The ILC 2020 organized by UPF of Africa and UPF of Europe and the Middle East dedicated its sixth session to “Perspectives from Current and Former First Ladies and Women Leaders.”
The webinar was held on September 12, 2020, by the International Association of First Ladies for Peace (IAFLP), an association that is part of the Universal Peace Federation as a project of the International Summit Council for Peace.
The session was hosted by the Women’s Federation for World Peace International, an organization that is affiliated with UPF.
The title of the session was “Toward a New Paradigm of Women’s Leadership and Cooperation in Response to Global Crises.”
Mrs. May Sako Gaye, National TV news presenter, Côte d'Ivoire
Mrs. Gaye is an Ivorian journalist and news anchor at the national radio and television, RTI. She studied English and Communication techniques at the university of Abidjan. She previously served as a journalist and news anchor at the South African broadcasting corporation, SABC (2006-2010), and as a content specialist during the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa.
The moderator was Mrs. May Sacko Gaye from Côte d'Ivoire, a national TV news presenter.
The speakers were:
Mrs. Carolyn Handschin-Moser, vice-president of WFWP International (Europe and Middle East)
Dr. Julia Moon, president of WFWP International
Mrs. Vera Tembo Chiluba, first lady of the Republic of Zambia (1991-2001)
Hon. Driss Senda, advisor to the president of the Republic of Congo
Hon. Dr. Nadia Al-Sakkaf, former editor in chief of the Yemen Times
Hon. Dr. Olga Bogomolets, a member of Parliament (2014-2018), Ukraine
Mrs. Susan Kone, vice-president of WFWP International (Africa)
Mrs. Carolyn Handschin-Moser, Vice President, Women’ Federation for World Peace International (Europe and Middle East)
Carolyn is currently the Vice President of the NGO Committee on the Status of Women at the United Nations in Geneva. She is Vice- President of Women’s Federation for World Peace, International (www.wfwp.org), overseeing program development throughout the 22 National Chapters in Europe. She is the Director of the WFWPI Office for United Nations Relations globally and has led their advocacy team at the United Nations in Geneva for 26 years, She guides the leadership and advocacy training of young women and men in the WFWPI-UN Internship Program in Geneva (2005-now) and remains active as Co-founder and program director of the “GIIA Model UN Interreligious Youth Council” Program (2009- now).
Mrs. Carolyn Handschin, the vice president for Europe of WFWPI, gave the opening remarks. She noted that in preparing for this ILC, women in Africa, Europe and the Middle East, through listening and considering others’ situation, successfully transcended barriers, built bridges and produced something better than they could have done separately.
Mrs. Handschin observed that UPF co-founder Dr. Hak Ja Han Moon, as the wife of a spiritual peace leader, learned what it is to be in a supportive role. From that experience Mother Moon came to understand the value and potential of that position, while gaining and developing wisdom and a heart of concern for others, as well as many leadership skills.
Mrs. Handschin gave the example of the first lady of the South Pacific island nation of Palau, who uses her influence, mind, heart and time to promote awareness about environmental issues and to train the youth to engage in projects related to the environment.
Mrs. Handschin said it is the vision of IAFLP to create a network of solidarity at the highest levels, bringing greater empowerment to the grassroots, that can influence decisions and attitudes as a new paradigm of leadership and a peace culture.
Dr. Julia Moon, President, WFWP International
Julia Moon has been serving as Director General of Universal Ballet since 1996 and is Vice Chairwoman of the Sun Hak Educational Foundation, responsible for the administration of Sun Hwa Arts Middle and High Schools and five other schools in Seoul, as well as Co-Artistic Director of the Kirov Academy of Ballet of Washington, DC, and of Universal Ballet Academy in Seoul. In 2010, she was awarded the Order of Cultural Merit Hwakwan by the Korean government, in 2012 ISPA / International Society for the Performing Arts’ International Citation of Merit, in 2017 Sejong Culture Award by the Korean Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism and in 2018 Seoul City Culture Award. She was appointed as a president of Women’s Federation for World Peace International in 2019.
Dr. Julia Moon, the president of the Women’s Federation for World Peace International, began by saying how honored she was to participate in this session together with first ladies and prominent women leaders from Europe, the Middle East and Africa. She also recognized the excellent work that the Universal Peace Federation has been doing to develop the International Association of First Ladies for Peace. She explained that the founders of UPF and WFWP, who are affectionately called Father and Mother Moon, worked for 50 years with one single-minded purpose—namely to build a world of lasting peace. Since the passing of Father Moon in 2012, Mother Moon has shouldered the burden of “bringing to fruition all the seeds planted by her husband as they established organizations in every field of human endeavor.”
