction of the telesales unit which helped in reaching customers through sales during the lockdown period,” she added.

Old Mutual Ghana

Old Mutual Ghana is Ghana’s top 10 leading financial institution with an innovative record in offering the best in insurance services to its clients. Founded in South Africa, Old Mutual has been consistent in championing mutually positive futures by offering excellent financial services to a wide range of customers across the African continent.

The company established a branch in Ghana in 2013. It operates with skilled knowledge of the Ghanaian market backed by the expertise of an international brand. In Ghana, the company is currently made up of Old Mutual Life Assurance Company Limited and Old Mutual Pensions Trust.

News Politics

Vote for me as president and i will explore oil in Borno – Tinubu

 

The National Leader and presidential aspirant of the All Progressives Congress (APC ) in the upcoming presidential primary election, Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu has assured the people of Borno that if he is elected as the next President of Nigeria come 2023, he will exploit all the state’s natural endowment, especially oil exploration and resuscitation of the Lake Chad Basin irrigation farming and fishing, which are the major occupations of the majority of the people of the state.

Tinubu also pledged to ensure that peace returns permanently to the state by tackling insecurity and all other crimes bedeveling the state and region for a decade.

He made the pledge on Monday, while addressing APC national delegates from Borno who have assembled at the Multi Purpose Hall of the Government House in Maiduguri.

The presidential aspirant reaffirmed his commitment to overhaul major sectors of the country towards stabilising the economy, creating job opportunities and revitalising major ailing industries in addition to improving the roads, aviation and railway lines facilities among others.

According to him, “health is wealth and education is key to development. Therefore, if elected as president, my government will address schools and hospitals problems as well empower women and youths to become self reliant and useful to themselves.”

In his remarks, Governor Babagana  Umara Zulum of Borno State wished him success in his political ambition and prayed God to give Nigeria a credible and capable leader that has the heart of Nigerians and to take the country to greater heights.

He further asserted that Nigeria deserved a patriotic and honest leader that is transparent and responsible, who will eradicate corruption in the country which has beclouded the nation’s economy in barely all sectors of the country.

The National Coordinator /DG, Asiwaju 2023 Presidential Campaign, Senator Kashim Shettima, described Bola Ahmed Tinubu as the most suitable and qualified candidate to rule the country among all the aspirants, having sacrificed a lot and contributed immensely to the survival and stability of the party right from the cradle to its infancy and maturity stages obediently.

He said Tinubu has the determination and commitment to serve Nigerians diligently and remove the county from the shackles of insecurity and under development.

News

Women in timber set agenda to drive afforestation for the survival of industry

The Association of Women in Timber-Ghana (WiTG) has called for gender equity in timber processing factories.

The Association laments women have lost opportunities in the timber value chain due to the under-representation of women in forest governance.

A study conducted by the Global Timber Forum (GTF) revealed the ratio of men to women in timber processing factories globally is about 73% to 27%.

The Association of Women in Timber-Ghana (WiTG) has been launched in Kumasi to help build and increase the participation of women in the sector.

President of the group, Ernestina Owusu Banahene, says the Association will join forces with research institutions to tackle issues of reforestation for future supply of raw materials.

Women in timber set agenda to drive afforestation for the survival of industry
President of the group, Ernestina Owusu Banahene

“Considering the role of women in this male-dominated sector, I believe we deserve the needed recognition, it was prudent for women in the sector to come together to project their importance and contributions in the forest sector, hence the Women in Timber-Ghana (WiTG) Association. 

What the WiTG platform offers is a tailored solution to addressing industry challenges that are affecting women,” she said.

 The Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, Samuel Jinapor, believes the Association will help women in the forest sector to showcase their abilities to improve activities in forestry.

He was represented by Edith Abruquah, the Acting Executive Director of the Forestry Commission.

“Participation of women in the sector is arguably often overlooked. 

I was elated when I received a briefing on this laudable initiative of establishing a Women’s Group to serve as a platform to promote the contributions of women in the sector while offering opportunities for building their capacities to ensure that they manage their businesses viably.

