Historical Dinner, a day to share and talk about women

An article by Salome Gregory, journalist of The Citizen (Tanzania). Photos: Micholax Mussa.

During the final workshop of the ITP Women’s Political Leadership, ICLD applied a new learning method called The Historical Dinner. With this dinner, we are part of ”The Historical Dinner Project” initiated by Stockholm Museum of Women’s history. By sharing stories about women who inspired us, we put more women into our collective memory.
Women have always been 50% of the population. However, the lack of knowledge of women in history is a global problem for democracy – and something we strive to change.

As soon as I arrived at the New Africa Hotel in Dar es Salaam, I saw a number of women seated at the reception. As some were talking, some were busy on their phones.

Minutes later the women turned out to be seated together ready for the Historical Dinner event which brought together 30 women from different parts of the world.

In that cool December evening, the women had dinner together and shared their stories about the women who either inspired, motivated or shaped them to be who they are today in their line of work or at a personal level.

The event was organised by ICLD on its final workshop of the training programme titled Women’s Political Leadership. Participants are women with elected position in a local government in Africa and Eastern Europe. The entire event was hosted by Anne Scheffer Leander and Olga Shadura, Programme Officers at ICLD.

Interviewed women on the Historical Dinner shared their stories and the experience gained after the training in Tanzania. Below are their stories.

Journalist Salome Gregory and Agnes Kessy (Tanzania)

Salome Ghonghadze and Maya Katsitadze

Stella Badin (Moldova), Valentyna Borkovska (Ukraine), Shiela Shirley (South Africa)

Xhejlane Bihluli (Kosovo) and Lindita Rova (Albania)

Saadet Caglin from Turkey says, the training was a very valuable experience since she had an opportunity to discuss similar issues with women leaders from different geographies and cultures who have similar political responsibilities.

“Endless thanks to the ICLD team who organised this programme and to everyone I met who hosted us in Dar Es Salaam. I have made very valuable friendships, I will always carry their love and sincerity in my heart,” she says.

She started her political journey as a member of CHP (a social-democratic political party in Turkey which currently stands as the main opposition party in the country) in 2009. She took different positions in District and Provincial Organisations.

Saadet was the head of the Bayraklı City Council Women’s Assembly for a while. In the 2019 Local Elections, she was elected as a member of the İzmir Metropolitan and Karşıyaka Assembly from her district. She has been serving as Deputy Mayor since January 2021.

The woman of her choice is Professor Türkan Saylan. Also a civil society pioneer felt responsible for humanity and the society she lived in. She also fought against leprosy and it gave her a universal recognition, and in 2006 she was given the International Gandhi Award in India in 1986.

Saadet Caglin tells about the woman of her choice

She was dedicated in raising modern individuals through modern education in order to protect, develop and expand the achievements of the Republic of Turkey in the ideal of contemporary Turkey.

Prof. Türkan Saylan worked for the development of life, children, women, education and environmental rights within our national values.

She has adopted the organized struggle against every problem and pioneered the solution based approach. She has become a role model in Turkey with her slogan, ”It should be part of the solution, not the problem.”

The Association for Supporting Contemporary Life (ÇAĞDAŞ YAŞAMI DESTEKLEME DERNEĞİ – ÇYDD), of which she is the founder, has provided educational scholarships to 89,650 high school students and 37,614 university students with the support of individual and corporate donors since its establishment in 1995.               

Kamusiime Maclean from Uganda, a teacher by professional, a social worker and now a politician, is in her second term as Mayor of the Southern Division in Kabale Municipality. She usually competes for this position with men only.

Kamusiime Maclean, Mayor of the Sounthern Division in Kabale Municipality, Uganda.

Commenting on the woman of her choice she says, she was influenced by her mother Meresi Kabesindira who is now 75 years old. The hard-working woman worked in a bank as a secretary. She supported her seven children to university level.

As part of generating extra income, she sold local brew. During holiday seasons she would buy a cow, slaughter it and then sell to add more money to her brew business that would help her pay school fees and other school needs when school opens.

“She was very passionate about education, especially for a girl child. The money she got was not only for her children, but she also supported her relatives by paying for their education,’’ says Maclean.

Adding to that she says, after retirement from active service she became a councillor, educationist, and healthy worker. “She is a God-fearing woman who believes that with God everything is possible. The community around her has changed due to her support.”

“This woman has influenced me so much by trying to do whatever is possible for personal development and my community. I think that is why I have managed to look after my family as single mother, and society having trust in me,” adds Maclean.

Maia Katsitadze is the Ambrolauri mayoral candidate in the 2021 self-government elections from Georgia. She lost the election but remained the chairman of the Ambrolauri branch of the party, and at the same time returned to the civil sector as an active citizen and professional who constantly shares her experience with the public, especially women who are taking their first steps in politics.

Maya Katsitadze from Georgia

The woman who inspired her is Maro Makashvili, a young Georgian woman who was killed during the 1921 Red Army invasion of Georgia on 15 February – 17 March 1921.

Makashvili was a student at the Tbilisi State University when the Red Army launched its invasion of Georgia in February 1921. She volunteered as a nurse and was sent to Kojori along with the Georgian Regiment. She was killed by splinters from a shell two days later.

Maro Makashvili, along with cadets, soldiers and volunteers killed in the battle for Tbilisi, was buried in the yard of the military temple in Tbilisi on February 23, where the Georgian Parliament building is located on Rustaveli Avenue today and became the first woman to be awarded the Georgian Order of National Hero.

Commenting about the programme, Katsitadze says, the most important thing that participating in the programme gave her was the relationship with women politicians from around the world.

“The programme made it clear, women in politics – no matter what country we represent – have almost the same problems and challenges. Thanks to the programme, I am a member of a very large network today, and I think it will definitely be a prerequisite for positive change. I believe women rule and now is the time for women,” says Katsitadze.

Participants of the Historical Dinner in Dar es Salaam. Photo: Micholax Mussa.
Jeridah Yaro & Jessica Achieng Otieno from Kenya together with their fellow participants in the Women’s Political Leadership Programme.

Ketty Akol from Uganda, a social worker who has been in politics for 15 years now, also serves as a youth councillor. She is a regional speaker representing the East speakers in Uganda local government association and a member of a task force of Advocates Coalition for Development and Environment (ACODE).

In 2021 general election she contested for the district governor. Out of five contestants she was the only woman, and she made it to third position and the only woman.

The woman of her choice is Alajo Teresa, former Councillor during the time of Uganda People’s Army in Teso. She is the first Councillor to represent Kapelebyong and Obalanga in Soroti city.

That time was quite difficult to convince youths to abandon the rebel activities, but she continued to persuade youths to leave the rebel activities and surrender to the Army and government.

She only asked the government to introduce the amnesty commission that will give amnesty to the ex-rebels which the government honored and created the commission to handle the issues of rebel. “She has played a big role in my life and my political carrier. I am very proud of her. My mentor made me understand what I needed to do in order to be strategic. As a leader I learned what is expected out of me,” says Akol.