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Naomi Tutu Inspires Women to Find Their Voice


              Naomi Tutu and Babson's Stephen Spinelli, Jr.

Held here today, Babson's Center for Women's Leadership (CWL) symposium was a double header, featuring keynote speaker Naomi Tutu and presentation of The Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) 2006 Report on Women and Entrepreneurship.

Tutu—daughter of global human rights activist Desmond Tutu– is an economist developing programs to transform African women into self-sufficient entrepreneurs.  What she has found mirrors research findings of the most recent GEM Global Women report.

Women downplay their roles in family, community, and the workplace. Says Tutu, “Women rise before dawn—cook, prepare children for school, gather firewood and water—then hike 10-14 miles to town to purchase cabbages, beer, and candy from wholesalers.  They repackage these goods and peddle them to their own villagers.  Their men are away months at a time doing migrant work in Johannesburg. And all of these women feel they are “doing nothing.”

She believes women everywhere must eradicate this notion and embrace a new identity.  “I am the one keeping the community together, I am the one supporting the family, I am the one sustaining the economy.”

It is imperative that gender issues in the economy and workplace are addressed now, says Tutu.  African women who were freedom soldiers in the fight for liberation have no access to government funding and capital for their ventures. “We are beginning to see some progress,” she said, “Almost  a third of new governing bodies are women , but we must continue to blow our own horn, find our unique voice, and become more than superfluous appendages.”