She Leads Africa

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In the last two decades, there has been an increase in the number of platforms that are providing opportunities for women to develop their leadership skills.

Platforms like TEDx, for example, create a space where women can present their ideas and thoughts freely using slideshows and speeches that have gone on to inspire other women around the world.

More specifically, platforms that provide a space for African women in and out of the diaspora have begun to increase as well.

I recently had the chance to interview Kenyan-born, Charlene Macharia who is the Program Coordinator at UCSB Academic Initiatives to discuss the importance of such platforms.

We also spoke about her experience with the Women’s Economic Forum as the All Ladies League (ALL) -a women’s empowerment non-profit based in India with chapters around the world.

Being the chairperson in Santa Barbara, she also highlights the reasons why there should be more platforms that give African Women a voice. 

How did you get involved with the All Ladies League and become a member?

All Ladies League (ALL) is a women’s empowerment non-profit based in India with chapters around the world. ALL hosts a conference which takes place annually in India. 

I am a Gates Millennium Scholar and I found out about this conference and organization through a fellow scholar, Kaity Yang.

She had posted on our Facebook group that she was in India doing her own research when she got the opportunity to meet the founder and global chairperson of ALL, Dr. Harbeen Arora and her partner Dr. Vinay Rai. They were impressed to hear about the Gates Millennium scholarship program and they extended the invitation for 10 gates scholars to attend the very first Conference.

They generously waived our conference registration and lodging fee so all we needed to pay was for our flights. When I heard about this incredible opportunity I was very interested in attending. I didn’t know how I would come up with the funds for the round trip flight but Kaity Yang was helpful by giving me ideas for fundraising like using GoFundMe and also requesting a travel grant from my school.

Ms. Kaity also connected me with Dr. Harbeen Arora who answered my questions about the organization and encouraged me to join my local chapter. Since there was no chapter in Santa Barbara, where I currently live, she challenged me to start one. She actually appointed me as the chapter chair right then and even sent me business cards and gave me a social media platform. Just like that!

I was really humbled and honored that she would entrust me with leading a local chapter so I accepted and this motivated me to make it out to the conference to find out what I was really getting myself into.

[bctt tweet=”As Africans in the diaspora, we must rise and share our stories, paint a picture of the world we would like to see and let our light shine by all means, and on our own terms.” username=”SheLeadsAfrica”]

How has the platform impacted you as a woman and as a young African in the diaspora?

Participating in this has been really impactful to me by validating my voice and my experiences as a young African woman in the diaspora. It does this by providing the space for anyone to lead a workshop, give a talk, or participate in a panel discussion.

My first time attending the conference I just decided to attend as a delegate since I mostly wanted to listen and observe but in my second and third time attending the conference I decided to participate as a speaker.

This allowed me to share my perspectives on topics I am passionate about such as education and spirituality, and to also share my personal experiences. This is such good practice for public speaking and communicating clearly.

I have challenged myself each of those times to attend as a speaker not because I’m a pro but because even as a young woman I have something to share, and this is an opportunity for growth.

Do you think there should be more platforms that give a voice to African women in the diaspora specifically?

YES! I definitely think that there should be more platforms that amplify the voices of African women in the diaspora.

But I think it’s up to us to be proactive in creating them or in utilizing the platforms that already exist. We can’t afford to wait around for the rest of the world to put the spotlight on us -that rarely happens.

So we must rise and share our stories, paint a picture of the world we would like to see, and just let our light shine by all means, and on our own terms.

What is the significance of platforms that allow you to share ideas and create a space for women to develop their leadership skills?

Organizations such as ALL are so significant since just by creating a platform for women to connect, share resources, and develop their leadership skills, they are literally changing the world.

There is a leadership imbalance in most sectors of our society and there’s an underlying narrative out there that women are inferior and weak.

But now is the time for the empowering of women to fix this imbalance so that together we can create lasting change in our world.

What could we learn from the voice of an African diaspora woman?

I think that the voice of an African woman in the diaspora is quite unique. We have a unique perspective of life shaped by our experiences on the motherland (for those of us who had that privilege) in comparison or in contrast to our experiences living abroad.

These experiences have forced us to grapple with our complex identities, propelled us to create inclusive communities, and to come up with creative ways of problem-solving. 

[bctt tweet=”I am grateful to have met amazing African women leaders from various African countries and within the diaspora – Charlene Macharia” username=”SheLeadsAfrica”]

What do you enjoy the most about being active in the conferences?

I love that the conference is hosted in India since it provides an opportunity to travel and experience new cultures. 

What I enjoyed most about participating in the conference are all the wonderful women I have been able to meet from around the world. I am especially grateful to have met amazing African women leaders from various African countries and within the diaspora.

It was awesome to network and fellowship with them. We were able to bond and stay connected through social media. 

When I attended the first conference I met Tia Walker, an African American woman from Santa Barbara! It was surprising that we never met while we both lived in Santa Barbara (which is a small town) but we just so happened to meet at this conference in India. It was truly a divine connection!

After the event, we kept in touch and met up when we got back to Santa Barbara. Tia was such a wonderful connection to have made, not only because of her kind nature – she is truly a genuine, dynamic and compassionate person- but also because she is a respected leader in the Santa Barbara community.

She helped me launch the Santa Barbara chapter which was such a blessing and lots of fun. I am grateful for all the soul-sister connections I get to make at these conferences.

Tell us about your recent recognition at the conference

I was one of the awardees for the “Iconic Women Leaders Creating Better World for All” which was graciously extended to me for my participation as a chapter chair for the Santa Barbara chapter.

I’m thankful to Dr. Harbeen Arora for seeing the potential in me and calling it out.

 What advice would you give to young African women who want to be leaders in their community both at home and abroad? 

I would advice young African women not to be afraid to be themselves. We were created just the way we are – with our personalities, passions, and strengths. We have our big hearts and brains for a reason. And we have so much to offer the world, so nothing, including ourselves, should hold us back.

At the same time, we need to prioritize our own healing before we can go out there trying to change the world. We need to take the time to know our worth, to feed our minds and our spirits with the truth. We have to erase all the lies that have been projected onto us and embracing our real God-given identities, in order to live full lives and to fulfill our destinies. 

I would also like to encourage us not to be too hard on ourselves when we make mistakes and live small, to forgive ourselves quickly, and to be patient with our growth and restoration.

There is grace in the journey so just take joy in the process. 

Charlene’s story is just an example of how significant these platforms are especially for young women in the African Diaspora. We can learn a lot and share ideas that are changing the world.


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