In early March, the first cohort of Amujae Leaders gathered to discuss the road to gender parity in public life across Africa. Then the world changed. The arrival of COVID-19 around the globe has shifted the focus of many of our Amujae Leaders’ work, as they use their skills and networks to make a difference in their local communities in the fight against coronavirus.
Amujae Leader Yawa Hansen-Quao is Executive Director of Emerging Public Leaders (EPL), which currently supports thirty-seven talented young professionals who work closely with senior officials across fourteen government ministries in Ghana, including the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Education, and Ministry of Finance. In the immediate fight against COVID-19, Yawa rallied her global network of fellows, staff, and supporters from all over the world to help support the response efforts in Ghana:
“Since our initial brainstorm about how to respond to COVID-19, we are seeing the real-time impact that fellows are having during this crisis. Several are working directly on the government’s response and others are ensuring that basic operations for public service delivery continue. For example, one of our EPL fellows in the Ministry of Health is helping to trace contacts of COVID-19 patients within the Greater Accra region. Two EPL fellows placed on the National Inspectorate Board within the Ministry of Education are working to ensure that schools across Ghana adapt to the new online education requirements set by the Ministry of Education. Ten fellows are volunteering their time to support the Ghana National Household’s Registry to ensure that COVID-19 relief items actually end up where they are most needed. All of our fellows are helping to educate and promote safe practices in their families, communities, and networks of influence.”
This is not the first public health crisis that Africa has faced, and Yawa has been reading with interest the lessons learned from the Ebola outbreak in West Africa in 2014-16 when Former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf led Liberia. Women played a key leadership role then in containing the virus and have an important role to play again now. Yawa also notes the success of women-led governments, such as New Zealand, in taking tough actions to contain the virus:
“It’s evident to me how women lead and how they seem to be on top of the crisis when compared to their male counterparts—this really emphasizes the importance of women in leadership and their ability to keep control of a crisis.”
Looking forward, Yawa recognizes the position of privilege of the Amujae Leaders, who have had the opportunity to network with and learn from accomplished women leaders from across the continent during the program. She hopes that the cohort will be able to inspire young women in her country and across the continent to aspire to roles in leadership:
“I have spent nearly a decade of my life advocating for women, and I’m excited about the possibility of young women being inspired by the Amujae Initiative to rise and meet the demand of public leadership.
“I hope that the Leaders will share messages of solidarity with our young women and whet their appetite for roles in public leadership—even just hearing stories from other women who have achieved success is profitable.
“We must also educate women about the political process and how they can be part of it as voters. My hope is that we can inspire a new generation of women public leaders.”
Learn more about Yawa’s work with Emerging Public Leaders.