Reminding us of the IAFLP goals, Dr. Moon called for unity and solidarity in response to today´s challenges, invoking the UPF vision of interdependence, mutual prosperity and universal values. She explained that these are no longer a choice but the only way forward if we are to overcome the many threats that we face.
Dr. Moon pointed to the recent tragedies in Lebanon, Belarus and Africa and to the world COVID-19 pandemic. In closing, she quoted Mother Moon: “Upon maternal love and affection, the world of the future can be a world of reconciliation and peace. The time has come for the power of women to save the world.”
Mrs. Vera Tembo Chiluba, Former First Lady of Republic of Zambia
Former First Lady, Vera T. Chiluba, is the wife to the 2nd Republican President, Frederick T. J. Chiluba from 1991-2001. She has diploma in Public Speaking, She was member of Parliament of Kasenengwa Constituency from 2006 to 2011. She pursued political career of her own, becoming Multiparty Movement for Democracy (MMD) Chairperson for Women's Affairs. She was appointed as a Deputy Minister of Environment in 2006. She formed Hope Foundation in 1994 because she has a passion for looking after children. She has since taken up pastoral ambitions, establishing the Healing International Ministry. She is a Peace Ambassador and attended several of UPF International conferences in Korea.
Ms. Verocia Kaimba Chiluba began by expressing her appreciation for the opportunity to participate in the webinar on behalf of her mother, and conveyed greetings from the former First Lady to the audience and read her speech.
Mrs. Vera Tembo Chiluba, a former first lady of the Republic of Zambia, member of Parliament of Kasenengwa Constituency, chairperson for women's affairs and deputy minister of environment, reminded the audience of the difficult time that the world is facing with a global pandemic. She urged a global response focusing on the concept of humankind in which race, religion or nationality should not divide us and said we should find a common ground, turning interdependence into the norm.
Those who have been blessed with positions that allow them to give a voice to the voiceless should be encouraged to take meaningful action toward change, Mrs. Tembo said. There must be a shift in the narrative, we must begin to change, and change begins with us, she said.
The former first lady called for change in the way in which women perceive themselves, arguing that traditional stereotypes should be left behind. Women should realize and appreciate their potential, she said, because, given the chance, they will rise to the occasion. She gave the example of how women during the pandemic have taken on the roles of teachers and providers for the community. She also mentioned that countries run by women have systematically and strategically dealt better with the pandemic. To conclude her inspirational and driven speech, Mrs. Tembo declared that the dark times in which we are living must be seen as an opportunity to accelerate the empowerment of women as the great achievers and multitaskers that they are.
Senator Driss Senda, Chairman UPF, Republic of Congo
Former Editor-in-Chief of the magazine African Geopolitics (2002-2008), Driss Senda is a doctoral student in organisational leadership at the Impact-Institute of Leadership & International Development (University). A journalist and literary critic, he is an Advisor to the President of the Republic of Congo since 2011 and Founder and Director of Publication of the African Geostrategy magazine from 2019. Edem Kodjo, former Secretary General of the AU and former Prime Minister of Togo, his godfather, has had a very great influence on him and shaped him to the pan-Africanism for which he has become a great Apostle. He believes in Africa, in pan-Africanism and in the Federation of the United States of Africa. Driss Senda is currently the Chairman of the Universal Peace Federation in Congo. He is a Commander in the Congolese Order of Merit.
Hon. Driss Senda, an advisor to the president of the Republic of Congo and the president of UPF in his nation, said that in light of the current global crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, women are now faced with unprecedented challenges. However, the crisis also highlights the role of women in society, particularly in decision-making, where women take a more comprehensive view resulting in better outcomes. Representing 50 percent of the population, women’s input is invaluable.
Mr. Senda emphasized that women should no longer be marginalized or seen as victims. Taboos of the past should be erased, he said, and women should be enabled to serve in key roles in society, both practically and spiritually—for example, through advising political leaders. This should become more apparent in the aftermath of the pandemic, he said.
He also mentioned the crucial role of women in peacebuilding and their ability to create space for exchange and dialogue while serving as agents of change, peace and goodwill, noting that the platforms of the IAFLP and WFWP support such roles. Finally, he reinforced the message that, to face the current challenges, words must be followed by actions through using our unique skills and modern technology. In conclusion, he pointed to the vision of UPF co-founder Dr. Hak Ja Han Moon, whose ambition is the realization of universal peace.
