Meet Yawa, an exceptional Ashesi graduate who has mentored 400+ women and girls for success in the professional world. Written by Yawa:
I believe that if we unlock the leadership potential of African women and girls, we can transform them into compassionate change makers who will improve not only their own circumstances, but the circumstances of others. Against considerable odds, I founded Leading Ladies’ Network to empower women and girls’ leadership potential. Let me start at the beginning. As a little girl, I was teased at school because I had a very deep voice. Eventually, I became mute to avoid teasing. My father confronted me, “Do not ever let people steal your voice; your voice is your power.” Those words sparked my journey to find my own voice, and fueled my passion to help other women to do the same.
When I first visited Ashesi the mission resonated with me – I wanted to connect with Africa and become an excellent African leader. My father insisted I only apply to more established schools in the US, so I applied to Ashesi in secret and was awarded a scholarship.
While I was a student at Ashesi, my family fell on hard times. My father passed away, my siblings and I fell behind on rent and were evicted. Mustering my voice, I reached out for help from my Ashesi community of friends, families, professors and staff, and they responded. Ashesi awakened my own desire to lead. In 2005, I was elected the first woman student president in Ghana, and in 2007 I became the first woman in my family to graduate from university.
After several successful years in the working world, I founded Leading Ladies’ Network (LLN). Established in Ghana in 2009, LLN supports girls through programs and resources that enhance their development as leaders. LLN works to bridge the women’s leadership gap in Africa by creating space for ambitious girls to connect; hone their leadership potential; and receive support and mentorship before they transition into adulthood and form their lifelong values. We have helped over 400 women and girls through mentoring, continuing education, and community building, and continue to expand. The UN learned of my programs and asked me to adapt them for rural women in Kenya, Uganda, and South Sudan. Recently, the World Economic Forum named me a young “Global Shaper”, and a board member of the Global Shapers Foundation. Owing so much to Ashesi, I was thrilled when, in 2014, the Ashesi University Board of Trustees invited me to be the first graduate to serve on the University Board.
The women of Africa are at a unique crossroad, and I want to provide the stepping stones to success, to prepare them to participate at every leadership table. I want my daughter, sisters, and all Africans— men and women, to grow up in a world where they see strong female leaders.
Leading Ladies’ Network
LLN supports women through programs and resources that enhance their development as leaders. Want to learn more? Check out leadingladiesnetwork.org.