Amujae Leader Kula Fofana was recently interviewed on the Everyday Ubuntu podcast hosted by Mungi Ngomane. Ms. Fofana spoke about growing up during the Liberian civil war, her work with the People’s Foundation Africa, her experience taking part in the Amujae Initiative, and how failure is a lesson for how to move forward.
Ms. Fofana explained how her childhood was affected by the onset of the Liberian civil war, leading her family to move between refugee camps, displacement camps, and temporary housing:
“It really affected me because I didn’t really have a childhood. There was always a disruption. It impacted my worldview and put me into this paradox and confusion about Liberia. I was a little girl, what did I do to deserve all of this in this country?”
She also noted the importance of acknowledging and understanding the “impact that an armed conflict has on young people.”
Ms. Fofana and her family lived in “nomadic form” until 2005, when former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was elected as president of Liberia. This marked when Ms. Fofana finally “felt a sense of peace,” she said, and her high school years were defined by the country’s recovery era. Seeing her friends and classmates drop out of school and university because of the uncertainties of the education system, combined with her experience of the civil war, pushed her towards advocacy.
After finishing university, Ms. Fofana said she was frustrated by how development efforts were too centralized and felt compelled to help people who were not getting adequate access. In 2015, she formed the People’s Foundation Africa in order to help hard-to-reach communities:
“People in hard-to-reach communities normally do not receive the impact of development… Those places are something that I feel really passionately about, especially coming from a humble beginning, not having food to eat, especially during the war years… That’s how we decided to form People’s Foundation Africa… to help them with advocacy, elevating their voices on agriculture, health, especially for women and girls.”
Her commitment to public service later led her to seek political office, running for the Senate in her county of Grand Cape Mount in Western Liberia. Though she ultimately lost the election, she said that her next steps will be to learn from her mistakes and build on them. About success and failure, she said:
“To all of the young girls who may listen: Success is not easy. It comes with a lot of challenges, a lot of failures… Let failure be the thing that inspires you to continue.”
Ms. Fofana’s leadership journey then led her to apply to become part of the inaugural class of Amujae Leaders. She noted how Madam Sirleaf’s aim of elevating women’s voices and giving them the support they need to enter political leadership on the African continent has helped to connect women and build a sisterhood:
“There are many challenges for women. Even though there are women trying their best in politics, in board rooms, in their private lives, there is definitely a need for that space where you can connect, you can share experiences. And you can learn, you can build on each other.”
Listen to the full episode here.