IN THE NEWS
U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Nadja West (left), the Joint Staff surgeon, speaks with Brig. Gen. Briame Diop from Senegal during the 2015 Gender Mainstreaming Seminar in Arusha, Tanzania, May 20. U.S Army Africa co-hosted the conference, with the Tanzanian Peoples Defense Force, in an effort to frame the importance of gender mainstreaming and promote equality throughout the region. (U.S. Army Africa photo by Staff Sgt. Brian Kimball)
By Staff Sgt. Maria Bowman for U.S. Army Africa Public Affairs
ARUSHA, Tanzania – “Leadership is an essential component to successful gender integration,” said Michael Conteh, a professor from Michigan State University.
Conteh, a speaker at the 2015 Gender Mainstreaming seminar in Arusha, Tanzania, elaborated on the idea that good leadership is a vital component to attaining gender equality.
“Leadership is about influencing people to achieve an objective that is important to the leader, the group and the organization,” Conteh said. “A leader is a person who has a vision, and the drive and commitment to achieve that mission.
“Leadership,” Conteh said, “is about leading, motivating and inspiring others.”
The Gender Mainstreaming seminar is a week-long event that brought together 17 nations to discuss their successes and challenges, while coming up with solutions on how to bring about change.
The first day of the seminar focused on gender integration policies, while day two had many speakers who spoke about positive and proactive leadership and how it is essential to successful integration efforts.
During panel discussion, Brig. Gen. Birame Diop, chief of staff of the Senegal Air Force, talked about using the strengths of both men and women to make their societies stronger.
“I have traveled through many African countries and have discovered that our future and the continent will depend on the way we handle this gender mainstreaming,” said Diop. “In a society, whenever you have man and woman performing at their best, you will have results that are better; society gets smarter and you improve the collective intelligence.”
Diop encouraged the panel attendees to start implementing change at home with their families. He said how children are treated at home will reflect when they join the military.
“If you look at the family level, you will see that if you create the conditions for the girls and boys to interact in a harmonious way, the family gets better,” said Diop.
“This is true at the national level,” said Diop. “You cannot be fully operational if you are not making sure your men and women are not living harmoniously and performing at their best.”
Dr. Michelle Nel, from the Military Science Academy of South Africa, said her country has facilitated a change of attitude amongst the ranks and brought about understanding of gender matters by having special training as part of their programs, beginning with basic military training.