Newsroom

October 19, 1999

7th Annual Sub-Saharan Africa Symposium to Take Place at Middlebury College on Oct. 28-29 -- "Gender and Leadership in Africa: What Direction Will African Women Take in the New Millennium?"

Praise for the African film to be screened at the symposium, "Women with Open Eyes:" "It takes courage to see the true condition of women in the world and to speak out about it. Courage and a strong stomach. The women in this film possess the necessary radical vision that neither romanticizes nor renders remote the obvious consequences of female enslavement."--Alice Walker, author of "The Color Purple"

Middlebury College's seventh annual Sub-Saharan Africa Symposium, titled "Gender and Leadership in Africa: What Direction Will African Women Take in the New Millennium?," will be held Oct. 28-29. All events are free and open to the public.

"This year's topic will focus on an often overlooked element of African culture and politics and its strong female leaders," said Negar Ashtari, a Middlebury College student from Botswana. According to Ashtari, the symposium brings together diverse experts from Africa and the United States for lectures and panel discussions. Also, two events will celebrate African culture--a concert and dance performance by a Nigerian musical group, and the screening of the African film, "Women with Open Eyes, " produced and directed by a Togolese woman.

Leroy Nesbitt, special assistant to the president of the College and advisor for the symposium, believes this year's two-day symposium, like its predecessors, will enrich the study of Africa on campus and create a constructive discourse among experts. "One of the best aspects of the symposium is its ability to provide both the campus and the broader community with access to outstanding resources in and about Africa," said Nesbitt.

On Thursday, Oct. 28 at 7:30 p.m., the symposium will begin in Room 216 of Bicentennial Hall, on Bicentennial Way off College Street (Route 125). Ben Gyepi-Garbrah, a member of the Middlebury College class of 1993 and the symposium's founder, will make introductory remarks.

Following Gyepi-Garbrah's comments, there will be a screening of "Women with Open Eyes," a French language film with English subtitles directed and produced by award-winning Togolese filmmaker Anne-Laure Folly. Less than an hour long, the film is a rarity--it is about African women and made by an African woman. Folly presents portraits of contemporary African women from four West African nations: Burkina Faso, Mali, Senegal, and Benin. The film shows how African women are speaking out and organizing around five key issues: marital rights, reproductive health, female genital mutilation, women's role in the economy, and political rights.

The film introduces many unforgettable African women, from an individual who has taken refuge in a convent from a forced marriage to a community health worker demonstrating condom use in a marketplace. An activist describes why it is more effective to attack female "circumcision" as a health issue rather than as a women's rights issue. Women entrepreneurs who control trade in major cities explain how they have formed their own mutual aid societies. A Malian woman, who lost her daughter in the 1991 pro-democracy demonstrations, describes how women continue to play a key role in the Malian revolution.

"Women with Open Eyes" shows how women are organizing at the grassroots level to insure their participation in the continent's current move towards democracy. It has been screened before enthusiastic women's audiences across West Africa, reflecting their growing demands for a place at the center of the development process.

Following the screening, there will be a panel discussion on the film and issues facing women in Africa. The panelists are Anne-Laure Folly, the film's producer; Herschelle Challenor, dean of the Clark Atlanta University School of International Affairs and Development and chair of the board of directors of the National Summit on Africa--a four-year initiative established to educate the American public about Africa; and Sukai Prom-Jackson, a member of the Middlebury College class of 1973 who works at the World Bank Institute-- an arm of the World Bank--where she reviews technical assistance programs funded by the bank and formulates policy.

A reception will take place in Bicentennial Hall's Great Hall after the discussion.

On Friday, Oct. 29 at 12 p.m., there will be three separate lunchtime presentations on women's issues. Lunch will be served at each location. Herschelle Challenor will discuss political science issues related to African women, in Pearsons Hall Lounge off College Street (Route 125). Sukai Prom-Jackson will talk about World Bank projects helping women in Africa, in Upper Ross Lounge, which is also off College Street (Route 125). Anne-Laure Folly, director and producer of "Women with Open Eyes," will discuss her work in Chellis House on Hillcrest Road off College Street (Route 125).

At 4 p.m. in the library of the Geonomics House, on Hillcrest Road off College Street (Route 125), a closing discussion will take place over dinner. The dinner is free, but space is limited and reservations are required.

At 9 p.m. in McCullough Student Center, on Old Chapel Road off Route 30, Tobey Foyeh and Orchestra Africa, a Nigerian band based in Washington, D.C., will give a concert that features a show of African music and dance.

For more information, or to make reservations for the dinner discussion, contact Jodi Litchfield at 802-443-5936.

Schedule of Events:

Thursday, Oct. 28,.7:30 p.m. in Room 216, Bicentennial Hall, on Bicentennial Way off College Street (Route 125):

Film Screening/Panel Discussion/Reception: "Women with Open Eyes"

A French film with English subtitles directed and produced by Award-winning Togolese filmmaker Anne-Laure Folly. Less than an hour long, the film is a rarity: it is about African women and made by an African woman. Folly presents portraits of contemporary African women from four West African nations: Burkina Faso, Mali, Senegal, and Benin. The film shows how African women are speaking out and organizing around five key issues: marital rights, reproductive health, female genital mutilation, women's role in the economy, and political rights.

Following film screening in Room 216, Bicentennial Hall, on Bicentennial Way off College Street (Route 125):

Panel discussion: on film "Women with Open Eyes" and issues facing women in Africa. Panelists: Anne-Laure Folly, producer of the film and a native of Togo; Herschelle Challenor, dean of the Clark Atlanta University School of International Affairs and Development and chair of the board of directors of the National Summit on Africa; and Sukai Prom-Jackson, World Bank Institute.

Following panel discussion in the Great Hall, Bicentennial Hall, on Bicentennial Way off College Street (Route 125):

Reception

Friday, Oct. 29 at 12 p.m. Women's Issues in Africa -- Lunchtime discussions with:

-- Herschelle Challenor, who will discuss political science issues related to African women. Pearsons Hall Lounge off College Street (Route 125).

-- Sukai Prom-Jackson of the World Bank Institute who will talk about World Bank projects helping women in Africa. Upper Ross Lounge, off College Street (Route 125).

-- Anne-Laure Folly, director and producer of "Women with Open Eyes," who will discuss her work. Chellis House on Hillcrest Road, off College Street (Route 125).

Lunches are free.

4 p.m. Closing discussion will take place over dinner in the Library of Geonomics House on Hillcrest Road, off College Street (Route 125). Dinner is free, but space is limited and reservations are required.

9 p.m. Concert/Dance Performance: Tobey Foyeh and Orchestra Africa, a Nigerian band based in Washington, D.C., will give a concert that features a show of African music and dance. McCullough Student Center, on Old Chapel Road off Route 30.