I am convinced that this Association, in addition to other ongoing initiatives by the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources will prove useful in addressing gender inequality for every Ghanaian woman in the forest sector to showcase their abilities and capacities in order that society at large will be beneficiary,” Mrs. Abruquah read on behalf of the sector minister

Women in timber set agenda to drive afforestation for the survival of industry

The launch of the Women in Timber-Ghana Association in Kumasi was on the theme: “Strengthening Women’s Participation in Forestry and Wood Industry in Ghana”.

The association currently has 150 registered members.

News

FG moves to impose new tax regime on telephone calls

 

A ploy to cater for the health needs of Nigerian citizens considered to be most vulnerable to health challenges, may see the Federal Government injecting a new tax on phone calls in the country, soon.

 

This is coming despite recent increment by telecommunication companies for the price of their services as a result of harsh economic operating conditions.

 

The new telecom tax which is coming in the equivalent of a minimum of one kobo per second for phone calls is meant to boost sources of funds required to finance free healthcare for the vulnerable group in Nigeria.

 

The information was contained in the National Health Insurance Authority Bill 2021 signed by President Muhammadu Buhari recently.

 

The act includes a provision under Section 26 subsection 1c which states that the source of money for the Vulnerable Group Fund includes telecommunications tax, not less than one kobo per second of GSM calls.

 

The Fiscal Policy Partner and Africa Tax Leader at PricewaterhouseCoopers, Taiwo Oyedele, said, “S.26 of this new law imposes a telecommunications tax of not less than 1kobo per second on GSM calls. With call rates at about 11kobo per second, this translates to a 9 per cent tax on GSM calls.

 

“The tax is one of the sources of money to the Vulnerable Group Fund to subsidise the provision of healthcare to the group defined to include children under five, pregnant women, the aged, physically and mentally challenged, and the indigent as may be defined from time to time.”

 

According to the act, the Vulnerable Group Fund is money budgeted to pay for healthcare services for vulnerable Nigerians who cannot pay for health insurance in a bid to subsidise the cost of provision of health care services to vulnerable people in the country.

 

For funding, the act provides several options such as basic health care provision fund to the authority; health insurance levy; telecommunications tax, not less than one kobo per second of GSM calls.

 

It also stipulates that money that may be allocated to the Vulnerable Group Fund by the Government; mostly that accrues to the Vulnerable Group Fund from investments made by the Council: and grants, donations, gifts, and any other voluntary contributions made to the Vulnerable Group Fund.

 

Also in the new act, every citizen in Nigeria is expected to obtain a health insurance policy.

 

The telecom operators also had cause to write to the Federal Government, through the Nigerian Communications Commission, on the conditions of the industry.

 

The operators under the aegis of the Association of Licensed Telecommunication Operators of Nigeria had proposed a 40 per cent increase in the cost of calls, SMS, and data owing to the rising cost of service provision in the country.

 

Most mobile phone users have also observed the poor service provision from service providers, a situation many attribute to high cost of energy.

News

Reality zone with Vicky Wireko: Do you see some silver lining in Covid-19?

A lady in a facemask shopping at Accra Central when the lockdown was lifted on April 20, 2020.

If it is a truism that every dark cloud has a silver lining, then Covid-19, despite its devastations, has definitely brought us not one, not two, not three but possibly many many silver linings to help mankind.  This includes the fast discovery of vaccines.

Certainly in the area of public health, we have some learning and definitely some habits that are going to be part of our lives for some time to come. That is an assertion by some experts.

At a talk organised by Zonta Club of Accra recently on the impact of Covid-19 on women, Dr Christine Boatemaa Mensah of the Health Link Hospital in Accra held her audience spellbound with a list of benefits that the pandemic has brought into one’s life. Here in this country alone, medical experts have acknowledged a few.

Speaking on the topic: “The impact of Covid-19, Role of women”, Dr Mensah enumerated the health benefit outcomes of the pandemic in our country.

