Women organising upstream, against and despite patriarchy: More possible development partnerships for Africa

Dudziro Nhengu
Posted May 24, 2016 from Zimbabwe

Today, 24 May 2016, Sigrid Simons de Muller from the Republic of Panama graced the occasion at the training on Women’s Political Empowerment for African women currently taking place at the Mount Carmel Training Centre, MASHAV in Haifa. This training started on 8 May and will end on 27th May 2016. The training targets 25 participants from Angola, Botswana, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Rwanda, South Africa and Zimbabwe. The training programme has been planned to allow participants to share experiences among colleagues, and trainers are professionals in the area of women’s political participation, election strategy and campaign, technology usage for e-governance, feminist movement building and economic empowerment for women to mention a few. This training is made possible by a triangular partnership by UN Women Eastern and Southern African Region (ESARO), the Singapore Cooperation and MCTC MASHAV.

The state of Panama has a training centre that offers various empowerment courses, and Sigrid de Muller is representing this training institution in her country to seek for possible partnership between her institution and the MCTC.

Over the last twenty years, women in Panama have been gaining representation in many areas of society. Women now comprise more than 50 percent of students in secondary and post-secondary schools, and women’s labor force participation has been steadily increasing since the early 1990s. (Duryea et al.) However, women’s leadership in Panama tends to be structured in a triangular fashion with representation of women decreasing as the hierarchical structure increases. (Htun) Despite advances in education and training, women are still struggling to increase their social and economic status in Panama and are not being utilized to their full potential. The gender inequality that exists in Panama is not only harmful to women but to the country as a whole, as it impedes greater and more rapid development. (Raad)

Sigrid Simons de Müller has extensive experience as a corporate board member. During the past 25 years she has occupied board positions in private and publicly traded companies in diverse industries – insurance, banking, fiduciary services, retail and manufacturing.

As a board member she has contributed with her experience in management, finance, strategy and her clear understanding of business risk mitigation. Sigrid has proven her leadership capabilities as Chair of different board committees, such as Audit and Risk Committees and Corporate Governance Committee. Also, she has been elected Vice-Chairman for two of her boards.

Her work experience goes from banking – Bladex and The Chase Manhattan Bank, N.A. – to assuming various management responsibilities as a member of the executive committee of her family’s company in Panama, Grupo HOPSA.

Sigrid holds a BBA with a concentration in accounting from Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia and an MBA with a concentration in Corporate Finance from Drexel University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; both obtained with honors.

Through her participation in numerous Corporate Governance programs, including in at the Yale School of Management and the International Directors Programme at INSEAD, she has expanded her corporate governance expertise. Sigrid has been invited to Corporate Governance events as a speaker, instructor and panelist. Also, she participated as Commissioner for a White Paper sponsored by KPMG and Women Corporate Directors (WCD-Global) about the benefits of independent directors to drive value in family owned businesses.

She is a founding member of WCD-Panama, a member of the National Association of Corporate Directors (NACD-USA) and member of Panama’s Corporate Governance Institute. She is active in the community, enjoys family and social life, she is an avid reader and amateur writer, and an advocate of healthy eating and fitness of body and mind.

As an African woman also in session at the training at MCTC, and representing a strong partnership between UN Women ESARO and MCTC, this possible partnership between Panama and MCTC may spell out possible partnerships between UN Women ESARO and Panama, and between Panama and Africa in general. This is a true sign of women navigating upstream against and DESPITE the current.

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