The last of our 20 Leadership Lessons Learned in East Africa: enabling people to find their voice and increase their agency — a critical component of leadership — can lead to big changes, and not just for individuals. For example, strengthening women’s voices in Africa can save lives, engender accountability in governance, and transform economies. Plus, it has broad development payouts for men and boys, families, and communities, too.

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Agency

True Empowerment for Women

#20

Photo by Aaron White

Not everyone believes that they have control over their future.

The ability to make decisions and act on them — agency — is a critical component of leadership, but it’s often lacking among uneducated women in the developing world.

This is truly a big idea, that if we enable women to increase their voice and increase their agency, then we’ll see big changes. But we’re not just talking about individual benefits. Strengthening a woman’s agency in Africa can save lives, engender accountability in governance, and transform economies. Here are some quick facts:

  • A child’s probability of survival is increased by 20% when household income is controlled by the mother rather than the father.
  • When women and girls earn income, they reinvest 90% of it into their families, compared with only 30-40% for men.
  • If a girl in Africa has the opportunity to choose school over work, each additional year of primary schooling boosts her average future wages by 10-20%.
  • Staying in school and completing a basic education, rather than being pulled out for work, makes her 3 times less likely to contract HIV/AIDs.

Enhanced agency is a key reason why children of better educated women are less likely to be stunted or malnourished. Educated mothers have greater autonomy in making decisions and more power to act for their children’s benefit.

What’s more, building agency and amplifying the voices of women have broad development payouts for men and boys, families, and communities, too.

Developing women’s agency is critical in helping communities embrace different, more positive ways of living and working, as well as helping them identify and act on priorities.

This is where leadership development becomes more tangible, real, and something with enormous potential.

Questions for Further Reflection:

  • What ways can we develop a sense of agency in ourselves and others?
  • What people, organizations, or ideas are standing in the way of developing a sense of agency and empowerment in ourselves and others? How can we overcome them?

Tell us your big ideas in the comments.

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Leadership Beyond Boundaries - Center for Creative Leadership logoThis series, 20 Leadership Lessons Learned in East Africa, was brought to you by CCL’s Ethiopia office and Leadership Beyond Boundaries, an initiative by the Center for Creative Leadership to democratize leadership development and unlock the power of human potential around the globe.

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