The eighth of our 20 Leadership Lessons Learned in East Africa: creating a safe space isn’t just a nice gesture; it’s critical in promoting empowerment. Safe spaces are environments conducive for learning, trying new roles, and building community. Helping a young woman in East Africa find her voice is not an easy task, but it becomes much easier if we can remove some of the barriers that normally prevent her from speaking up and practicing new leadership skills.
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Creating Safe Environments Is Critical
It’s amazing what happens when you give young women some space to be themselves. Young women, particularly in Ethiopia, are less willing to try out new roles and skills if they feel threatened or judged.
Safe spaces—environments conducive for learning, trying new roles, and building community—are essential in leadership development programs for women.
This has been a primary focus of our Leadership and Debate Clubs held weekly in the city of Addis Ababa across 7 university campuses. Helping a young woman in East Africa find her voice is not an easy task, but it becomes much easier if we can remove some of the barriers that normally prevent her from speaking up and practicing new leadership skills.
Weekly club meetings for these young women (in their first or second year of university) can provide a safe space for candid discussions on the challenges of being a woman in highly male-dominated environments like universities.
Here they develop skills, build friendships, receive peer support, increase their social networks, and develop a mentoring relationship with a trusted adult. It’s not just a nice gesture; it’s a critical element in reducing dropouts and promoting economic empowerment.
So back up and give these young women some space!
Watch a young woman in Ethiopia describe how CCL’s Leadership & Debate Club helped her find her voice.
Questions for Further Reflection:
- What is your safe space?
- What are some factors that may prevent a space from being safe?
Tell us your big ideas in the comments.
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This 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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