The Africa Women’s Sports Summit has come to stay

The stage had been packed up. The seats had emptied. The Botsio conference hall at the Swiss Spirit Alisa Hotel in Accra was quiet. It had been a long day for Juliet Bawuah and her team. She was tired.

“I think I am satisfied with what went on today,” Juliet, one of Ghana’s most recognizable sports journalists, remarked.

What had happened was the maiden edition of the Africa Women’s Sports Summit, an idea she owns, and one that had transformed into event within weeks of planning.

“I’ve always meant to organize a gathering of females. At the time I neither had a name nor a full idea, but I just knew I wanted that kind of gathering. It was just a thought.” Juliet said, recalling the genesis of the concept.

The first edition of the summit focused on sports journalism. Its theme was bold – “Take your place” – a call aimed at elevating female representation in the sports media ecosystem. It brought together leading female names in African media, headlined by SuperSport and Premier League TV’s Carol Tshabalala from South Africa, arguably Africa’s premier female force in broadcasting, famous for having been the first from the continent to host a Ballon d’Or ceremony.

Joining Tshabalala on the panel was Uganda’s Usher Komugisha, renowned for her work for the likes of the BBC, SuperSport and NBA Africa, as well as the widely known Ghanaian duo of Eva Okyere and Nana Aba Anamoah. “I wanted to tap into their experience,” Juliet said. “I wanted the young ones coming up to learn one or two things.”

Juliet, who cut her teeth across local media houses such as ETV, TV3 and Citi FM, worked for two years as an anchor and correspondent for Pan-African broadcaster Africa News in Congo Brazzaville, before travelling to study for a Masters at Cardiff University in Wales.

Upon getting her graduate degree and moving back to Ghana, she knew it was time to act on that idea she had had for years, not least because emails and messages from young female journalists asking for mentorship had begun to pile up.

She decided to leverage on her connections to breathe life into the idea. “I thought; why not check the schedules of my other colleagues of the continent,” Juliet said. Her colleagues did not need convincing. “They just said. ‘Let me know the dates’.” The headache of flying them in and offering hospitality would be solved by the kind support of Kenyan Airways, Expert Travel and the Swiss Spirit Alisa Hotel, among a line-up of brands that believed in a fledgling dream with sponsorship.

Juliet then assembled a team made of trusted colleagues with varying degrees of expertise in event organizing and content. They would go on to plan a spectacle that became a social media hit, with a well out-together promotion plan that included catchy artworks, billboards across Accra, video endorsements from high profile figures such as FIFA General Secretary Fatma Samoura, and a hashtag #AWSportsSummit that trended at number one in the country during the event.

“I had not done an event like this before, so it was a new experience,” said Juliet. “I felt it was too much. I thought at times, ‘how are we going to pull this off?” But I had an amazing team. We had our ups and downs but we managed to pull it off.”

The execution was difficult on the backend but beautiful in the end. There was live-mentoring, speeches, a lively panel discussion, question and answer sessions as well as a heart-felt discussion of the realities of the female strife in sports journalism.

FIRST EDITION OF THE AFRICA WOMEN'S SPORTS SUMMIT

LIVE FROM THE SWISS SPIRIT ALISA HOTEL IN ACCRA, GHANA, YOU ARE WATCHING THE FIRST EVER AFRICA WOMEN'S SPORTS SUMMIT. #AWSportsSummit

Posted by AWSportsSummit on Wednesday, May 15, 2019

The attendance was massive, with the hall filled to the brim with journalists from across the continent, as well as other prime stakeholders – all of whom waxed lyrical about the event’s substance and outlook.

So, what next for the brand enviably showered with unanimous praise?

“We just want to rest a bit before giving out the details,” Juliet laughed. “But we want to make sure it isn’t just a talk shop. It is important we do some follow ups. We will be taking some of the participants through boot-camp training.”

One things is for sure, though. The Africa Women’s Sports Summit will return next year, and it will be more ambitious.

“This year was just for sports journalists, but next year we’ll have a different direction, because the concept is for women in sports,” said Juliet.