Newswise — Wellesley, Mass. (March 8, 2018)—Wellesley College, widely recognized as the world’s premier college for women, will present The African Women’s Leadership Conference, a first-of-its-kind gathering in the United States of some of the most influential voices in African women’s leadership—from education and politics to health and technology, entertainment, and the law. With more than 200 individuals in attendance, the conference presents a transformative opportunity for the next generation of African women leaders in the United States to meet and exchange the ideas that will move their countries and the world forward. 

Keynote speakers include Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, President of Liberia (2006–2018) and Nobel laureate; Kenyan educator and social activist, Kakenya Ntaiya; Kansiime Anne, Ugandan comedian and actress who has been dubbed “Africa’s Queen of Comedy”; and Agnes Binagwaho, vice chancellor of the University of Global Health Equity, who led the way in addressing chronic disease in Rwanda as the nation’s former health minister. Joey Cole ’99, senior producer for MSNBC Live with Hallie Jackson, will emcee.

Organized in collaboration with the Mastercard Foundation, this timely and important conference will expand our understanding of the many ways African women leaders are transforming their communities and their countries. The event aims to advance thought leadership and provide opportunities to learn from the women who are making a difference across Africa and around the world. In lectures, breakout sessions, and informal discussions, attendees will explore what women’s leadership looks like through the lens of four key leadership competencies—confidence, creativity, courage, and resilience—leading to a deeper appreciation of the challenges African women leaders face and offering productive strategies for addressing them.

Paula A. Johnson, President of Wellesley College, said that in envisioning the conference, Wellesley was guided by “a deep belief in the women of Africa and all that they have accomplished—and how they are inspiring the next generation.” She said, “By presenting the African Women’s Leadership Conference on International Women’s Day, Wellesley honors the limitless potential of women to change and shape our world—from the unsung women who safeguard and strengthen families and communities, to the more public leaders who span every field, to all the women who create, communicate and organize—women who seek a new world in ways large and small. To me, this is what International Women’s Day—and every day—should recognize, along, of course, with the essential rights and dignity of all women, everywhere.”

Highlighted Events (Please note: The three keynote talks are free and open to the public; guests may register online on the conference website. Although registration for the full two-day conference is full, all events will be available via livestream at To request media credentials, please email [email protected].)

Thursday, March 8 (International Women’s Day)

  • 1:15 pm to 3 pm - Agnes Binagwaho, vice chancellor of the University of Global Health Equity presents the keynote talk, “The Challenges Faced by African Women Leaders in the Health Sector.” Wellesley President Paula Johnson will moderate the talk.
  • 3:15 pm to 5 pm - Playwright and Wellesley 2006 alumna, Mfoniso Udofia, presents “Creating Movement: African Women’s Bodies in the American Theatre.”
  • 6:30 pm to 7:30 pm - Keynote speaker Kakenya Ntaiya presents “Empowering Girls, Transforming Communities: My Journey to Live a Bold Vision for Change.”

  • 7:45 pm to 8:30 pm, Kansiime Anne gives a comedy performance, titled "I am Kansiime" 

Friday, March 9

  • 11:30 am to 1:15 pm - Hauwa Ibrahim, International Human Rights and Shariah Law Attorney presents “Mothers Without Borders: Steering Youth Away from Violent Extremism
  • 3:45 to 4:45 pm – Keynote talk with E. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, President of Liberia (Jan 2006-Jan 2018), moderated by Paula Johnson, President Wellesley College 

About Wellesley College’s Partnership with the MasterCard Foundation

In 2012, Wellesley College became the first liberal arts college to partner with the newly developed Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program. This program helps academically talented, economically disadvantaged young people, primarily from Africa, attend Wellesley at no cost to them. In addition to a comprehensive scholarship that includes tuition, books and supplies, and room and board, Mastercard Foundation Scholars are trained in 21st-century skills, provided transition assistance such as mentoring and leadership development, and are connected with internships, volunteer opportunities, and other career opportunities.

This conference—the first of its kind for any of the schools that partner with the Mastercard Foundation—will open up opportunities for Scholars as well as other Wellesley community members to interact with and learn from leading advocates for African women’s leadership.

About the Mastercard Foundation 

The Mastercard Foundation works with visionary organizations to provide greater access to education, skills training and financial services for people living in poverty, primarily in Africa. As one of the largest private foundations, its work is guided by its mission to advance learning and promote financial inclusion to create an inclusive and equitable world. Based in Toronto, its independence was established by Mastercard when the Foundation was created in 2006. For more information, please visit Follow the Foundation at @MastercardFdn on Twitter.

About Wellesley College
Since 1875, Wellesley College has been a leader in providing an outstanding liberal arts education for women who will make a difference in the world. Its 500-acre campus near Boston is home to some 2,400 undergraduate students from 49 states and 58 countries.

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