Antonio Hernández DeusAfrican women stand out for their hope and optimism".

Education, health, promotion of women and professional development are the main lines of action of Harambee in Africa. Its president, Antonio Hernández, highlights the optimism and the example that African women, especially, represent for our society. 

Maria José Atienza-April 20, 2022-Reading time: 4 minutes

Photo: @Ismael Martínez. Harambee

Translation of the article into English

On April 26, Nigerian economist Franca Ovadje will receive the Harambee 2022 Award for the Promotion and Equality of African Women in Madrid. She joins the list of African women, including doctors, teachers and researchers who, since 2010, recognize individuals or institutions that represent a relevant contribution, help or solution to the dignity, rights and equality of African women.

Antonio Hernandez Deus. President Harambee
Antonio Hernández Deus. President of Harambee ONGD

Since its inception, Harambee, an initiative born of the canonization of St. Josemaría Escrivá, inspired by this vision, has promoted educational initiatives in Africa and about Africa, with development projects in sub-Saharan Africa and communication and awareness-raising activities in the rest of the world. Its president, Antonio Hernández Deus, highlights in this interview for Omnes the commitment to these fields of action: education, health, promotion of women and professional development of this NGO, which has developed more than a hundred projects in 22 African countries with a key target: African women.

For more than 10 years Harambee has been awarding prizes to African women leaders in different fields who work for women in Africa. Why did this award come about?

- This award was created to make visible the objectives of HarambeeThe first is to demonstrate that the women of Sub-Saharan Africa have talent and ability, and what they need in some cases is a little help to develop them.

With this award we want to highlight the trajectory of some women who have succeeded in their country. We have already awarded 14 African women from different professional fields, all of them have promoted initiatives in the service of their country and for that reason they have received this award.

In recent years we have had the sponsorship of René Furterer, which has helped considerably to consolidate this award.

Why not focus on a "welfare" approach to African women?

- Care for African women is necessary, but it is already done by other NGOs. We prefer to show the smile of Africa and for that reason we focus our work on long-term projects.

There are different ways to help in Africa. We can help by giving a fish to feed them, or by providing fishing rods so that they can get food, or by teaching them how to make fishing rods with the materials they have available; this last way of helping is the one we develop. Those smiles of satisfaction that we receive from the Africans, for having achieved with their own means what they need with a little help, is our great motivation to continue working for African women and for Africa.

What differentiates Harambee from other projects for women in Africa?

- There are many other entities that help women in Africa. What sets us apart from other organizations is how we approach development aid.

Our projects are promoted and implemented by the Africans themselves and are not intended to be aid-dependent, but rather to finance themselves in the future. We focus our field of action on education, health, promotion of women and professional development.

Ilomba Rural School (Côte d'Ivoire) students with scholarship from Harambee ONGD

The process by which projects are carried out also defines our identity to a large extent. First of all, people from Sub-Saharan Africa detect problems and propose specific projects to Harambee. From Harambee we study the feasibility and decide which ones to support, taking into account the possibilities of financing and fundraising that we can undertake. These projects are managed and executed by the beneficiaries themselves.

From Harambee we ensure that we provide the aid that is really necessary. To avoid deviations or inefficiencies, we look for local altruistic collaborators, who accompany the projects and guarantee that the necessary documentation is gathered in order to be able to remit the amounts requested for its execution. Once the project has been approved for implementation, Harambee ensures that it is carried out as planned and justifies the expenditure to the funder.

Although we work in the short and medium term, we always make sure that all projects have continuity in the future; that is why we are a Development NGO (NGDO).

Women awarded by Harambee

Since its inception, we have seen, among the awarded women, educators, doctors, economists... women who are real leaders in their country and above all concerned about education. Are education and equal opportunities the key to the African continent?

- Yes, as we have seen in Harambee during these 20 years, education is the key to improve people. And improving a person's education improves his family, his environment and his country. Moreover, seeing the example of others is very inspiring. Especially for women, who in some areas of Sub-Saharan Africa are the most forgotten.

In Harambee ONGD we believe that we must give opportunities to all Africans to move their country forward. But women need more help to achieve this. They are the hope of Africa.

Do you think they are also an example for European women?

- That's right, women who overcome seemingly insurmountable difficulties and break into new areas are undoubtedly an example. In addition, African women stand out especially because they transmit hope and optimism, values that are much needed today.

Do we still have a "charitable" vision of the African continent, as if everything was "susceptible to help" instead of considering, for example, many traits of its life: family, appreciation for children, etc., as desirable and imitable?

- In addition to what you mention about family, children, tribal solidarity..., we believe that Africa has a lot to teach us. When you visit Africa, the first thing that strikes you is the number of smiling people you meet. They know how to overcome their difficulties with joy and creativity. This way of living teaches us on the old continent to regain our youth.

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