Africa Prize 2008 Conference Call to Launch the Event

June 19, 2008 with Jill Lester


Hello everyone! I'm very pleased to be with you all on this call! As you know, this will be my first Fall Event and I can't even begin to tell you how excited I am.

I understand that our Fall Events are always powerful and inspiring. I am looking forward to being with each and every one of you, and, of course, everyone you bring, during the Africa Prize weekend.

What I want to accomplish on this call is to share with you my excitement and enthusiasm that we will be honoring leadership critical to Africa's future. By the end of this call, I hope that we will all be ready, willing, and, indeed, impatient to reach out to everyone we know, in every way we can, to seek their active participation with us in New York for the weekend of October 18 and 19.

The Fall Event has many important objectives:

  • Above all, of course, to honor leadership in Africa.
  • To have you reconnect with your Hunger Project family, celebrate the true partnership The Hunger Project has with grassroots people, and recommit to our overarching objective of a world free from hunger, where everyone has personal dignity and choice. And, with the world food crisis threatening the livelihoods of many grassroots people, our mission to end hunger and poverty is more important than ever.
  • To give you the opportunity to share what you care about and love passionately-your Hunger Project-with your friends, family and colleagues.
  • To create openings for new and increased investment to enable us to expand our work and reach across the world.
  • And, to celebrate our humanity-our relatedness with one another.

About the 2008 Africa Prize

As you know, the Africa Prize for Leadership for the Sustainable End of Hunger was designed as a strategic intervention-to honor and shine a spotlight on the African leadership required for Africa's development.

What do we mean by leadership? We mean great courage, vision and commitment to the well-being of the African people.

This year, we have chosen to celebrate Civil Society Leadership for the Empowerment of Women. Put more simply, we are seeking to honor community leaders, either individuals or organizations, who work tirelessly and selflessly to empower African women.

When we talk about civil society we are talking about: nongovernmental organizations-just like The Hunger Project, faith-based groups, grassroots organizations-such as Wangari Maathai's Greenbelt Movement, civic groups-like the League of Women Voters, labor unions, professional associations and philanthropic foundations.

For me, what is so moving about civil society is that ordinary people come together-driven by their passion, commitment and care-to create extraordinary changes.

We want to honor civil society's role in empowering women because of the phenomenal success it is having in organizing women, and advocating and providing opportunities for their voices to be heard.

Rural African women are among the world's most productive people as food producers, processors and marketers. But, they are also mothers, daughters and wives, who are responsible for the health, nutrition and well-being of their families. Day in and day out, they work every waking hour. Despite this, they go largely unsupported, unrecognized for their efforts, and denied their basic rights.

Many events and meetings I've participated in over the past several weeks have focused on today's world food crisis. Whilst this is in the news, the severe impact that this is having on women is not. Millions around the world eat twice a day. Many women eat only once. And, many of them are already going without even that one meal a day to ensure their children are fed. These women are already suffering the effects of even more severe malnutrition, which inevitably will also be the fate of their unborn babies.

The effects of this crisis will be with us for many years. But, it needn't be that way. The Hunger Project has a sustainable solution: to support and empower the African women food farmers who grow most of the food for household consumption. We know that when women are supported and empowered, all of society benefits. Their families are healthier, more children go to school, agricultural productivity improves and incomes increase. In short, communities become more resilient.

Therefore, our decision to celebrate, honor and acknowledge Civil Society Leadership for the Empowerment of Women this year is absolutely right for these difficult times.

About the Africa Prize Weekend

Now, I would like to take a moment to let you know what's planned so far for the Africa Prize weekend.

We have a new jury-which includes former laureates of the Africa Prize; the former Prime Minister of Tanzania; the Director of the African Centre for Gender and Development, a division of the UN's Economic Commission for Africa; and the Australian federal government's Sex Discrimination Commissioner.

The invitation-both a formal paper invite and an electronic version-is one you will be proud to send to your invitees and keep on your mantelpiece.

And, here's what's in store for the ceremony....

From the moment you enter the ballroom you will be transported into rural Africa. You will feel you are at an epicenter celebration, with over 1,000 people gathered together. Can you hear the drums? The singing? What about all the dancing? The gorgeous colors everywhere? The children smiling and waving? The feeling of being totally alive? Can you sense the overwhelming pride? Do you feel the warmth? The exuberance? The uninhibited celebration? These are some of the emotions, feelings and memories we are aiming to recreate.

For me-the one word that encompasses all this is: JOY! Joy of life...Joy of accomplishment...Joy of freedom from hunger, discrimination and lack of choice.

Another exciting and new element is that for the first time ever, the winner will not be known until we make the announcement the night of the event!

And, then, what would a celebration of this magnitude be without world-class entertainment?!?

Personally, I am looking forward to bringing you and your guests a glimpse into the future of The Hunger Project.

And there's more! On Sunday afternoon, we will unveil a new event which will enable, for the first time ever, Global Board Members, Country Directors, staff and investor-activists from throughout the world to be together, either in person or virtually. We are planning this Annual General Meeting to be a very substantive, interactive and participative forum to bring our Hunger Project family closer together.

I want to stress why it is so important for me and The Hunger Project that you, and everyone you know, be in New York in October.

Your attendance will send powerful messages to the world:

  • First, that civil society has a critical role to play in the empowerment of Africa's women.
  • Secondly, that women's empowerment everywhere must be central to the international development approach.
  • And, third, that civil society is the very embodiment of self-reliance in action.

With your attendance and visible support, civil society will receive greater clout, prominence and empowerment.

Everyone at the event in New York will have the opportunity to:

  • Remind themselves, afresh, of the critical issues facing our world.
  • Discover, and, for some, rediscover The Hunger Project.
  • Invest in this wonderful movement, and, for current investors, to expand the limits of their philanthropy.
  • And, for you, the investor-activist, reenergize your activism, deepen your commitment, and feel, again, the inspiration of being part of The Hunger Project.

By seizing this opportunity, we will raise more money than ever before, broaden our investor base and chart a new course for our future.

Leadership for Self-reliance

Although the excitement already seems off and running, this is a great segue for me to officially launch the Africa Prize fundraising campaign.

The fundraisers have devised a fresh, new campaign to challenge us on a completely different level. Their chosen theme is: Leadership for Self-reliance.

The words "leadership" and "self-reliance" are two of our cornerstones. They are epitomized in the many women, men and children I have met so far. In particular, I was thinking about the women leaders who spoke at an epicenter inauguration I attended in Ghana. These women leaders spoke about their newfound power, their pride in developing their skills and the opportunities of having, for the first time ever, access to credit.

With great confidence, they told me how they are now sending their children-girls and boys-to school, how pleased they are to get their children immunized, and how they can provide their families with nutritious meals each and every day. These were truly phenomenal women who, when mobilized and empowered, end hunger and poverty, not only for themselves, but for their children and communities.

This is, above all, why I hold The Hunger Project as a precious gift, as a treasure. Who could fail to be inspired by our investors, activists, staff, volunteers and, of course, our grassroots partners, throughout the world? We are producing incredible results, but more must and needs to be done.

So, come to the event! Bring your friends! Bring your family. I can't wait to see you all and celebrate together!