One of my favorite projects by NORSAAC in partnership with ActionAid Ghana is the Young Female Parliamentarian (YFP) project. The YFP platform is a network of 800 girls, 40 girls in 20 Senior High Schools between the age of 15 – 20, that meet regularly to discuss issues around leadership, women’s health, social activism, and human rights. This project came to be because of low representation of women in decision making position at all levels of government in Ghana. Even when quotas are set to create more equity, women still did not participate as a result of culture, religion, and social norms. The main objective YFP is to increase female participation in key leadership positions in secondary institutions, thus building the skill set of these young women to participate in decision making roles in their adulthood.
My first field visit at NORSAAC was visiting schools participating in the YFP platform in ten different communities in Northern Ghana. There I was privileged to attend their meetings on leadership with other facilitators. It was in one of those meetings where I learnt the most valuable lesson on leadership.
After introductions and ice breakers, the girls stood in a circle around Michael, a facilitator from Action Aid. Michael began by asking “Who is a leader?”
A girl raised her hand and responded “Someone who controls a group of people”.
Michael acknowledged her answer and asked me to write “control” on the flip chat. I had volunteered to help with note taking.
The next girl raised her hand and said “A leader is someone who has authority to make a group of people achieve a goal”.
Again Michael asked me to write “has authority to make…” on the flip chart.
This went on for another ten minutes by then the flip chat was filled with other words like: “rule”, “govern”, “command”, “guide”, “dictate”, “order”, “reign”.
Michael thanked them for their contributions, then defined a leader as a person with the ability influence people. He explained that what they were defining were attributes of a person in a decision making position not a leader, attributing the difference to influencing people without force or coercion, thus a person in authority does not a leader make. He spent some time explaining that all leadership takes place through communicating ideas to the minds of others. Concluding, he inspired the girls to see themselves as leaders, as each of them could influence people in their school, at home and in their communities.
The girls’ eyes literally lit up with this new epiphany, it was as though they suddenly saw themselves as leaders. They demonstrated their understanding of leadership in the next activity where they were tasked to act out an example bad leader in a short play. Their short play was about a student leader who yelled at students and used punishments to get them to do things. They then explained that a good leader would look for other creative ways to lure the students to get things done, rather than use force like they had shown in the play. The play was a sharp contrast to their initial definition of leadership.
That day I learnt an important lesson about being a leader that I can never forget.
Christi-Anna is working with Northern Sector Action on Awareness Centre in Tamale, Ghana as a Monitoring and Evaluations Manager.