First Lady Neo Masisi
To you all :Good afternoon, good morning, good evening :depending on where you are located.
1. I am honoured to be with you today, albeit virtually, for the launch of the inaugural virtual De Beers W Summit, being the fifth WSummit to be held. This mode of meeting and interacting forms part of the long list that come with the ‘New Normal ’brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic. The W- Summit continues to be a significant platform that brings together delegates from all over the world ; in it’s own way celebrating and affirming the diversity and talent that exists across the globe ! It is this diversity, particularly as it brings women together , with different stories and perspectives that makes me value these interactions immensely. The Summit is marked as one of the flagship events on my calendar year on year.
Just last year we convened here in Gaborone, in-person, for this very convention. What a delight it was! Who would have thought that a few months later we would be where we are? This is the new normal, we had to pack away all those grand plans we had made and plan afresh! To the De Beers Group and their partner, Botswana’s Ministry of Mineral Resources, Green Technology and Energy Security I appreciate that the COVID-19 pandemic did not deter you from putting up the summit this year !
2. I am pleased to note that we have delegates coming from all corners of the world joining us for the W Summit from the De Beers partner countries of Botswana, Namibia, South Africa, Canada. We also have delegates from the U.S.A, Europe, UK, UAE and South East Asia. Welcome !
3. This women’s forum, has over the years become well known in local and international circles and now noted as one of the most popular events on the social and business events calendar. It attracts a diverse audience, extensive media coverage and social benefits for implementing partners.
4. The primary objective of the W Summit is to:
a. engage and collaborate with women and a few good men, in business and strategic leadership across various sectors and countries;
b. showcase personal, professional and business successes and milestones;
c. provide a networking platform for women in business and strategic leadership to create linkages, alliances and strategic partnerships and
d. provide a safe space where women can talk openly about some of the challenges that we as women experience.
( In a way , a girls club and why not since the men have their own boys clubs !)
5. Looking back at recent months, we read about , we hear about, we experience the harsh Covid-19 pandemic impacts ; the challenges that are being experienced by disadvantaged groups and those most vulnerable in the society have been exacerbated. Women in particular, have felt the most burden during this pandemic. As a citizen of the world, I believe that this requires urgent global intervention. As Maya Angelou said :When you get give, when you learn teach . The world has reached a point where giving , caring and showing compassion to others , has become a compulsory assignment for all of us at the individual level.
6. Bringing all of you together at this Summit is a demonstration of the commitment that corporate citizens such as De Beers Group and others have in supporting : the economic aspirations of Botswana and the need to develop and motivate various segments of the society thus contributing to facilitating solutions for the societal trials that may exist.
7. A prevailing societal trial to cite : recent reports in the media as well as research shared by international organisations indicate how the world is battling the ‘’shadow pandemic’’ of Gender Based Violence (GBV) . The current GBV levels have brought tothe fore the long existing ‘power imbalances’ in our societies.
Sadly , Botswana ranks second highest in the world on rape incidents per 100,000 cases. GBV is not only a blatant violation of human rights, it has consequences for the victims, their families, and nations as a whole. It is for this reason that it has to be tackled and tackled in a speedy manner! Let us also give thought to this “ What is my personal contribution in ending this shadow pandemic ? “
8. If I may share with you , my contribution towards the fight. I embarked on a cycling exercise , taking along Mayors in a number of towns around the country to raise awareness on issues related to GBV and child sexual abuse while also engaging with stakeholders. I deliberately used an unconventional mode in an effort to capture the attention of a wider number of people !
9. As leaders in our respective businesses and locations, we need to use platforms such as these and others which are available to us (social media being a powerful one), to come up with how we can be part of the long term solution. As women, we need to continue to rise in our capacity as leaders in civil society, private sector, public sector and other spheres–to look at how we can help each other thrive in environments where we grow, where we are supported and protected. For most of us 2020 presented a year’s experience like no other in our lifetimes , testing us to the limit! At the same time , I hope for a lot of us it has compelled us to awaken the giants within us ( re Anthony Robbins), tapping deep into our hidden and unknown potential, and bringing about total transformation in our lives. As we do so, let us also take others along with us , especially other women !
10. Women the world over have experienced challenges of many forms and the COVID-19 pandemic, has amplified these challenges and brought them closer to the fore! These being:
a. Women’s access to health care and education;
b. Equality before the law;
c. Gender Based Violence;
d. Cultural norms and traditional practices that undermine women ;
e. Respect of women’s autonomy regarding control of sexual rights
f. Workplace, gender and business inequalities.
11. This ‘virtual room’ hosts many game changers ,women who relish the opportunity to pioneer new ways of thinking , women who are innovative, who challenge the norms that disadvantage those most vulnerable in society. Ladies , use that power and strength to influence and change the world for the better!
12. I am in the presence of people who have been critical to the execution of projects, initiatives or milestones that have turned around organisations and will continue to do so well into the future. I therefore appeal to you to continue in this high performance mode , all this in the spirit of improving the lives of vulnerable groups around the world, particularly those of other women and girls who do not have the same opportunities that you have.
13. With these remarks ladies and gentlemen, it is my honour and privilege to declare the first virtual W Summit officially opened!
14. I appreciate everyone for having taken the time to connect through today. Wishing you all good health , have a safe and happy festive season. And for 2021 , all the best as we all make those drastic shifts to accommodate the new normal in all aspects of our lives !
Thank you. Merci Beaucoup. Shukran.Xiexie