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Source: Daily Observer
A three-day high-level international Girls Leading Our World (GLOW) Leadership Conference for 30 Gambians and 10 African-American teenage leaders ended Saturday evening with a banquet at the Kairaba Beach Hotel in Kololi where participants were presented with awards.

Hosted by the United States-based 'Women Empowering Nations' and its Gambian partner, 'Side By Side Organisation' The Gambia, the conference availed these prospective young leaders the opportunity to explore social change, economic justice, women's empowerment and leadership. The conference also offered them the opportunity to listen and learn from the experiences of a host of inspiring women leaders and build relationships beyond borders.

The Women Empowering Nations (WEN), founded by Carlisha Williams, is dedicated to the advancement of girls and women through self-esteem development, educational and leadership outreach programmes. WEN's vision is to be a primary resource for inspiring, supporting and connecting female leaders so that they grow in a capacity to lead and serve.

The conference further helped young girls to understand the society they live in, identify and analyse solutions for social development, and build life skills for important choices in their daily lives.

Deputising for the vice president and minister of Women's Affairs, the deputy speaker of the National Assembly, Honourable Fatou Mbye, who doubles as the chairperson of the National Women's Council hailed the organisers for the initiative.

She opined that investing in education is the single most effective means of reducing poverty. "Education not only has the power to eradicate poverty, but also girls with education are proven to have better health and higher self-esteem. Organisations like Women Empowering Nations provide young women with the opportunities to use their education to lead, pursue their dreams and empower their families, communities and nations," she remarked.

The deputy speaker said after participating in several activities and hearing from a host of inspiring women leaders, it is her conviction that the girls who explored social change, economic justice, women empowerment and leadership, built relationships beyond borders and left inspired to be the change that they wish to see in this world.

Madam Mbye went on: "It is often said that education empowers girls by building up their confidence and enabling them to make informed decision about their lives. For those of us who attend conferences such as this, that statement may seem to be a university degree, income or career fulfillment.

The deputy speaker used the opportunity to thank the Gambian leader for his continuous support to the empowerment of girls and women through education, saying the country is lucky to have him as its leader. Educational empowerment, she added is beyond monetary gains, noting that it is about escaping the trap of child labour or the perils of going into the labour of child birth. She further indicated that it is about managing pregnancies so that they do not threaten one's health or even life. "Around the world, women are becoming key players in social development policy. We must therefore, as young leaders stay informed and connected," she urged.

She commended WEN for its partnership with Side By Side, saying this partnership shows that they are bridging the gap between the Gambia and African-Americans.

The deputy speaker however reiterated the need for the participants to stay connected and use their education to influence and enhance the lives of others. She finally congratulated the minister of Foreign Affairs on her prestigious award.

On her part, Carlisha Williams, said that the past few days had actually been a dream come true, while recalling that WEN started in July 2009. "As an educator in United States, I believe that it is importance for young people not just hearing about things around the world, but actually having that experience, defined stereotypes and many things that have broken the African and African Americans for years and years. So it is a dream come true to see young women build relationship beyond borders, differences and cultural backgrounds," she remarked.

The WEN founder further asserted that these experiences have made her grow as a leader, continue to bring more and more young women together, anchored in the spirit that it is through such experience that their future would change. Young girls, Williams noted are the voices and hopes of this generation and that we must invest in their talents and potentials. The national coordinator of Side By Side Organisation The Gambia, Hatab Fadera, also an editor for the Daily Observer newspaper, said his organisation was proud to be associated with this great conference given the fact that it has shared a common vision with Women Empowering Nations. "I am pleased to inform this gathering that Side By Side has put great emphasis on education and women empowerment in its new three-year strategic plan. We have done so because we strongly believe that education is a key part of strategies to improve individuals' well-being and societies' economic and social development," he stated.

Fadera further underscored the importance of education, citing a number of international conventions such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Programme of Action of the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development, the Fourth World Conference on Women, held in Beijing in 1995, the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which have all articulated that.

He maintained that it is in this light that his organisation seeks partnership with the Women Empowering Nations to collectively address issues of empowerment, as well as those that serve as impediments to the growth and development of young girls and women. This sort of partnership, he said, is necessary for the attainment of the set goals.

He expressed their appreciation to WEN for the trust and confidence reposed on them. "Since at the preparatory stage of this conference a while ago, members of my organisation have been relentless in their quest to making sure that GLOW Leadership Conference becomes successful. They gave their best to this initiative, and without hesitation, their selfless services have contributed immensely to the success of this conference. We are proud of our partnership because this is what is needed between organisations from different continents," he further remarked.

Fadera finally saluted the 10 African-Americans and 30 Gambian teenage leaders for their effective participation in the three-day conference, saying "they have indeed demonstrated that they are prospective leaders who can effect positive changes in their societies."

WEN's appreciation to SBSO In a separate but related development, the Women Empowering Nations also presented a beautifully designed award to its Gambian partner, Side By Side Organisation The Gambia for its great contribution and participation to the 2013 Girls Leading Our World Leadership Conference.

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