It is gratifying to note that for almost two and a half years since the pandemic turned our world upside down and brought misery to many homes, cases of other forms of infectious diseases due to poor hygiene practices have dropped significantly. 

Personal hygiene

Though she did not support her claim with statistics, Dr Mensah said the high levels of alertness and the awareness created in good personal hygiene, coupled with regular handwashing with soap under running water, necessitated by Covid-19, have seen very few people reporting to hospital or health care centres with hygiene-related diseases.

She said that in our environment, diseases which were quite recurring in communities including cholera, diarrhoea and dysentery have all come down in the last two and a half years. She explained that this could only be assigned to the good hygiene practices that many people have now adopted on regular basis.

Food health

Quite apart from the improvement in personal hygiene, another good practice the pandemic has taught people is to concentrate on healthy and well-balanced foods. Thankfully, people have now come to know such super spices as ginger, garlic, and cloves, which are described as immune boosters and are regularly used in cooking.    

With Covid-19, people have become conscious of what they eat; it has influenced the daily selection of ingredients and menus by out of home caterers who have also turned to cook healthy meals in their trade.

The same goes for drinks.  Many people are now pushing for naturally produced fruit juices rather than fizzy or soft drinks as often referred to.

Asthma

The other good news coming out of Covid-19 is the lowering of asthma cases. With the use of masks in public places, including schools, the case of sufferers breathing in polluted air which triggers the attack has also minimised

Overall, the level of education related to Covid-19 has helped tremendously to improve one’s living standards and healthy practices. The use of disposable tissues and handkerchiefs when sneezing or coughing has now become common, whereas it was not so in times past. 

Spitting indiscriminately around and blowing noses in the open air is gradually reducing.

Covid-19 has been a curse in many homes in the last couple of years.  The devastation it brought at the onset left many families and friends who lost their dear ones, broken and shattered.

However, the hard-earned lessons it has left in many minds, homes, workplaces and schools and the positive lessons imprinted in many may live with them for years to come. 

Covid-19 is a curse, a never wished for thing. However, on the flip side, it definitely has its positive sides.  Lives have been dimmed by the atrocious nature of the pandemic but many more lives have also been made richer.

The question is how does one build on the positives for the better? Pandemics come and go but are we picking up and forging forward with those lemons thrown at us?

****

The writer can be contacted via email at vickywirekoandoh@yahoo.com

News

What beauty parlours reveal about Somali women

I was relaxing in a comfy chair when a woman came at me with a long, sharp knife.

That first time, I was terrified.

Now I am accustomed to ladies approaching me with blades. It is all in the name of beauty.

Carving knives are used in some beauty parlours to scrape dried henna paste off legs, arms and hands, revealing delicate, dainty patterns on the skin that slowly fade away with time.

Whenever I go to the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, my friend Suheyba meets me in the predominantly Somali neighbourhood of Eastleigh – known as “Little Mogadishu”. After a lunch of camel meat, we go for henna.

The last salon we went to was about the size of a cupboard, separated from the bustling street outside by nothing more than a ragged curtain.

Inside, everything feels different.

In communities where women are expected to cover up and keep quiet, beauty parlours are a place for them to breathe and to throw off the trappings of their male-dominated societies.

Sometimes this happens quite literally. On a recent visit, a woman marched into the parlour and declared it was far too hot. She took off her veil, her long dress, her petticoats and all manner of other undergarments including her bra.

Halal dating and cupcake chat

It is the same next door, in Somalia itself, where every woman is covered from head to toe. Plenty wear niqabs which cover the whole face except for the eyes.

Beauty parlour
Mary has henna scraped off her feet

The first time I visited a Somali beauty salon, there was something strange about the woman who opened the door.

It took me a few seconds to register that she was not wearing a hijab, her luxuriant black hair flowing down below her shoulders.

“Oh, take that nonsense off,” she said as soon as I went in, helping me to remove my headscarf and other garments.

