Damilare (Dara) Apampa, Nigeria

Damilare is from Abuja, Nigeria, and currently attends boarding school in the Rift Valley in Kenya. She is 15 and was born in Ireland.

Several people come to mind when I think of strong female leaders in Nigeria. Women like Okonjo Iweala, who shaped our society with influences stemming as far back as the 70s, are people who immediately call out for recognition regarding this topic. However, I believe that every female individual has the ability to empower and inspire others through various small forms of leadership, despite her age and background.

I see examples of such extraordinary leadership with my mother. My mum is a part time baker and housewife who runs her business from my home. She didn’t originally set out to own her own business, but she took initiative and went back to work, in order to provide for her family when my country started to go into economic decline. She taught me that when you are given the opportunity to be a leader, you can defy cultural norms (such as being a housewife) to take charge.

Another example are the numerous girls I see on the street daily who hawk bread, toys, or whatever else it may be for the sake of their families. Most of these girls have either been abandoned by their parents or are orphaned and left to sustain themselves and their siblings, due to the lack of government support. These girls, from as young as age five, are willing to put themselves out there and to give up an education for the sake of their families. That, to me, shows a great deal of sacrifice: one of the most essential qualities of a leader.

In conclusion, there are many forms of female leadership in my country, despite the traditional and cultural restraints that we sometimes face. However, being the powerful, strong leaders we women are, we always find a way to stand out as the leaders we were born to be.

Hannah Wilson-Black, United States

Hannah Wilson-Black is a vertically challenged sophomore at Sidwell Friends School. She is involved in the arts and student publications, and she likes to think of herself as the star of the JV soccer team. In her free time at home in Northern Virginia, Hannah enjoys being outdoors, watching 80s TV shows, being a feminist and fruitlessly searching for literary representation for a book she started writing in 8th grade.

I see strong female leadership in my mother, who, as a pastor, is in charge of keeping a congregation together with a strong common faith. Even when she was younger, my mom was always a risk-taker and never a follower. One day, when she was a junior in high school, she forgot to stand up for the Pledge of Allegiance, and when she was sent to the principal’s office for this offense, she fought to prove that she didn’t have to stand. She and some fellow students sat in protest during the Pledge for the rest of the year. I am lucky to have such an example of calm and disciplined decision-making and leadership in my life.

I also see great leadership and initiative in the women I have found through my forays into the online fiction-writing community. These writers and publishing professionals are incredible women who have weathered sexism and sometimes online abuse throughout their work as authors, and despite their high positions in the industry. Even though it is sometimes a struggle to do what they do, especially for women of color, these writers and members of the publishing industry lead and moderate welcoming communities for other women writers. As for female leadership in my country, I am honestly amazed at any women politicians, regardless of their parties or beliefs. Although I’m not sure I would ever go into politics myself, when I see female senators and other political leaders speaking or otherwise taking action, I want more than anything to be able to make a positive difference, as they hopefully do.

To have more prominent female leaders in my country would make me feel confident that the United States is in the right hands. There is something about the leadership capabilities of women that makes creating change so much more efficient and compassionate. According to data from Quorum, a startup offering information on the activities of legislators, over the last six years the average US female senator has introduced more legislation (and more successful legislation) than the average male senator. I think more female leadership in my country, especially in our government, can only be a good thing.

I think that the key to allowing more paths for leadership for girls in the United States is in part teaching girls to be more secure and confident in their intelligence and abilities, but largely it is teaching boys to respect the contributions of girls. I don’t know if it’s possible, but, if we could “train” boys to accept that they may be led by women at various points in their lives, I think that would make a world of difference. I just don’t think that teenagers today, particularly boys, associate women with being “in charge.” All you have to do is listen to stories of women professionals being asked, “but where is Mr. ___?” when in fact, they are the “Mr.” that the person in question is looking for. If you are looking for a powerful person, the face you are seeking out will automatically be a man’s. This shouldn’t be the case. I also think if we teach boys to see women as having just as much capacity for leadership as they do, the romantic relationships and friendships these boys have in their teen years and beyond will be built on mutual respect. It is incredibly degrading for any woman to have the impression that a man listens to her for her mind, only to find out he is interested in being “rewarded” with her body. In general, it seems difficult to be taken seriously as a female leader but incredibly valuable once you are really listened to. Women leaders will not be listened to unless we first change the way we evaluate and see them as people.

