01 maggio 2011

Yawa: the hope of Ghanaian and African women

Questa è una versione in inglese dell'articolo su Yawa, fondatrice della LLN. Per leggere l'articolo in italiano, cliccare qui.

I  had the pleasure of meeting Yawa in 2004, during a course on democracy and tribalism in Ghana. At the time, I had immediately noticed and appreciated her great personality, wisdom and determination.

In the past few years, Yawa has confirmed herself as a leader in Ghana, both at university level as well as community level. Her passion? Defending and enhancing the role and opportunities of Ghanaian and African women in society and daily life.

She became the first female president of a college-level student government organization in Ghana. In 2007 she was invited to join the Pan-African Network of Emerging Leaders. She was one of the founders and presidents of Women of Ashesi, a support group for university-level women.

Yawa Hansen-Quao passionately defends women's rights and female empowerment. She organizes and promotes workshops about gender stereotyping, AIDS and sexual education. As a member of Toastmasters International, she shares the art of public speaking, helping other women to develop the necessary skills and confidence to become more effective communicators.

Yawa holds a degree in Business Administration from Ashesi University College, a Honors in Entrepreneurship and New Product Development from The American University of Rome, and a Certificate in Radio and Television Presentation from Ghana Institute of Journalism. 

At the beginning of the 1980s, Yawa and her family had to leave Ghana because of the military coups. She lived her first years as refugee in Togo and in the USA, through the UNHCR. In 1996, she was able to go back home, where she realized that the local women had few opportunities and limited spaces.

As she worked and studied at Ashesi University, she conceived, supported and carried out the idea of introducing an honor code, the first of the kind to be implemented in a university in sub-Saharan Africa.  The aim was to reduce the amount of cheating and corruption in exchange for better grades. Yawa believes that corruption in governments and corporations often start in the wrong mentality of the youth. If students start learning and practicing ethical behaviors at an early age, there is more chances that these ideals remain rooted as they become adults and reach power positions.

One of Yawa's most recent conquests has been the creation of the Leading Ladies' Network (LLN), a non-governmental organization for supporting female leadership. Based in Accra, it has the following objectives:
  • nurturing and sustaining the leadership of Ghanaian women
  • helping and encouraging women to participate in projects for social change aimed at enhancing the quality of life of the most vulnerable
  • promoting the dialogue about women's development issues in Africa
  • encouraging the development of a positive and equitable relationship between women and men

The LLN has created a digital network through its website, profiles on Facebook, Youtube and Twitter, interventions in virtual forums, a monthly newsletter. In these spaces, the NGO launches online discussions, poses and answers questions, notifies members of events and opportunities.

The LLN also organizes educational and practical programs aimed at promoting female social entrepreneurship (the FLAMES program - Female Leadership Advancement, Mentoring, & Empowerment Series), with particular emphasis on improving professional capacities, technical competences and confidence building.

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