When we got down to the bottom layer, a long underskirt, she gathered it up and stuffed it into my knickers so I could walk around without tripping over.

She took me into a room where women and girls lounged around in various states of undress.

Others wore skin-tight jeans and crop tops – usually hidden under their abayas, the long robes they wear in public.

I spent a lovely afternoon there, talking about halal dating, cupcakes and how you have to have a baby pretty much every year if you did not want your husband to find a second wife. Plus, those annual babies should ideally be boys.

Men’s hair dye

The first time I had henna applied in Somalia, the beautician produced a little yellow cardboard box. There was a photo on it of a smiling man with dark hair.

It was men’s hair dye from Indonesia. She tipped it into the henna powder, stirred it in and applied it to my white skin.

Henna on hand
Mary was not impressed with the jet black designs

The result was jet black designs that look great on Somali women’s skin but stark and ferocious on mine. It took months to fade.

And then there is the self-declared republic of Somaliland. One of my favourite things to do when I am in the capital, Hargeisa, is to pile into a rickety taxi with a group of female friends and head for Bella Rosa Day Spa.

It was started by a Somali woman who decided to return home from Canada where she had lived for decades after fleeing civil war.

It is staffed almost entirely by Kenyans. Many spent time working as beauticians in the Gulf.

Some have horror stories of physical and psychological abuse in Dubai and elsewhere. They say that although they are still far from home and the pay is worse, they prefer being in a Somali city.

I learn many things during my beauty salon chats. Therapists and their clients open windows into their lives – their marriages, insecurities, frustrations and moments of joy.

Muslim woman with henna on the hands and arms, Lamu County, Lamu, Kenya on March 2, 2011 in Lamu, Kenya.
Henna is part of the culture of many communities in Africa, Asia and the Middle East

In recent months, the conversation has shifted to politics when I visit my favourite beauty therapist in London.

She is Eritrean and has a tiny salon in a side street in the lively Brixton area.

She tells me how the previously harmonious Ethiopian and Eritrean diaspora in the UK has been torn apart by the war in Ethiopia’s Tigray region in which Eritrean troops are involved. Former friends shun each other depending on their ethnicity.

Knife-wielding fury

But back to the ladies with the knives. Whenever they produce them, I am reminded of another knife-wielding Somali woman whose intent had nothing to do with beauty.

It happened after I interviewed her in the city of Bur’ao. She was sitting in a makeshift shelter in the livestock market stirring food in a big pot. In my report I described her as poor.

When she heard my piece, she was furious. How dare I say she was poor?

She went and found the person who had taken me around the market. When she met him, she drew out a long knife from under her robes and declared that she would use it to kill me if she saw me again.

It is the killings and the three decades of conflict that usually come to people’s minds when they think of Somalia.

It is often described as the world’s most dangerous country. A haven for pirates and suicide bombers.

It did not surprise me that that woman wanted to kill me because I described her as poor. Somalis are fantastically proud.

And it’s that pride that strikes me in the beauty parlours, where elaborate hairstyles and exquisite henna designs are created – then largely hidden under headscarves and long robes.

I hope I will never meet the woman in the livestock market again and that the only knives that come anywhere near me are those used to reveal the beautiful patterns on my skin.

News

What beauty parlours reveal about Somali women

I was relaxing in a comfy chair when a woman came at me with a long, sharp knife.

That first time, I was terrified.

Now I am accustomed to ladies approaching me with blades. It is all in the name of beauty.

Carving knives are used in some beauty parlours to scrape dried henna paste off legs, arms and hands, revealing delicate, dainty patterns on the skin that slowly fade away with time.

Whenever I go to the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, my friend Suheyba meets me in the predominantly Somali neighbourhood of Eastleigh – known as “Little Mogadishu”. After a lunch of camel meat, we go for henna.

The last salon we went to was about the size of a cupboard, separated from the bustling street outside by nothing more than a ragged curtain.

Inside, everything feels different.

In communities where women are expected to cover up and keep quiet, beauty parlours are a place for them to breathe and to throw off the trappings of their male-dominated societies.

