Leadership Victoria helps West African women LEAD

24 July 2012 By Hannah Carrodus

West Africa is one of the most challenging parts of the world to be a woman.

Women and girls face extreme disadvantage in all facets of society yet Leadership Victoria (LV) recognises that strong female leaders can play a significant part in helping improve conditions for the whole community.

This is why, on 20 June, LV ran 'Strength through Networks', a customised leadership program that was part of the LEAD (Leadership, Entrepreneurship and Development) program – a program run by the Queensland University of Technology and AusAID.

Seven West African women participated in the two week program that was based in Queensland which included a three-day component in Melbourne.

In 'Strength through Networks' the participants heard from three passionate guest speakers who have achieved much in progressing African human rights.

Belinda Collins, social justice entrepreneur and co-author of Warrior Princess – a biography about inspiring Zambian leader Princess Kasune Zulu – was the first to speak to the women. Belinda spoke about co-writing the book and discussed the importance of female leadership and her personal philosophy of working through fear to drive social change.

Next the women heard from Oliver Maboreke, a community health worker at the Centre for Culture, Ethnicity and Health in Carlton who spoke of hios expeinces of growing up in African surrounded by strong African women. His inspirational story of coming to  Australia and his commitment to community groups and education was impressive.

 Grace McQuilton, a social entrepreneur who started The Social Studio, was the final speaker. Grace is the founder of this innovative training facility where refugees and migrants can learn design and sewing skills.  Appropriately,  Grace was accompanied by Nicole, a young African woman employed as a bookkeeper at the Social Studio who was very shy, but overcome her nerves to speak about the importance of community organisations which assist refugees in settling into Australian society.

All speakers talked about the importance of developing and maintaining personal and professional networks.

After the formal proceedings ended the participants and speakers decided to go to the Social Studio café for an impromptu afternoon tea, an appropriate decision considering they had spent the morning discussing networking.

LV has received much positive feedback about the day, with QUT reporting the time at LV was the highlight of the Melbourne stretch of their trip.

LV is delighted to have played a part in this fantastic program.