Be A Voice, Not An Echo, Says Ghanaian Activist Yawa Hansen-Quao
Speaker. Author. Trainer. Consultant. Entrepreneur. Strategist. Wife and mom. That’s Yawa Hansen-Quao for you. The social entrepreneur and activist from Ghana speaks with SheThePeople.TV on how fear may lead one to self-sabotage and her future plans of becoming a farmer, very soon.
How would you describe yourself?
I’m an ambitious social entrepreneur from Ghana that’s passionate about helping Africa become a continent that is peaceful, prosperous and just.
You are a social entrepreneur and activist. Can you explain why you chose this career path?
I started my social enterprise—the Leading Ladies’ Network—in response to this need to embolden and equip the next generation of women leaders.
I think in many ways, this path chose me! In college, I ran for president of our student government and won. It was the first time a female student had become president of our student government association. It turned out that it was also the first time a woman had EVER been elected to lead student government at any university campus in Ghana. It was a humbling realization that prompted me to examine more closely the reasons why women hardly emerged as leaders especially in the fields of business and politics. I started my social enterprise—the Leading Ladies’ Network—in response to this need to embolden and equip the next generation of women leaders. My vision is to fill Africa’s future leadership pipeline with competent and ethical drivers of change.
You are “fearless” in your current position. Help us walk in your shoes and understand where you get the strength from.
I feel fear all the time yet I choose to try anyway. Fear is such a deceiver that causes us to self-sabotage. I think my strength comes from my faith. I believe that God created us in their image—as powerful, life-giving, and unstoppable beings. We honour God by leveraging the gifts we have been given to do good in this world. I am also emboldened by mentors, friends and family who believe in me, affirm me, and help stretch me towards my dreams and goals.
What excites you when you wake up every morning?
I’ll admit that I don’t always wake up excited. When I pause and remember that each day is a blank canvas with endless possibilities for us to create meaning, I put on my smile and get on with it. Everyday, we get to decide who we will be, and how we will show up for ourselves and others. When I remember those who count on me, it shakes me out of melancholy.
Share some examples where you have made a difference in your country and community.
I am extremely proud of the work of Leading Ladies’ Network and the thousands of young women who have been mentored through our program, the hundreds of professional women who have been upskilled, and guided to promotions and other accomplishments. Most recently, I’m proud of the young men and women we are nurturing for public service in Africa through my work with Emerging Public Leaders. Through our merit-based recruitment model we are (in collaboration with host governments) providing opportunity to young people to participate in democratic governance.
What are some of the challenges you face? How do you overcome them?
I fight the demons that every woman leader fights: Loneliness, guilt and fear. I overcome them by reminding myself daily of who I am (a child of God filled with endless potential), what my goals are (to be a voice and lend my voice for the good of Africa), and who is on my side (God, spouse, family, friends, and mentors.)
How do you manage self care? Do you believe in work-life balance or integration? What are some of the strategies you adopt?
I’ve found that I have a greater appreciation for different cultures, ways of doing business and value-systems which make me a more-rounded and compassionate person.
I’ve become really good at putting myself on my schedule. I now schedule naps, quiet time (no phone, computers or social media!), family time, marriage time etc. because when I’m properly rested and nourished, I produce higher quality work, and am more of a joy to be around.
Do you consider yourself a “Global Girl”? Why?
I certainly do! I travel a lot across Africa, the US and Europe. I have learned how to feel at home anywhere. Travel changes you, sometimes without your permission. I’ve found that I have a greater appreciation for different cultures, ways of doing business and value-systems which make me a more-rounded and compassionate person.
What is the advice you would give your 16-year-old self?
Be a voice, not an echo. Don’t be afraid to have your opinions, even if they’re unpopular.
What are three values you think are most important for a global leader?
Love (demonstrated through compassion and giving), integrity (Who you are when nobody is looking), hope (a strong belief that a better future is possible).
What’s next for Yawa?
I might become a farmer soon. In light of climate change and the impact of GMO’s I’ve become.