TEDWomen Presents: Women leading joy, with Angélique Kidjo and Femi Oke

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Angélique Kidjo in conversation with Femi Oke at TEDWomen Presents. October 24-28, 2022. Photo Courtesy of TED.

Joy is one of the most under-prioritized essentials to social progress. How do we reconnect to it during life’s hardest moments?

The fifth and final day of TEDWomen Presents — an online festival featuring interviews with leading women, interactive workshops, specially curated film screenings and more — focused on the value of joy, with a conversation between Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter Angélique Kidjo and international broadcaster Femi Oke.

Big idea: Women and girls across Africa need unfettered access to education — and safe, collaborative and inspiring spaces for their ambitions to thrive.

How? “When I am on stage, I am just trying to convey the happiness, the joy and the strength that we have as human beings to prevail in every circumstance,” says Angélique Kidjo. In a deep and expansive conversation with Femi Oke, Kidjo shares the different kinds of joys that weave together her experience as a musician and gender equality advocate. Growing up in Benin, she witnessed silencing limitations placed on girls from a young age, whether it was marriage at a young age or unwanted pregnancy. She founded Batonga — a foundation that provides education and resources to women and girls in the most hard-to-reach parts of Africa — to help give them a voice. By investing in the dreams, skills and ambitions of those who are often overlooked and marginalized, Kidjo found that education can create the space necessary to break harmful societal barriers. Whether she’s making an impact through her infectious, Grammy-award-winning music or creating safe, entrepreneurial spaces for girls to thrive, Kidjo wants us all to recognize our worth and know “you can fall beneath the Earth, but you always can rise.”

Q&A: After the interview, Kidjo joined TEDWomen Editorial Director Pat Mitchell live from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where she’s just wrapped up the final show of her North American tour. Kidjo detailed practices that help her connect to joy even when life gets challenging, reminding us that “joy is endless.”

“When you are joyful, you are free,” Kidjo says. She’s eager to continue collaborating with organizations whose mission is to help cultivate the music and solidarity that empower women and girls to become leaders of their own lives. Kidjo talked about the ways in which her organization Batonga has positively impacted generations of women by supporting mothers, who in turn support their daughters. She highlighted the importance of honesty, accountability and hope when it comes to connecting with younger generations, equipping them for the challenges (and infinite possibilities) ahead.

Angélique Kidjo in conversation with Femi Oke at TEDWomen Presents. October 24-28, 2022. Photo Courtesy of TED.

TED also invites you to join the BIG JOY Project — a one-week, seven-minute-a-day journey to discover what micro-acts of joy help you tap into your own happiness. At the end of this citizen science project, your very own joy superpower will be revealed to you.

And lastly, a bit of news! TEDWomen will have a new home in 2023: the exuberant and historically-rich city of Atlanta, Georgia. We hope you can join next year (whether it’s virtually or in person) and take part.

Join the TEDWomen Community newsletter list to be the first to hear updates from the community and announcements about TEDWomen 2023 in Atlanta, Georgia — October 11-13, 2023.