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Galvanizing the power of the voice

A Report of the Wasichana Wa Afrika Summit 2021

Under the supervision of Akili Dada (Nairobi, Kenya), initiator and host of the event, the 4th edition of the Wasichana Wa Afrika Summit was launched on the 8th of December 2021. There were a total of 48 girls in attendance.

The Wasichana Wa Afrika Summit is a girls’ convention which involves girls from over 20 African countries, represented by female leaders of ages between 13 and 19. The aim of the summit is to empower girls to engage in purposeful dialogue that will enrich their leadership pathways in their countries of influence.

This year’s theme was VOICE - Galvanizing the power of exercising voice and action through collaborative networks and integration of mental health & wellbeing practices to optimize resilient leadership.

The first day of the summit kicked start with a brief introduction of Akili Dada and her mission and achievements so far. Shortly after, was a Girls Inspire Session which mainly consisted of sharing Leadership experiences by the different participants. There was a 10-minute break, and then an insightful debate on the topic: “Does Gender Matter in Leadership?”. To my greatest surprise, some girls were for the motion. One of the Protagonists could be heard saying “If men can do it, give it to me. If it’s better off for women, then give it to women”.

The debate was a powerful one, as it was related to Women empowerment-which is a major topic discussed in the world today. The host called upon the attendees to cast their votes in the polling box and give our opinions on the topic, for our voices to be heard as she rightly said “Your voice counts”. These were some of the highlights of day 1.

Sharing Girls’ Journey in Leadership was the opening statement for day 2. Racheal Onsare, a gender and development activist, was the first speaker who shared her experience with us. “It takes some time for the people you lead to have the same vision as you”, she said as she gave a rundown of the challenges she encountered.

Shoda, a disability advocate, who finds pleasure in helping young people to understand and live with their disabilities, was the next speaker. Lastly, we had Bahsan Samow Abdillah, a 22-year-old sexual reproductive health advocate, who have us a foretaste of what true leadership entails.

If I got nothing from her presentation, I took home these resounding words of hers: “You are the picture of other girls. Portray it with power. Portray it with resilience. Portray it with dignity.”

Immediately after the session was a debate on “Collaborative Networks are Important for Female Leadership to Thrive and Succeed”. We then had artistic performances to mark the end of the second day.

The third and last day of the summit started with a peer discussion on mental health, social-emotional wellbeing and leadership. A health break was observed and shortly behind, we had a series of discussions and messages from outstanding female leaders mostly in East Africa, artistic performances, and closing remarks.

I must say that this was a great time, as I learned a lot. I was personally moved by the ease with which everyone interacted irrespective of your nationality, age or even religious denomination. We were all equal and free to voice out our opinions on any topic which was being tackled.

Indeed, the WWA Summit does not only empower the girls but equally entices them to aim big. It takes little girls who have no basic knowledge in leadership, through the journey and makes them dream of a world in which they rule. Contrarily to what some may think, it is not a “Power to the Girls, for the Girls and by the Girls”. We are still taught to maintain our position of subordination, humility and respect but with dignity and a change in mindset that what was once believed not to be possible, is possible in the new era and women can do anything they want to do in life.

These words remained in my mind as I logged out of the meeting:

“There is nothing for girls without girls” ~ Racheal Onsare

“Do not cage yourself. Whatever you believe in, work on it. Aim higher and be who you want to be” ~Bahsan Samow

It is rather well known that “In Open Dreams, we don’t spare opportunities”, said Forghab Prince.

By Niassan Anushka, Open Dreams Scholar

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