Partner Spotlight: Girls in West Africa Realizing their Potential

By Scott Schimmel

A couple years ago I got a phone call from a complete stranger asking if I was one of the “YouSchool guys”. The voice on the other line was a woman who let me know that she met someone who knows about the work we’re doing on a cruise ship a year prior and was always wondering when “the universe” would let her know how to connect with us. The woman asked if I would mind if she introduced me to a friend of hers who was launching a program for girls in West Africa, Sierra Leone specifically. I said, “of course!”. 

Two months later I was sitting down for breakfast with a woman named Isha Sesay and her organization’s Executive Director, Sharon DeBary. You might recognize Isha if you turn on CNN at night and watch the evening news. Isha is from Sierra Leone, and is compelled to do what she can to support girls who, just like her, have extraordinary potential waiting to be unleashed. You might have heard of the company Sharon worked for for years if you need to do some work around the house on the weekend (Home Depot). Isha and Sharon told me about their dream to create an evidence-based, sustainable, and scalable program to build leadership capacity for young girls in West Africa who are marginalized with major setbacks like extreme poverty, vulnerability to early marriage, teenage pregnancy, disease or violence. 

W.E. Can Lead has developed a two-tiered program to give girls the holistic support they need to develop into leaders. In 2016, over 150 young girls applied and participated in W.E. Can Lead’s pilot program, which includes our full YouSchool student program facilitated by three trained Guides native to Sierra Leone. They create safe spaces for girls to gather together and learn critical life skills (such as financial literacy, critical thinking and good health practices), build self-esteem, self-awareness, and develop leadership skills that will enable them to be confident, influential decision-makers among their peers, households, communities and even country. They play a critical role in their efforts to provide tailored support for girls to stay in school and be physically, mentally and emotionally healthy.

This year, nearly 400 young girls applied and will enter into their programs (starting next week). With the core belief that every African girl deserves the opportunity and support to unlock her full potential, W.E. Can lead is providing the inspiration, education and assistance to change girls’ lives and create leaders of tomorrow.

We are incredibly honored for one of our programs to be included in the work they do and look forward to the day when we can visit the country and see firsthand the impact of young women reaching their full potential to shape the future for good. 

We’d love for you to learn more about W.E. Can Lead through their website and explore ways you can support and get involved with their work.