>Women leaders will not be listened to unless we first change the way we evaluate and see them as people.

I think the first things we notice about a man are his thoughts and his responsibilities, and the first things we notice about a woman are the way she is dressed, her body structure, and perhaps why she is even here in the first place. This needs to change, if we want to see the state of our nation improve.

Deepshikha Parmessur, Mauritius

Deepshikha graduated from the African Leadership Academy in 2015 and is going into her second year at Bucknell University in Pennsylvania. She is currently 19.

If you had the choice between love and career, what would you choose?

In all honesty, that is the hardest question you could ask a 24-year-old woman who just made it to the job market. My example of a strong female leadership is when that 24-year-old woman chooses her career and keeps making this choice every morning when she wakes up.

>Her parents told her she could grow up and be whoever she wanted to be, but society reminded her time and time again that she was “just a girl.”

Yet, she kept moving forward. Despite friends failing her, and her academics disappointing her, she made the bold choice to get a degree in psychology, with counseling skills. And this time, she had to choose between love and traveling abroad for her studies. With all the other personal factors taken into consideration, she chose love, because where would we all be without love? And, society says that a woman cannot have both. But, she did end up getting her degree, and she then transitioned into the job market where she was actively seeking a job. But, taking into account the skewed politics in her country, getting a decent job was harder than she thought. In the end, she made it, and she is now in places and meeting people she never thought she would, two years ago.

The reason why this 24-year-old woman represents strong female leadership is because despite all the setbacks that pulled her down, she jumped back up. Most people would say that she made it this far because of luck. I am not a believer in luck, but I do know this: she has made it this far because of her hard work and dedication. She does not give up, even when the society tells her, “you’re just a girl.” She knows what it means to start with no hope and to make it all the way to the top.

For the past 20 years, I have always looked up to her because she represents everything that I want to be. She is the reason why I am now passionate and committed to the things I care about. She taught me that despite what others tell you, go ahead and do it anyway. She amazes me every single day. She is bold. She defies the norm. I am proud to know this 24-year-old woman. This 24-year-old woman is my sister, and she represents strong female leadership for me.

Yasmin Osman, Ghana

Yasmin is an 11-year-old student at Esereso Junior High School I, living in Kumasi, Ghana.

When we say “leadership,” we mean the process of influencing people to cooperate or direct their efforts towards the achievement of a common goal. That is having the authority to guide others towards the achievement of set goal.

An example of female leadership personally in my life is my mother. My mother exercises her authority over my siblings and I. She ensures that there is moral discipline and hard work in the family. She takes decisions when the man (dad) is absent.

My mother takes control of everything that happens and draws plans for the family. A mother also has the authority to guide and direct you in achieving your goals.

Moreover, a mother in general is described as a unique form of leadership. A mother is always caring and honest. My mother cares for the family, so she decide what is good for the family and bad for the family.

With all of the above, a mother can be described as a leader.

Stephen Ochieng, Kenya

Stephen is an 11-year-old boy in Class 4 at Magadi Primary School, living in Kisumu, Kenya.

Nereah Okombo is a strong lady who is caring for poor people in our ward. She lives at Manyatta, near Koyango market. At Koyango, she has constructed culverts and good road. The rays of electricity had not come to Koyango, but after she came, Koyango has become a business place for 24 hours in a day.

Mme.. Okombo has also given the women in our area loans to start their business. At sports, she has helped many players by providing sports wares and sports shoes. In January 2016, she herself cleared out the sewage near Nyamasai School. At that time, I was heading back home and saw her doing this activity.

If all women could have got the power of this strong lady, all the poor people in our areas could have enjoyed the life of rich people. If it could have been me, I could have helped all the people in our rural areas who are poor.

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