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Vital Voices Convenes Regional Meeting of Supporting Public Advocacy for Regional Competitiveness and Highlights Rise of Women's Leadership in Africa

LAGOS, Nigeria, May 23, 2013 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Today SPARC partners Vital Voices Global Partnership and Women in Management, Business, and Public Service (WIMBIZ) convened leaders representing business, government, civil society and media from across the continent to host 'Women's Leadership: Why Africa is Rising.'

More than 100 African business men and women were in attendance to examine the role that African women play in Africa's economic growth and ways that the private and public sectors can encourage and support women's economic leadership. The forum featured a keynote address from Obiageli Ezekwesili, and was followed by two panels focusing on the value of women's leadership in Africa's private sector and the impact of government investment in women.

Today marks the third day of the Vital Voices-led Supporting Public Advocacy for Regional Competitiveness (SPARC) Second Regional Meeting. The SPARC program, launched in 2012 by Vital Voices, brings together public and private sector leaders from Nigeria, Kenya, Uganda and South Africa to develop, strengthen and officially launch targeted advocacy campaigns designed to address relevant barriers, increase women's economic engagement in the labor force and entrepreneurship, and contribute to poverty alleviation over all.

"Vital Voices recognizes that women are powerful engines of economic growth and social change. Through SPARC, Vital Voices and partner businesswomen's associations are working together to enable women to fully participate in their economies," said Alyse Nelson, president and CEO of Vital Voices.

The public forum highlighted the critical work that businesswomen's associations in Nigeria, Kenya, Uganda and South Africa are doing to remove key economic barriers for women.

In Nigeria, WIMBIZ is advocating to increase the number of women in economic leadership by promoting qualified women to fill 30% of bank board seats and 40% of top bank management positions in accordance with Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) policy by January 2015. The Businesswomen's Association of South Africa (BWASA) is working to create a more enabling environment for South African women in business by recruiting Johannesburg Stock Exchange listed corporations as signatories to the Charter for Women's Economic Empowerment, therefore preparing corporate South Africa for compliance with the forthcoming Economic and Gender Equality Bill. In Uganda, Uganda Women Entrepreneurs Limited (UWEAL) is working to increase women's access to Agricultural Technology and Agribusiness Advisory Services (ATAAS) resources. The Kenya Association of Women Business Owners (KAWBO) aims to increase women entrepreneurs' access to government contracts by ensuring enforcement of 2011 Preference and Reservations Regulations.

"The SPARC program through WIMBIZ is using advocacy tools to sensitize the general public and seeks possible legislative change to deal with the issue of women representation on the socio-economic decision making processes in Nigeria," said Adeola Azeez, Chairperson, WIMBIZ. "WIMBIZ will partner with other advocacy groups, media and consultants who would support the expansion of socio-political and economic space for women in Nigeria."

The SPARC program builds on the advocacy work of its partners as well as Vital Voices' history of success in global women's leadership and economic advocacy. The four year program is made possible with generous support from the Dutch foreign Ministry's Funding Leadership and Opportunities for Women (FLOW), an initiative which aims to strengthen the rights and opportunities for women and girls worldwide with a particular focus on women's security, economic empowerment and political participation.

About Supporting Public Advocacy for Regional Competitiveness (SPARC)

The SPARC program works with four partners of the Vital Voices Africa Businesswomen's Network (ABWN) on advocacy campaigns designed to create a more enabling economic environment for women in Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa and Uganda. SPARC will give partners the necessary tools to develop, design and share their message while creating change for business women in Africa. In the long term, SPARC will contribute to two broad impacts: increased African women's economic engagement in the labor force and in entrepreneurship; and a more enabling environment for women's economic engagement and greater poverty alleviation overall.

About Vital Voices Global Partnership

Vital Voices Global Partnership is a leading non-governmental organization that identifies, invests in and brings visibility to extraordinary women around the world by unleashing their leadership potential to transform lives and accelerate peace and prosperity in their communities. Founded by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in 1997, the organization trains and mentors women leaders as agents of transformative change in economic development, human rights and political participation. The Vital Voices Global Leadership Network includes more than 14,000 leaders representing 144 countries who have trained and mentored 500,000 additional women and girls in their communities. Visit www.vitalvoices.org to learn more.

About the Dutch Foreign Ministry Funding Leadership and Opportunities for Women (FLOW)

FLOW is a new fund initiated by the Dutch Foreign Ministry to strengthen the rights and opportunities for women and girls worldwide. Minister for European Affairs and International Cooperation Ben Knapen has reserved 70 million Euros for this fund. FLOW focuses on three priorities: security (including violence against women and UN Resolution 1325), economic empowerment (with an emphasis on food security, land, water and economic rights) and political participation.

CONTACT: Margaux Bergen 202.333.1928 MargauxBergen@vitalvoices.orgSource: Vital Voices

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