- This is the second annual event since Desmond Tutu passed on in December 2021.
- In the pursuit of gender equality, women are voicing a clear demand for more connected networks and resources.
- Desmond Tutu Legacy Foundation is a South African organization established to uphold the legacy of Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu.
In its thirteenth edition, the annual Desmond Tutu Legacy Foundation event held true to its tradition of honoring the iconic leader, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and his lifetime partner, Leah Tutu.
Niclas Kjellstrom, the Chair of the Legacy Foundation, emphasized this year’s theme, Unlocking Women’s Power for Peace and Prosperity, shedding light on women’s pivotal role in contributing their wisdom to the world.
“The enduring annual theme, beyond ‘peace’ has been ‘women’ because a large number of women have given their wisdom to us; more women should have more prominent roles leading us,” said Kjellstrom in his opening remarks at the conference in Cape Town, South Africa.
The event also honored Tutu’s wife, Leah, on her 90th birthday. Leah was an activist and played a critical role in partnering with her husband in advocating for peace and justice.
This is the second annual event since Desmond Tutu passed on in December 2021.
The annual peace lecture happened at the Cape Town International Convention Centre.
Call for empowering women
Being the keynote speaker, Melinda Gates, a prominent philanthropist, and co-founder of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, delivered a powerful message on the need to empower women for lasting change.
“If we have to create change in this world, we have to work towards change. I believe the only thing that is going to create lasting peace and change on this continent and the world is to empower women everywhere and to make sure they can step into their full power,” she advised.
Gates, currently on a unique journey with former First Lady Michelle Obama and Amal Clooney, emphasized the urgency of addressing lingering issues such as child marriage in Malawi and gender-based violence in South Africa.
She highlighted the plight of young girls being subjected to early marriages and said that the trio would work to stop the harmful practice.
Additionally, she passionately advocated for empowering women as the key to creating lasting peace.
“We know that when there is equality in a country, the country is more peaceful and when a woman has her full power they can contribute to their community,” stated Gates.
Reflecting on her travels and engagements with women leaders, she stressed the importance of women stepping into their full power.
“Gender-based violence silences women and puts them in a state of trauma and disables them from standing back to their power,” she said.
Gates pointed out the correlation between gender equality and peace, noting that countries with gender equality tend to be more peaceful.
“We only have 6% of women mediators at peace-making tables and 9% are female negotiators, but when they are there and their voice is heard, what is codified in those peace treaties is that you get durable and long-lasting peace.
Over a 15-year period, that peace is 35% more likely to stay,” observed Gates.
“We have to make sure we empower the women fully to step into power so they make decisions in their societies, they are equally Members of Parliament or equally on our Senates and are not just recipients of policies,” she added.
Bridging the resource gap
In the pursuit of gender equality, women are voicing a clear demand for more connected networks and resources.
According to Melinda Gates, women recognize the transformative power of these elements and understand how to leverage them for widespread impact.
However, a stark reality persists – the gender community has long been deprived of adequate resources.
Historically, the world has channeled resources predominantly towards men, leaving women’s groups in a perpetual struggle, often competing amongst themselves for the limited resources available.
The result? Women, who are the economic engines of society, find themselves at a disadvantaged level compared to their male counterparts.
“Women want more connected networks. We have starved the gender community of resources; we have resourced things for men for a long time as a world but we have starved women’s groups for resources and so they end up in situations where they are almost competing with one another for resources yet they are the economic engines for society,” she explained.
Startling statistics indicate that despite progress in some areas, true gender equality remains a distant goal – a staggering 300 years away.
“While approximately one in three countries is making strides in gender equality, the majority have hit a roadblock, stalling progress.
This stagnation is not only a missed opportunity for societal advancement but also a proof of the critical need for a comprehensive shift in our approach,” added Gates.
Gates also emphasized that the key to large-scale change is collaboration.
“When people collaborate as governments as civil society that is when we make large scale change and Melinda gates with Michelle Obama and Amal Clooney are talking of collaboration to amass large scale change,” she divulged.
Funding Her Dreams
In the ever-changing landscape of entrepreneurship, unlocking the financial potential of women stands as a transformative move.
Recognizing the untapped wealth of ideas and innovation within women entrepreneurs, the call resounds to break the barriers inhibiting their access to venture capital funding.
“Entrepreneurship is the engine of innovation of society so if we can unlock venture capital funding you would start to see far more businesses that can grow from a small to medium to a large size business,” advised Gates.
She also noted that women have incredible ideas for business, but the venture capital community has been held by men.
She urged young girls and women with business ideas to take advantage of technological advancement and innovation to realize their dreams.
In conclusion, she called on the women in corporate leadership to guide the aspiring young women.
“Give them the first internship, show them the way to get into a network teach them to be proper moral leaders of society as well as potential business leaders,” she concluded.
Championing Legacy: Tutu Foundation
Desmond Tutu Legacy Foundation is a South African organization established to uphold the legacy of Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu.
The Foundation focuses on promoting peace, justice, and human rights.
It was founded in 2011 and strives to preserve the legacy of the Tutus while taking their example into the future by inspiring uncompromised bravery in children, youth activists, change-makers, and thought leaders to building justice and peace across the world.
Since the Peace Lecture was launched with His Holiness the Dalai Lama as the speaker, they have been honored to have an illustrious lineup of speakers from both Africa and beyond, coming from civil society and the public service, both very important sectors in the process of peacebuilding.
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On her birthday, Leah Tutu was honored with ‘The 90 Voices’ exhibition, a collection of stories of 90 women who had contributed in some way, big or small, to South Africa’s liberation.