African women taking steps, occupying spaces

As we celebrate women’s day, we also celebrate the amazing opportunities that our all female co-founders have been exposed to this year, accelerating their goal to changing the narrative for first generation students in under-served communities.

One of those opportunities has been the Mandela Washington Fellowship, a flagship program of Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI), and legacy of former USA president Barack Obama. This program encompasses networking amongst fellow Africans and Americans at top US institutions of academia with a focus on business and entrepreneurship, civic leadership and public management. It has been an enriching and transformational experience as our Co-Founder, Mpho Sekwele, describes the 6 weeks journey spent at Ivy League Dartmouth College culminating in a 4-day summit at Washington D.C.

Image by: Lars Blackmore

One of my biggest realisations from this program is the wealth of knowledge which us young Africans have, the common desire to foster change in our diverse communities and the rise of women as change agents on the continent.

Many of these women are embracing servant leadership to impact their communities and move our continent forward. We all have a role to play by sharing ourselves with others be it by advising or using our expertise and resources to move us forward. One never knows how far reaching these acts of humanity can get us as Africans. It is in these simple acts that we can harness our true power by acknowledging that we all exist in an ecosystem that could explode through collaborative efforts.

Image by: Lars Blackmore

Some of the key themes the fellowship reiterated are: Africa’s possibilities are the world’s opportunities; the increasing role of technology in solving some of our problems; and the advantage that our young median age that is technologically savvy will have on Africa’s 2050 agenda.

Young women of our generation whom I met on the fellowship and who have taken the first step to shaping their spaces into the world they create include Paballo Mokoqo. She is a young woman who empowers disenfranchised women in Lesotho through technology driven domestic services solutions. Her dream is to emancipate women through training and creation of vast work opportunities.

Another young woman is Hafsat Dange, a mother of five, from the conservative Sokoto region in Northern Nigeria. Hafsat qualified as a corporate lawyer against many odds and is an advocate for women’s rights and economic development in her community where empowered women are not the norm.

Take Youku Special Kasselie, a young woman from Liberia who turns trash into treasure by championing waste reduction and producing marketable crafts from recycled materials. Her goal is to preserve life with fewer people in hospital due to pollution and disease spread from harmful waste.

These are all the steps that some women on the continent are embarking on, starting where they are – creating the communities they desire.

Image by: Lars Blackmore

Imagine if we all took one small step, with the billion footsteps walking in Africa, it is hard to imagine an Africa where possibilities are truly not the world’s opportunities.

The treasure that I have found through this fellowship experience is that each and every one of us has something to offer the world,  no matter how big or small – collectively we are a huge source of Power!

In Nelson Mandela’s favorite Invictus words: “I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul” I am reminded by these Mandela Washington Fellows that indeed we are the designers of our own worlds and many more women are taking their first step. Take yours!

Image by: Lars Blackmore

#OccupyingSpaces#StepOutOfYourLane #BeTheDifference 

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