Bineta Diop : “Let’s stop talking about micro-credit for women!”

Bineta Diop, staunch Senegalese political activist, President of Femmes Africa Solidarités (FAS), is the African Union (AU) Special Envoy for Women, Peace and Security. It is for this reason that she advocates for the creation of a fund intended to fund women entrepreneurs’ projects. And the process is running…

You participated in the second edition of the African Women Leaders Network, organized in partnership with the African Union and the United Nations, which was held from April 24 to 28 in Addis Ababa. The one that should propose a particular project: the creation of a fund for women entrepreneurs of the continent?

Exactly! We have set up six projects, six thrusts, which are part of the AU Agenda 2063 and 2030. What is important to us is to put up projects that we can monitor. We are identifying projects and main stakeholders capable of carrying the out and we do the monitoring. The first thrust, is finance. Whenever we ask women what they need, they talk about access to funding. We have therefore asked the United Nations and the Economic Commission for Africa, which have ties with the banks and actors in the world economy, to give us a framework (of work?). Our target next year is to ensure access to finance for 1,000 women entrepreneurs, for example $ 100 million.

Does this funding include some key sectors?

With support from the African Union and the United Nations, we are establishing this funding mechanism for women in the private sector. This fund for women leaders in Africa will be multi-sectoral with a particular focus on rural areas. When it comes to women, we mainly talk about micro-credit, but this approach is outdated. Micro-credit is always for women and credit for men. We remove the term micro to talk about credit for women!

What is the second thrust of your action?

Women’s participation in political parties. They are appointed ministers but they are not integrated in political parties. From now on, political parties which do not give place to the women by not calling to vote for them should be punished.

You are an activist from the very beginning of the cause of African women. You have led numbers of fights, and won many victories. But the war is far from over…

We are campaigning so that Africa to put young people and women at the center of its development. Today everyone, politicians, analysts, academics, all stakeholders, including women and young people, agree on this point. It is obvious. The African people really need to take ownership of the leadership of their continent. On the other hand, in conflict situations, women should not only be seen as victims. They must be present throughout the process of mediation, resolution and post-conflict reconstruction. We need women in the army and the police as guardians of peace. In the same way, we must ensure that women are present at all levels of governance. In all areas, agriculture, business, politics, we must see women leaders. The last woman president, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, is no longer in office. Africa has 54 countries today: but where are the women? Hence the importance that they are now much more involved in political parties. That is why we organized the African Women Leaders Network last April. The exchanges brought out two strong messages: a call to action and the end of speeches. We have taken this demand of women into account in this second edition.

Are you therefore determined to impose on current leaders the measures adopted in Addis Ababa, in particular the creation of a fund intended to fund women entrepreneurs. How are you planning to proceed?

We will deploy them through advocacy but also actions in the field. In the area of agriculture for example, we have seen countries such as Morocco develop this sector (since when? In two years? Which crops?). We are working with the OCP group on this aspect. We also have the support of political actors such as former President of Nigeria Olusegun Obasandjo, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Hame and former President of Liberia, Ellen Sirleaf. We also get support from the African Union and the United Nations, because these organizations have the power to mobilize funders, media,… but we will also run campaign on the ground. For instance, on the issue of early child marriage, we must go and discuss with traditional and religious leaders.

You also focus your approaches on the new African generation!

We, African women of all sides, must organize exchanges with young people; discuss issues that are related to them and how we can set up mentoring programs. Especially for girls who suffer more discrimination than boys. We must ensure that women and young people are accompanied, supported, coached, passed on our knowledge and experience. This youth also has a lot to teach us. In terms of new technologies, they master them much better than us. Besides, young Africans can help us transform our continent and minds and to ensure that women are no longer relegated to the lowest ranks.