On Feb. 24, the Council on African Studies (CAS) at the Yale MacMillan Center celebrated the launch of its Through the Eyes of She (TTES) initiative, which aims to help address the challenges associated with gender equality and equity on the African continent. The hybrid program met in-person at Yale and also virtually hosted attendees from across Africa.
Dr. Christine Ngaruiya (Gah-ROW-Yah), Assistant Professor in Yale’s Department of Emergency Medicine and the Director of Global Health Research, is the founder and chair of Through the Eyes of She. As a research physician, she divides her time between teaching emergency medicine at Yale and conducting global health research in her native Kenya and throughout Africa.
“Through the Eyes of She is a terrific example of the work we do at CAS,” said Cajetan Iheka, Professor of English, Chair of the Council on African Studies, and Head of the Yale Africa Initiative. “The initiative galvanizes human resources from across campus; emphasizes collaboration between Yale and partners working in Africa; and foregrounds research and praxis uplifting African women and their communities. All of us at CAS keenly support the initiative and are excited about its bright future.”
Two years ago, Ngaruiya brought together a committee of Yale faculty, staff, and graduate students with established work in Africa to design and implement a novel university-wide conference on gender equity in Africa. The Oct. 2021 conference, “Through the Eyes of She: Equity in Health, Education, Business and Leadership for the African Woman in the 21st Century,” served as a catalyst for the launch of the initiative, which fosters connection and collaboration to enhance academic pursuits that serve to advance gender equity in Africa.
At the launch, Ngaruiya shared a video with testimonials from women working on the continent. Many shared their stories of fighting gender inequity, underscoring why TTES’ mission is so vital. The program included remarks from founding committee member Marius Kothor, a Yale Ph.D. Student in History whose dissertation examines the transnational political and economic activism of Togolese women merchants in the 20th century, and Janette Yarwood, Director for Africa and The Middle East at Yale’s Office of International Affairs.
The event’s keynote speaker was Stephanie Busari, Senior Editor for Africa at CNN and a former Yale University World Fellow. Busari is the journalist who, in 2016, exclusively obtained the Commented [FM1]: She includes this in her Twitter profile name “proof of life” video of the more than 100 schoolgirls who had been kidnapped in Chibok, Nigeria, which helped to start negotiations with Boko Haram that eventually secured their release. She has won numerous awards and honors for her journalism, including a Hollywood Gracie Award. In her
remarks, shared virtually, Busari recounted how her matrilineal history led her to where she is today.
The program concluded with a showstopping musical performance by Thabisa, a South African singer-songwriter living in New Haven who performed songs in both English and isiXhosa, whom Ngaruiya has dubbed the “official TTES artist.” Attendees, who included many women doctors, scientists, and government leaders, tuned in from an impressive number of countries and regions throughout the continent, from Nigeria to Uganda to Zimbabwe.
“It means a lot to me that we were able to bring this vision together—some three years later— from an ‘idea on a piece of paper’ to fruition,” reflected Ngaruiya. “The turnout and persistent interest we get on TTES is confirmation that it was needed and will have its existence for many years to come. As I have said, TTES will not be a comprehensive solution for all things gender equity on the continent, and it shouldn’t be, as we all have a role to play. However, I believe that it is paramount that academic institutions, too—that are engaging regularly with Africa— need to be thinking about this strategically and systematically, as to how they mindfully approach engagements equitably across multiple domains, including that of gender. We look forward to TTES helping to contribute to the promotion of equity in our community and with partners at Yale, and beyond.”
The TTES leadership team currently welcomes new applications to its steering and working committees and is compiling a “doing gender well” database for African institutions, organizations and individuals. In addition to growing its thriving network of gender equity advocates, Through the Eyes of She initiative’s goals include hosting a biennial TTES Conference, offering quarterly workshops in hybrid format, holding Africa-based events, sponsoring a global health grant award for African women scientists and a Women in Africa leadership-capacity-building award, and creating mentorship and translation programs for African women scientists.
To learn more and get involved, visit the Through the Eyes of She website.
To read more about Yale and Africa, visit the Yale and the World website.