DAKAR, February 26, 2014 - On his Facebook page, Charles Lauandino Vieira Sanches, 33, proudly posted photos of himself receiving his advanced degree. The young man from Cabo Verde was among the first graduating class to achieve a master’s degree in Gender and Peacebuilding, a brand-new bilingual (French and English) major offered by Cheikh Anta Diop University (UCAD) in Dakar, Senegal’s capital.
To add to the honor, the young graduate was handed his diploma by Bineta Diop, the founder and president of Femmes Africa Solidarité (FAS), a nonprofit created in 1996 to promote leadership-building for women within the domains of conflict prevention, outreach, and conflict resolution on the African continent.
This grande dame of peace, now 64, was listed on Time magazine’s annual roster of the 100 Most Influential People in the World in 2011. “If I could be on that list by the time I’m her age, that would be a good start, don’t you think?” said Charles with a smile.
The sole program of its kind in Africa, the master’s came about thanks to a partnership between FAS (through its Pan-African Center for Gender, Peace and Development, or PAC), the law and political science department of UCAD, and the United Nations Peace University (UPEACE) in Costa Rica.
Since 2012, the African Capacity Building Foundation and the World Bank have provided funding for the partnership effort, with the World Bank contributing $207,523 over three years. “Thus far, $97,168 has been spent on computer hardware and classroom renovation and equipment,” said John Mugisa, PAC’s point man for the program. The African Development Bank, UNESCO, and the governments of Norway and Sweden also contribute support.
Twenty-nine graduates (15 women and 14 men) from university and professional backgrounds made up the first class, remarkable for its diversity. The students were from Benin, Burundi, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Gabon, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Sudan, Togo and the Republic of Cabo Verde ¾ no fewer than 13 sub-Saharan African countries.