The Ask Her Talks speakers are community leaders and activists. They are health care workers, lawyers, politicians, authors, executive directors, mothers, and grandmothers. They work in urban and rural contexts, from Ethiopia and the DRC to South Africa and Zimbabwe. What they all have in common is that they are experts.
See below for the impressive biographies of all Ask Her Talks speakers and special guests.
November 2015 Speakers & Special Guests
Jackie Richardson, Evening Host
Award-winning singer and actress
Jackie Richardson is an award-winning actress and one of Canada’s foremost singers of gospel, blues and jazz. She has performed around the world — from Asia to the West Indies — and hosted the May 2015 Ask Her Talks in Montreal, Toronto, and Ottawa. Jackie is the recipient of NAACP, Juno, Betty, Dora, Jessie, Gemini, TBS Lifetime Achievement and Canadian Black Lifetime Achievement awards and nominations. She is currently featured in “The Adventures of a Black Girl In Search of God” at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa, and is a fixture at Toronto’s Soul Pepper Theatre. Jackie’s recent musical recordings include collaborations with Micah Barnes, Bruce Cassidy, and the Breithaupt Brothers. In 2014 she toured the North West Territories with Joe Sealy’s “Africville Stories” and returned again in 2015 with her daughter, Juno-Award winner Kim Richardson, as they performed their “Mother and Daughter Reunion” show. Jackie is renowned for her passion for human rights and social justice. She has performed in concerts for the Stephen Lewis Foundation’s Grandmothers to Grandmothers Campaign and lent her vocal talents to a summer 2015 production of “The Journey,” a play about the revitalization of Toronto’s Regent Park neighbourhood.
Chairperson and Co-Founder of Young Women Campaign Against AIDS (YWCAA) in Kenya
Peres Abeka is the Chairperson and Co-Founder of Young Women Campaign Against AIDS (YWCAA) — a non-governmental organization in Kenya. She is a social scientist and community mobilizer who has worked in the areas of programme management, public outreach, gender and HIV & AIDS justice, community sensitization and more with various UN agencies, peacekeeping missions and international NGOs. Thus far, her work has brought her to Afghanistan, Northern Uganda, South Africa, Pakistan, Sudan, South Sudan, Nigeria, Kenya, Jordan and Lebanon. As an educationist, Peres has also coordinated numerous workshops and training sessions, and received the “Woman of Substance” award at the 10th anniversary of the African Women’s Development Fund in 2010. Her work with YWCAA focuses on the fight against HIV & AIDS among women and youth, as well as the tireless defense of their human rights.
Founder and Executive Director of Developing Families Together (DFT) in Ethiopia
Kidist Belete is the founding Executive Director of Developing Families Together (DFT), an Ethiopian grassroots organization that works in women’s empowerment, orphan protection, HIV & AIDS prevention and care, and community development. Under her leadership, DFT’s programmes have positively influenced the lives of over 10,000 individuals — rehabilitating families devastated by HIV & AIDS (often headed by poor grandmothers), educating young people about HIV, promoting income generating activities to at-risk youth, and supporting women fighting against cultural practices that increase their exposure to poverty and disease. Altogether, Kidist has more than 15 years of experience working in the area of gender justice, having also worked as a Gender and Development Officer at the Aid Commission of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. She has also served as a board member of Transparency Ethiopia and plays an active role in several civil society organizations in Ethiopia, including the Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) Network, the Young Women Christian Association (YWCA), and the Orphan and Vulnerable Children (OVC) Network.
Activist Consultant at HopeAfrica
Hope Chigudu is a feminist activist consultant at HopeAfrica, and the Co-Founder of the Zimbabwe Women’s Resource Centre and Network. As well, she is the former chair of the board of the Urgent Action Fund-Africa and of the Global Fund for Women. During her tenure at the Global Fund for Women, grants to Africa increased dramatically, due to her quest to see African women tell their own stories. Hope is an internationally renowned consultant with numerous women’s organizations in Africa and Asia as well as development partners and agencies such as Hivos, Oxfam Novib, Danida, UNIDO, UNIFEM, Cordaid and ActionAid, among others. She has also served as an advisor with several international decision-making bodies and funding agencies such as the African Women’s Development Fund, Red Umbrella, and UNIFEM (UN Women). The author of “Lessons in Empowerment Based on the Experiences of African NGO’s” and “Reviving Democracy: Citizens at the Heart of Governance,” Hope has worked extensively on a variety of issues pertaining to HIV & AIDS, and is committed to a community-centered and participatory human rights approach that is locally anchored, but universal and global in its vision.
