From left are Celiwe Qhamukile Madlopha, Ingrid Palmer, and Makhosazane Promise Patience Zing (Suade Williams, Sway Bay Visuals LLC)

It is said that the journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. The Los Angeles African American Women’s PAC (LAAAWPAC) took that first step toward cross-border, cross-cultural cooperation on May 11, while hosting a luncheon with a delegation of nine Parliamentarians from South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal Province.

“LAAAWPAC felt honored that we were one of the organizations that they considered to be part of their visit,” said LAAAWPAC President Ingrid Palmer. “One of the keys to our mission is to take the organization international; this was a starting point.”

The collaborative luncheon was held at L.A.’s historic City Club, a nod to the city’s first social club that allowed Black membership. In addition to the nine delegates, members of LAAAWPAC, the Los Angeles African American Women’s Public Policy Institute (LAAAWPPI) and heads of Black-led, community-based organizations also attended the event. Jill M. Humphries, Ph.D, MPH, a two- time Fulbright Scholar, and L.A. Housing Commissioner Marisa Hall, co-chaired the luncheon.

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“The lunch allowed the delegation elbow-to-elbow opportunity to engage and dialogue with community-based organizations and local leaders, glean from their successes and take that knowledge back home to further uplift women in South Africa,” said Palmer.

The South African Consulate-General commissioned the visit by the Multi-Party Women’s Caucus, an advisory council championing the interests and concerns of South African women, both inside and outside the government.

The purpose of the week-long visit to Los Angeles, according to the South African Consulate-General, was to “interact with women in political structures, women interest groups… and gender activists” to gain insight into, among other things: advancing gender equality, equity and empowerment; increasing women representation in government, promoting sound legislative policies that advance women’s issues, closing the gender pay gap, addressing violence against women and children, and identifying gender disparities in the financial and political systems.

From left are Arnedra Jordan, Jan Perry, Shameen Thakur-Rajbansi, Lena Cole Dennis, Vena Benjamin, Marisa Hall, Kandee Lewis, Celiwe Qhamukile Madlopha, Venita Smit, Magesvari Govender, Ingrid Palmer, Phumzile Harriet Mbatha Cele, Dr. Ernestine Robertson, Thembeni Petty Mthethwa, Elma Rebe, Makhosazane Promise Patience Zungu, Nomvov Letticia Mpayipheli and Dr. Jill Humphries. (Suade Williams, Sway Bay Visuals LLC)

KwaZulu-Natal or KZN is South Africa’s second most populous province and home to Durban, the country’s third largest city. Roughly the size of Indiana, the coastal province is bordered by the Indian Ocean along the country’s southeastern-most region. Established in 1994 when the Zulu Nation and the British Colony of Natal merged, KZN has a relatively young government.

This benchmarking visit was an opportunity “to see how we handle certain issues in government and policy,” said Palmer. “They’re taking cues from America on how to build financial support around women candidates and candidates who support women’s issues.”

Palmer noted that the delegates were especially curious about how American fund political campaigns, support political candidates and elect women to office — if not by way of government funding.

“I told her we can’t be government funded. [We raise money] by finding people who get behind a candidate’s cause,” she said. “They really gained an understanding of a Political Action Committee, how they work and the role they play.”

In turn, LAAAWPAC gained new, international partners who are equally committed to advancing issues concerning Black women and elevating women to higher office, added Palmer.  “It was a bridge-builder and we look forward to furthering the conversation and the work.”