Dr. Nadia Al-Sakkaf, First Woman Minister of Information, Yemen, Editor in Chief - The Yemen Times, Yemen
Dr Nadia Al-Sakkaf is a researcher with special interests in media, democratic transitions, gender and development. She was Yemen’s first female information minister and the only female chief editor of a national independent media establishment in Yemen, the Yemen Times. She co-founded and is co-director of Jusoor Media Co. a Yemeni media organisation aiming at promoting professional and independent media. As an advocate for rights and freedoms, Al-Sakkaf is recognised internationally and consequently is a recipient of several international awards.
Dr. Nadia Al-Sakkaf became Yemen’s first female minister of information in 2014 and was previously editor in chief of the Yemen Times.
She began her speech with the following riddle, “A father and a son were in a car crash. The father died, and the son was rushed to the hospital. At the hospital the surgeon stopped and shouted, ‘That is my son.’ Who was the surgeon?” The response was confusion, so Dr. Al-Sakkaf explained that the surgeon was the boy's mother and the reason why we did not realize that sooner was due to our deep-rooted prejudices whereby we continue to associate the male gender with certain professions. That is why, for example, we say, “Madam President” and not just “President.” She explained that in Arabic, the situation would be different, since it is a more gendered language. This is one of the reasons why she loves Arabic and also why she decided to learn Spanish, also a language with gender differentiation, she said.
Dr. Al-Sakkaf explained that she wanted to work toward improving the visibility of women’s achievements and demystifying the idea that women are averse to holding certain professional positions. She pointed out that women tend to be perfectionists and are often not comfortable committing to something that they do not feel 110 percent capable of doing, unlike men who are content to learn on the job.
To conclude her passionate speech, Dr. Al-Sakkaf urged the public to join her on her quest to make this decade the decade of women’s empowerment. She challenged everyone to contemplate how they would complete the following sentence: “This is the time for women to become___.”
Hon. Dr. Olga Bogomolets, Member of Parliament (2014-2019), Ukraine
Hon Dr. Olga Bolgomolets was a Member of Ukrainian Parliament and Chairman of the Parliamentary Health Care Commission (2014- 2018). She was a Candidate for the Presidency in 2014. She was the personal physician of the former Ukrainian President, and as well, Counsellor to the President on Humanitarian Issues. She is an Honoured Doctor of Ukraine, the founder and chief doctor of the Institute of Dermatology and Cosmetology. with over 25 years of extensive professional research, clinical and teaching experience in dermato-oncology.
Hon. Dr. Olga Bogomolets, a former advisor on humanitarian issues to the Ukrainian president, spoke briefly of the tragic consequences of war as experienced by the thousands of widows and orphans in her homeland. She referred to her period of frontline service to the military as a medical doctor and her unsuccessful bid to become Ukraine’s president. Undaunted by her defeat in politics, she determined to move on, as she was convinced that there are opportunities for women to lead where kindness will prevail over conflict. She spoke of four steps for women to effect change, namely: communicate, plan, act together and analyze results. She urged women to work to end ecological problems and war and promote peace and love to save the planet earth, our common home.
Mrs. Susan Kone, Vice-President, Women’ Federation for World Peace International (Africa)
Mrs. Susan Kone is a Kenyan –born Lady with a background of Social Work and Community development. In 2010 she was appointed as the Chairperson of the Women`s Federation for World Peace, Kenya chapter and thereafter as the WFWP International Vice President for Africa. In 2012 the chapter received recognition from the Founder Dr Hak Ja Han Moon and received an Excellence Award for service for Peace activities and for initiating Women Empowerment projects. She advocates for Women involvement in Peace Building and reconciliation. She is a Master of Martial Arts and is a Black belt 3rd dan in the World Unified Martial Arts (TIMD). She is currently the IAFLP Coordinator in Africa.
The closing remarks were offered by Mrs. Susan Kone, the vice president of WFWP International for Africa and the coordinator for IAFLP in Africa.
Mrs. Kone stressed the role of women in supporting and complementing their husbands, brothers and fathers in their roles. She referred to the global spread of the COVID-19 virus, originating in China, reminding us of our common destiny.
She emphasized the need for dialogue, noting that isolation has no place in the world. The foundation of the IAFLP by Dr. Hak Ja Han Moon has provided a platform for such dialogue and exchange of ideas, and Mrs. Kone hoped that such dialogue will enable us to apply best practices to save the planet which is our common home. She encouraged further similar discussions on relevant topics, followed by action. She further emphasized women’s and men’s complementary roles.
Mrs. Kone concluded her remarks by referring to Mahatma Gandhi, reminding us of the sentiment: “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”