Former General Secretary of the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) in South Africa
Vuyiseka Dubula is the former General Secretary of the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) in South Africa and former Director of Programmes at Sonke Gender Justice — an organization that works to promote gender equality across Africa. She lectures at Stellenbosch University on social aspects of HIV & AIDS, and is currently completing her PhD at the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s school of Development Studies. Vuyiseka has been living openly with HIV for 14 years, and is committed to ensuring that all people living with HIV have a positive voice in the struggle against the epidemic. She currently serves as the national representative for people living with HIV on the South African National AIDS Council (SANAC), and has served on two national Ministerial Advisory Committees on Leadership, Governance and Service Delivery. As well, Vuyiseka was a member of the UNAIDS High Level Commission on HIV Prevention, and is a former Community Mobilisation Officer for Médecins Sans Frontières. She is the recipient of many awards for her activism, including the 2010 John Lloyd Foundation Leadership Award, and was recognised by the University of Oslo as a “Courageous Leader” in 2003. She is also the founder of the Activist Centre for Education and Development, which strives to facilitate access to higher education for social justice activists.
Co-Founder and Executive Director of Women Fighting AIDS in Kenya (WOFAK)
Dorothy Onyango is the Executive Director of Women Fighting AIDS in Kenya (WOFAK). She co-founded the organization in 1994, four years after learning that she was HIV positive. Today, Dorothy sits on a number of boards of strategic organizations in Kenya, including the National AIDS Control Council (NACC) and chairs the National Programmes Committee. She previously served as the Chairperson of National Empowerment Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS in Kenya (NEPHAK), and also sits on the board of the Society for Women and AIDS in Kenya (SWAK). Dorothy has been an active member of the treatment access coalition movement, responsible for the current drop in costs of treatment for persons living with HIV & AIDS in Kenya and has been at the forefront in fighting for the rights of women living with and affected by HIV & AIDS. She is the former global Co-Chair of the International Community of Women Living with HIV (ICW) and was recently appointed by the Kenyan government to serve on the board of the National Council for Children’s Services. As well, she is the representative of NGOs on the Kenya Coordinating Mechanism for Global Fund to Fight HIV, TB and Malaria, and a Chairperson of the Pan African Positive Women’s Coalition (PAPWC). Dorothy’s vision is to see a world free from HIV infections and in which women can achieve their full socio-economic and political potential without undue hindrances.
“Britta B.” Badour
Spoken Word Artist
“Britta B.” Badour is a spoken word artist, keynote speaker and artist educator living in Toronto. She is an ambassador for R.I.S.E. Edutainment (Reaching Intelligent Souls Everywhere)—a creative community of youth, artists, activists, free-thinkers and revolutionaries creating spaces for self-expression and healing through performance arts. As well, Britta is an artist educator for UNITY Charity, which empowers youth to be role models and leaders in their communities. As co-host of the What Makes a Man (White Ribbon) Conference, she is committed to raising awareness in regards to violence against women, and is working to redefine the meaning of masculinity. She has spoken at numerous TEDx events and has travelled across North America with her spoken word poetry, inspiring audiences through her personal performances and representing various organizations and causes. Britta has integrated her passion, creativity, and philanthropic attitude to become an influential role model and an effective activist in her community.
May 2015 Speakers & Special Guests
Jackie Richardson, Evening Host
Award-winning singer and actress
Jackie Richardson is an award-winning actress and one of Canada’s foremost singers of gospel, blues and jazz. Her career includes performance in radio, recordings, commercials, theatre, film, TV and live concerts. Jackie has performed across Canada and worldwide, from Asia to the West Indies. Jackie is the recipient of NAACP, Juno, Betty, Dora, Jessie, Gemini, TBS Lifetime Achievement and Canadian Black Lifetime Achievement awards and nominations. She currently hosts the award-nominated Jazz FM Radio Series “Identities—Musicians Who Chose Canada,” and is an artist-in-residence at Soul Pepper Theatre. Jackie’s recent recordings include collaborations with Micah Barnes, Bruce Cassidy, and the Breithaupt Brothers. In 2014 she toured the North West Territories with Joe Sealy’s “Africville Stories” and returns again this May with her daughter, Juno-Award winner Kim Richardson, as they perform their “Mother and Daughter Reunion” show. Jackie is renowned for her passion for human rights and social justice. She has performed in concerts for the Stephen Lewis Foundation’s Grandmothers to Grandmothers Campaign and will be participating in an upcoming production of “The Journey,” a play about the revitalization of Toronto’s Regent Park neighbourhood.
