What do Russian and African women have in common? Can we make the world a better place so that our children have a better life than we did? We discussed all of this and more with Oksana Mayorova, the African Women’s Union’s Director of International Development.
– Ms Mayorova, you work for the Africa Women’s Union as the Director of International Development. Women are a tremendous force…
– Indeed, they have a great deal of influence in Africa, and in that regard, we are comparable to them.
– How promising are collaborative initiatives involving women’s organizations in Russia and the African continent (or specific African nations)? I am aware that you work to safeguard children’s rights, provide for their wellbeing, and create an atmosphere that supports their growth…
– The Africa Women’s Union is a distinctive group that brings together women from 27 nations. What makes it special? It is not an organization that was established from above or brought in from the outside. It’s a union that practically grew from the ground. It is composed of women who have started to come together and who recognize their own strengths and weaknesses. They are aware of their problems and have started banding together inside nations to collaborate on improving issues.
Their motto is women for women. The source of a woman’s anguish is always her children. They therefore started to prioritize giving girls the chance to pursue their education. Why the girls? First, because the Union is female. They are also significantly lower socially than boys.
This year, we have set ourselves a goal to raise funds and provide 100 girls with government scholarships for their education in Russia It is clear that Russia has allotted these quotas. But first and foremost, a girl must be able to fly in order to travel and reside in Russia for five years. There are instances where multiple villages gather funds and take out loans solely to purchase her a ticket. They also need food and winter clothing. After all, finding a job as a student can be exceedingly challenging and perhaps illegal. On the scope of Africa, 100 people is undoubtedly a small amount. But that’s only the first step. Should 100 females receive a higher education in agriculture. It also needs to be acknowledged that all African girls want to get this kind of education.
– I’ve heard that Russian agriculture is considered to be the best in Africa. As a result, is our agricultural education also the best?
– That’s correct, that’s what the Africans told me. So, this girl comes back to her homeland as a first-class agricultural expert. She has the highest social rank, she can earn her own money, and she is not reliant on gender preconceptions and bias, which do exist. This girl creates a chain reaction: she assists another girl, then another… when a result, when women’s social standing rises, so does their influence. The women who have begun self-organizing into such alliances and assisting the girls are largely those who once received outside assistance to learn and advance in life and career. It’s an invaluable experience.
African women are thrilled about Russia; they adore it, they are familiar with it, and they are willing to send their daughters to study there. You have no idea how much joy and optimism it brings them. I am delighted that Russia has taken this move toward Africa. Africans, in turn, are very happy to meet Russians.
– In these difficult times, family, moral, and spiritual values must be preserved and strengthened….
– Russia is one of their most important international defenders. In this regard, the African continent is close to Russia. It is very comforting to work with countries where we have a similar religion. For instance, Ethiopia. Working with Muslim countries is simple because we share a desire to protect family and moral values, and traditions. Marriage is the union of a man and a woman, a boy is a boy, and a girl is a girl, and there can be no other way.
Things are different in countries that are heavily influenced by the West. Many citizens of these countries with whom I have spoken claim that various homosexual and LGBT societies have been intentionally formed and legislated. Ordinary citizens, however, are completely alien to it. They relate stories of African children being adopted and changing their gender in the adoptive nation. Ordinary people find this shocking. But the United States and its Western allies are putting tremendous pressure on these nations’ governments.
The difference between the people who live on the ground, so to speak, and the governing strata is enormous. In addition to the populace, we also need to collaborate with the government. Additionally, there won’t be any fruitful collaboration when the authorities hold such a viewpoint.
For ordinary Africans, Vladimir Putin is a real hero because he is the only one who was not afraid to say openly that America is wrong, not afraid to confront it.
Africans are in favor of any gender equality initiatives in Russia that consider the roles that men and women play in society, as well as the customs of the family. Ethiopia hosted a symposium on the preservation of traditional family values only the other day. Priests of the Russian Orthodox Church were among those welcomed there. Along with exchanging ideas, the attendees decided how to work together to resist the so-called Western values.
– What other initiatives does your women’s organization have underway?
– This Union was first established in Africa for Africa. Projects have been started in the majority of nations to support girls who desire to attend school. Having a New Year party is a great experience. However, once the holiday is over, what will come next?
After all, a girl needs to ride the bus and pack meals every day in order to get to school. In Africa, a lot of kids just attend school in order to receive food.
Girls face a lot of family pressure in many nations to stay at home and help with household chores and picking maize instead of attending school. A major advantage in our situation is that the women themselves are residents of this village, so they can identify the issue and take action. They are well aware of who really needs help. And they provide the care that the child needs at that moment.
– What is the cost of eating and riding the bus to school?
– You know, it’s not that much. In certain places, three or four families band together to buy a bottle of milk and a slice of bread for a daughter’s school lunch. And this has to be done every day for years. It turns out that women make quite serious commitments. And that is worthy of much respect.
We work in collaboration with the International Foundation “Children Must Live”. It has various shelters all around Russia. And now it is expanding and creating an African orphanage network. The Foundation equips computer laboratories for children from African slums at its own expense. It’s not a place for toys in this scenario. It’s a place where youngsters can learn how a keyboard and a computer work, as well as the opportunities that networking technologies give. And this is already a concrete step that will assist the child climb the social ladder in the future. Otherwise, he has no options other than the street, drugs, and a short life.
– Ms Mayorova, how did you end up working for this organization?
– Also, you could say, from the ground upwards. As co-founder of the Pan-African PPP Development Center, I spend a lot of time throughout Africa interacting with local communities. After all, all public-private partnerships are dependent on local communities. The land is totally theirs. People from these communities will also be employed in the businesses. Social projects that are always linked to large construction or industrial projects – hospitals, schools – always try to preserve good relations with the local population. Therefore, I know and work with a large number of individuals, and a large number of people know me.
Of course, issues that matter to women came up in the process of communication. Women began to unite. We have a media channel in this Union where people may interact, discuss, and exchange ideas. They talk about everything from the color of the neighbor girl’s clothes to the global issues, like who will become the world hegemon in the end. When I look at them, I realize that we differ only in skin color and brightness of clothing. Children, husbands, neighbors, nations, governments, food, clothing, education, and the never-ending question of how to improve the world so that our children might live at least a little bit easier than we do are the same issues that worry us.
Interviewed by Yulia NOVITSKAYA, writer, journalist and correspondent for “New Eastern Outlook”.