Sometimes this happens quite literally. On a recent visit, a woman marched into the parlour and declared it was far too hot. She took off her veil, her long dress, her petticoats and all manner of other undergarments including her bra.

Halal dating and cupcake chat

It is the same next door, in Somalia itself, where every woman is covered from head to toe. Plenty wear niqabs which cover the whole face except for the eyes.

Beauty parlour
Mary has henna scraped off her feet

The first time I visited a Somali beauty salon, there was something strange about the woman who opened the door.

It took me a few seconds to register that she was not wearing a hijab, her luxuriant black hair flowing down below her shoulders.

“Oh, take that nonsense off,” she said as soon as I went in, helping me to remove my headscarf and other garments.

When we got down to the bottom layer, a long underskirt, she gathered it up and stuffed it into my knickers so I could walk around without tripping over.

She took me into a room where women and girls lounged around in various states of undress.

Others wore skin-tight jeans and crop tops – usually hidden under their abayas, the long robes they wear in public.

I spent a lovely afternoon there, talking about halal dating, cupcakes and how you have to have a baby pretty much every year if you did not want your husband to find a second wife. Plus, those annual babies should ideally be boys.

Men’s hair dye

The first time I had henna applied in Somalia, the beautician produced a little yellow cardboard box. There was a photo on it of a smiling man with dark hair.

It was men’s hair dye from Indonesia. She tipped it into the henna powder, stirred it in and applied it to my white skin.

Henna on hand
Mary was not impressed with the jet black designs

The result was jet black designs that look great on Somali women’s skin but stark and ferocious on mine. It took months to fade.

And then there is the self-declared republic of Somaliland. One of my favourite things to do when I am in the capital, Hargeisa, is to pile into a rickety taxi with a group of female friends and head for Bella Rosa Day Spa.

It was started by a Somali woman who decided to return home from Canada where she had lived for decades after fleeing civil war.

It is staffed almost entirely by Kenyans. Many spent time working as beauticians in the Gulf.

Some have horror stories of physical and psychological abuse in Dubai and elsewhere. They say that although they are still far from home and the pay is worse, they prefer being in a Somali city.

I learn many things during my beauty salon chats. Therapists and their clients open windows into their lives – their marriages, insecurities, frustrations and moments of joy.

Muslim woman with henna on the hands and arms, Lamu County, Lamu, Kenya on March 2, 2011 in Lamu, Kenya.
Henna is part of the culture of many communities in Africa, Asia and the Middle East

In recent months, the conversation has shifted to politics when I visit my favourite beauty therapist in London.

She is Eritrean and has a tiny salon in a side street in the lively Brixton area.

She tells me how the previously harmonious Ethiopian and Eritrean diaspora in the UK has been torn apart by the war in Ethiopia’s Tigray region in which Eritrean troops are involved. Former friends shun each other depending on their ethnicity.

Knife-wielding fury

But back to the ladies with the knives. Whenever they produce them, I am reminded of another knife-wielding Somali woman whose intent had nothing to do with beauty.

It happened after I interviewed her in the city of Bur’ao. She was sitting in a makeshift shelter in the livestock market stirring food in a big pot. In my report I described her as poor.

When she heard my piece, she was furious. How dare I say she was poor?

She went and found the person who had taken me around the market. When she met him, she drew out a long knife from under her robes and declared that she would use it to kill me if she saw me again.

It is the killings and the three decades of conflict that usually come to people’s minds when they think of Somalia.

It is often described as the world’s most dangerous country. A haven for pirates and suicide bombers.

It did not surprise me that that woman wanted to kill me because I described her as poor. Somalis are fantastically proud.

And it’s that pride that strikes me in the beauty parlours, where elaborate hairstyles and exquisite henna designs are created – then largely hidden under headscarves and long robes.

I hope I will never meet the woman in the livestock market again and that the only knives that come anywhere near me are those used to reveal the beautiful patterns on my skin.