Former Senior Advisor, African Institute for Integrated Responses to Violence Against Women and HIV/AIDS (AIR)
Jessica Horn is the former Senior Advisor to the African Institute for Integrated Responses to Violence Against Women and HIV/AIDS (AIR). An international feminist activist, writer, and consultant, she has worked for over 15 years supporting organizations, donors and the UN to deepen analysis, shape policy and funding, and refine interventions to defend women’s rights to health, bodily autonomy and freedom from violence. Her research and analysis has been published in a range of platforms including The Lancet, Feminist Africa, Al Jazeera and openDemocracy. She is also the author of the Cutting Edge Pack on Gender and Social Movements. She is a founding member of the African Feminist Forum and a board member of Urgent Action Fund–Africa, and she sits on the International Grants Committee of Comic Relief. A published poet, she regularly hosts and facilitates initiatives that promote women’s rights and social justice through the arts. In 2012 she was named an African woman changemaker by ARISE Magazine and as one of Applause Africa’s 40 Africans Changemakers under 40.
Programme Manager, City of Joy, DRC
Marie-Jeanne Bachu Bahati Nyenyezi (Mama Bachu) has been the head of the City of Joy programme in the Democratic Republic of the Congo since its inception in 2010. The City of Joy is designed to heal the emotional trauma of women survivors of violence, treating 90 women and girls during 6 month sessions with psychotherapy and supporting them with leadership and life skills training. Mama Bachu has served as the Provincial Secretary of the Status of Women, founding member and Vice President of the Anti-Bawaki Board of Directors, leader of the African Great Lake Region’s delegation to the first Global Women’s March on Washington and New York, and programme development consultant for the German organization GIZ. She was a participant in the 2002 Nairobi Peace Negotiations and served as National Deputy during the 2003-2006 Parliamentary transition and as the Vice President for the Parliamentary Commission on Women, Family, and Children.
Senior Legal Officer, War Child, Uganda Country Office
Jennifer Ayot is the Senior Legal Officer for War Child, where she works in Congolese and South Sudanese refugee settlements. Since graduating as a practicing Advocate in 2008, she has been working in post conflict Northern Uganda with a specialization in legal representation in courts of law for survivors of sexual and gender-based violence, child abuse and human rights violations. She holds a Bachelor of Law (LLB) from Makerere University in Uganda and a Post Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice from the Law Development Center in Uganda. She is passionate about bringing positive change to the lives of the people in the community.
Spoken Word Performer
SashOYA Simpson is a developing artist who embraces the principles of life while searching for her own truth through an exploration of art in its different forms, with a particular focus on storytelling in the various elements of theatre. She is currently the Associate Artistic Director and a PATI resident at Toronto’s holistic trans-disciplinary theatre institute The Watah School, where she is developing a solo show to present at the school’s upcoming festivals. She is also serving as the stage manager for Ssshe Mami Wata, written by d’bi young anitafrika and directed by Owen Blakka Ellis. She is a former member of the Toronto-based theatre, poetry and music collective Nomanzland and the AMY Project, which builds the leadership and unique voices of young women in Toronto by providing them with performance training, connections to artistic mentors, and experience working in a professional theatre. She is a student in the Production/Design Area of York University’s Theatre department.
Executive Director, Musasa Project, Zimbabwe
Netty Musanhu is the Executive Director of Musasa Project based in Harare, Zimbabwe. For over 20 years, Musasa Project has been working to confront gender-based violence, support women and children affected by domestic violence, and lobby nationally for legal and legislative reform. Musasa Project supports women’s needs by providing shelter services, psychosocial and peer counselling, legal support and training in advocacy in the organization’s domestic violence and “survivors’ clubs.” Netty has two law degrees from the University of Zimbabwe and 12 years of experience managing programmes for local, national and international non-governmental organizations including the Zimbabwe Women Lawyers’ Association, Child Protection Society and Actionaid Zimbabwe. At Actionaid Zimbabwe, she spearheaded the establishment of the child sponsorship programme. She is appointed to the Anti Domestic Violence Council and the Private and Voluntary Organizations Board, both of which were established by the Zimbabwe Parliament.
CEO, the African Women’s Development Fund
Theo Sowa is Chief Executive Officer of the African Women’s Development Fund based in Ghana. She has extensive experience as an independent advisor on a wide range of international and social development issues. Her work on women’s rights has a special focus on their promotion and protection in armed conflict situations, the strengthening of women-focused development programmes in Africa, and advocacy related to women and HIV and AIDS issues. She is a member of the Stephen Lewis Foundation’s African Advisory Board and the board of the Graça Machel Trust. She also serves on the board of the Museum of AIDS in Africa; is a Trustee of the UK’s Comic Relief and the Chair of its International Grant Committee; and is an Advisory Group member of the ‘Every Child a Reader’ literacy initiative. She holds a public appointment as a board member of the Charity Commission for England and Wales and was named as a Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 2010.