If we lead leadership programmes for young African Women, we have to ask ourselves, as youth workers, whether we truly believe that these women can become leaders.

Giving African young women the chance to see themselves as leaders

Have you ever thought about how often leadership programmes are delivered in ways that prevent young women and girls from truly learning how to lead? Here are some ideas for how we can do this better:  

  • From the first moment when we start preparing leadership programmes for young women, we can involve them in their development and delivery.
  • Allowing them to see that their leadership is valued by others, and giving them opportunities to practice leadership so that they can develop these skills.  
  • Recognising that the time we spend in programme preparation is part of the programme itself: this is when young women are actually learning leadership skills.

If we don’t believe that young women can contribute to making your project effective, how can we expect employers or others to see the leadership potential in these young women? And how will they see the leadership potential in themselves, if they see our doubt in them through our actions, regardless of what we say in classes or workshops?

Courses that are more than words

We know that in our countries (if it is taught) leadership is typically delivered through lectures and activities where young women could feel anonymous and overlooked. They could complete a course in leadership without ever having the chance to develop those skills.

Some young women have skills and confidence and are eager to try new things. Others sign up to develop their leadership skills because they know this is a challenge for them.

Through this, we see that leadership programmes must be interactive and give every participant the chance to take an active role and achieve their goals. We also saw that some people – for example, those from more vulnerable social backgrounds or minorities – faced additional challenges.

It is important to remember that there are different leadership types and to be attentive to various leadership talents that your project participants may have.

Reflection Questions 

  • Do you currently deliver leadership courses?
  • If you do, have they been successful? How are you defining this success?
  • What leadership skills do you teach young women in your programmes, even if you don’t have an official leadership course?

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