Developing The Capacity Of Young African Women Through MILEAD Fellowship

Nana Oye LithurAcadre of 28 Africa’s young women leaders between the ages of 19-25 are undergoing a three-week intensive training under the 2014 Moremi Initiative Leadership Empowerment and Development (MILEAD) Fellows Program at the Institute of African Studies, University of Ghana, Legon.

Selected from over 1,260 applications in 42 countries, the 28 Fellows represent twenty-six African countries and the Diaspora and epitomise a pan-African diversity with multi-disciplinary academic, professional and social backgrounds.

The programme, Dubbed the 2014 MILEAD Fellows Leadership Institute, will serve as a platform for Fellows to cross-examine concepts of leadership in a broad African context, cultivate the skills and experiences necessary to occupy and excel in leadership positions, and gain knowledge on cutting-edge issues critical to African women and their communities.

In addition to knowledge-building lectures, there will also be skills-training workshops, team-building activities, role plays and other interactive activism. The Fellows will be mentored by experienced and accomplished women leaders who are committed to supporting and tutoring the next generation of African women leaders.

Moremi Initiative for Women’s Leadership in Africa is a non-profit organisation that operates throughout Africa.

Established in 2004 as Women’s Initiative for Empowerment and Leadership Development (WIELD) Foundation, the Initiative grew from a Ghana-based leadership development program to a pan-African programme.

The Initiative focuses on long-term development of women leaders who can help transform and change institutions that legitimise and perpetuate discrimination against women. It is an African initiative for African women that draws on the skills and expertise of women and girls across the continent and the Diaspora.

To achieve its mission, Moremi Initiative pursues proactive strategies to develop and empower women and girls to take on leadership roles in their communities— believing that the full and active participation of women in decision-making is a pre-requisite for positive change and development in Africa.

The focus of the Initiative is on young African women and girls with demonstrated commitment to women’s rights for our programs. These include dynamic young African women who are identified and recruited from across the continent each year as MILEAD Fellows.

The Moremi Initiative’s leadership development program identifies young African women with potential and passion for transformational leadership roles and prepares them through rigorous training to take such roles.

Each year Moremi Initiative identifies a cadre of 25 extraordinary young African women between the ages of 19-25 drawn from every region in Africa and the Diaspora through highly competitive processes and according to criteria that include demonstrated leadership potential, service to their community, and commitment to women’s empowerment.

Following selection, Fellows take part in a year-long training and mentoring program designed to build skills, strengthen networks and give them knowledge of external supporting systems.

Fellows then progress through three phases that include identification and preparation through leadership development, networking, conferences, mentoring and training; promotion through media coverage and networking; and support through career planning, management, and access to resources.

Fellows kick start the yearlong Fellowship with a three-week intensive residential institute in the summer, where they take classes and work on a development plan that identifies long-term career interests and community-based projects addressing critical issues. After the institute, Fellows’ transition into either mentoring, internships, or workplace exchange opportunities help them build their skills and cultivate connections.

These activities are substituted with long distance, mostly on-line courses that enable Fellows to participate while they remain full-time students or workers. Upon completion of the program, Fellows transition into the MILEAD Fellows Network and, together, they form a powerful and growing pan-African community of exceptional young leaders that can dramatically impact the future of the continent.

The objectives of the MILEAD fellows program include fostering a cadre of young African women leaders empowered to promote social justice and transform their communities; enhancing the capacity of women and girls as advocates and agents for advancing women’s rights and empowerment; developing leadership capacity in women and girls, using different mentoring approaches, such as role modelling, shadowing, peer review, internships, and placements; and equipping women and girls to build intra- and inter-generational solidarity that cuts across borders.

Other objectives of the programme are empowering women and girls to facilitate and lead research projects in the areas of leadership; developing a knowledge base that takes into account different leadership perspectives; and identifying, strengthening, and maintaining critical partnerships that facilitate the development of close links and networks among alumni and between them and other leaders and organisations across the globe.

The benefits to selected candidates include gaining excellent skills in leadership, activism, research, mentoring, public speaking and advocacy among others; access to opportunities and resources for education, professional, leadership and personal development; support for Fellows to get into top universities for further education; knowledge of critical cutting-edge issues such as human rights concepts, women’s human rights, leadership concepts, gender equity and social justice.

Beneficiaries of the Fellows programme are entitled to automatic membership of the Moremi Fellows network upon successful completion of the program; enjoyment of long-term support for both personal and leadership development through Moremi and its partner networks; and the promotion of Fellows’ achievements and initiatives through partner networks and the media for visibility and exposure.

In addition, Fellows will have access to readily-available Moremi Initiative mentors including some of the most outstanding African women leaders; and are supported to implement personal community leadership projects on issues of importance to their peers, school, community, or country.

The programme is, therefore, expected to increase the visibility of women and girls in African society, increase advocacy on women’s issues, and establish a strong international network to promote African women’s leadership—and by convening participants drawn from target countries, Moremi Initiative enables Fellows to develop skills and knowledge, build alliances and cross-examine various concepts of leadership in a broad African context.

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