Dr. Erma Manoncourt is a public health specialist in behavior and social change and the Founder and President of M&D Consulting Inc (Paris, France).
A retired UN official, she has worked over 30 years in international development, providing technical assistance in management/leadership, strategic planning, training and facilitation skills, communication for development, and research, monitoring, and evaluation. Erma has extensive work experience in the Middle East, Eastern Europe, Asia, and Sub-Saharan Africa.
THIS IS Fatoumata Kebe, a final-year astronomy student on a mission to clean up space.
The 29-year-old, who works on space debris, is just months away from collecting her PhD from at Observatoire de Paris and Université Pierre et Marie Curie.
Space debris is the traces of human activity in space, all the things left there.
“Bits of rockets, for instance,” she told Clique.tv. “My work focuses particularly on what happens when these objects collide and explode. For example, I try to determine how many pieces of debris an object will split into.”
Fatoumata decided this was the subject for her after completing a programme at NASA.
“Over there, I took a space environment course on the subject with an engineer from the European Space Agency. I liked it because, at the time, I was torn between space and the environment, and here was a subject that dealt with the environment in space.”
There are currently two million pieces of debris orbiting the Earth, so, according to Fatoumata, a need for her expertise will be around for the foreseeable.
“We leave traces everywhere we go: there is plenty of work to do.”
She adds: “A 5 cm piece of debris in space has about as much energy as a bus. And it can have very serious consequences.
“The space around the Earth is too cluttered. We can’t send up any more rockets or satellites without risking them being destroyed by debris.”
Working in astronomy was a “childhood dream” for Fatoumata. She found pictures of stars and planets “fascinating”, but didn’t know how to get into the profession.
“After focusing on science subjects at school, I went off to university. I did a Master’s in fluid mechanics, but as that wasn’t sufficiently space-oriented, I did courses at the European Space Agency, the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS), etc. I then went off to Japan for a year to learn about space engineering and building nanosatellites.”
She is currently writing her Ph.D. thesis and hopes to officially become an astronomer.
On perceptions of astronomy being a male-only profession, she says: “I think the problem is a wider one. There is a problem with women in the sciences, from high school onwards. Once you get to university, the numbers of women dwindle over time. There are very few of us left by the time you get to post-doctoral level.”
“A lot of girls around me have said things like, ‘Fatou, I want a family life’. Girls lack self-belief in this field.”
She admits people have tried to discourage her, but she is defiant and admits, “I’m against positive discrimination, so it’s quite difficult.”
37-year-old Sibeth Ndiaye is making a name for herself as the communications advisor to French President Emmanuel Macron. Born in Dakar, she quickly found herself in the world of politics after moving to Paris and becoming involved with the National Union of Students of France (UNEF) while studying health economics at Paris-Sorbonne University. She joined the French Socialist Party in 2002, ultimately becoming the secretary in charge of early childhood.
Although Macron’s wife Brigitte is widely known as his main confidant, Ndiaye was also heavily involved in his PR campaign throughout the election, granting or denying the media access to the presidential candidate for interviews and managing his image in what turned out to be one of the most divisive French elections in recent history. Ndiaye was even ranked ninth out of the fifteen most important personalities who were closest to Macron during his campaign.
In a recent interview with weekly news magazine Jeune Afrique, Ndiaye said she did not officially become a French citizen until June 2016 – and that was
“after a long hesitation.”
When questioned over her status as a role model for young African women who are considering a career in politics, she was reluctant to accept the title.
“I do not see myself as a role model at all. My professional career was built upon encounters with people who trusted me …this leads me to believe that my success is because of my contact with the right people, people who do not see skin color, social origin or education background.”
Nyansapo Fest – Paris mayor vows to halt black feminist festival, then backtracks
It’s an embarrassing turnaround for the mayor who appears to have leapt to the position of far-right groups instead of checking the facts of the situation.
The Nyansapo Fest, which is organised by the Mwasi Collective, is set to take place in northern Paris between 28 and 30 July.
In recent days, the festival organisers have been lambasted by certain social media users– especially those from far-right and white nationalist circles– due to the fact that certain sessions will only be open to black women. On Sunday, Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo jumped into the discussion, tweeting that the festival was discriminatory and that she would take firm and immediate action to ban it.
However, only a day later, Hidalgo took to Twitter to announce that the festival would go ahead after all. This prompted ridicule on social media, with the number one hashtag in France stealing a line from her most recent tweet, “Following my firm intervention…”
“Festival Nyansapo: Following my firm intervention yesterday with organisers, a clear solution was established,” Hidalgo tweeted.
So what happened?
The Nyansapo festival has divided its events into four categories– those open exclusively to black women (which account for 80% of activities), those open to both black women and black men, those open to women of colour and those open to everyone. The majority of events are reserved for black female participants.
The organisers say it is important to restrict access to certain sessions so that black women can engage in open, honest conversations about their unique struggles, without judgement from others.