EMPOWER ME

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Since starting Women Leading Change, AG Hair’s CEO and Co-Founder Lotte Davis, started mentoring and leading workshops for the girls in Africa called, Empower Me. Read more about the influential and empowering workshop in Lotte’s journal entry.

LOTTE DAVIS’ JOURNAL DIARY

I had been travelling to Africa once or twice a year since we started Women Leading Change in 2008, primarily to visit the schools we were building and to look for new projects. I was always met with ceremony. Students danced and sang songs of welcome, local dignitaries came to make long-winded speeches conveying gratitude, and photographers captured tree plantings and ribbon-cuttings to commemorate the new buildings on campus.

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It was all rather tedious. About four years ago I realized I was missing a huge opportunity and that there was never any time to talk directly to the girl and to get to know them better as individuals. I started at one school by gathering the senior students together in a classroom, and the conversations began. I told them about my life, my daughters, and how I was born in Africa and had always wanted to return. I told them about my successes and failures, life in Canada, and how far women had developed in Western countries compared to Africa.

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Then they told me about their lives, about growing up in extreme poverty, the early marriages girls were forced into, the stigma against educating sons over daughters, as well as the hard labour that defines the life of women in Africa, which starts when they’re just young girls.

They wanted to know my opinion on so many things. Their mothers were illiterate and had no experience in life beyond the villages they came from, and these girls were desperate to change the cultural norms that had described women’s roles in Africa for centuries.

That first year started out as a conversation. Subsequently, I cancelled all further ceremonies and made sure I came prepared with a PowerPoint presentation, with photos and topical information to spark interactive discussions. Today, we have built this into a two-hour workshop that we call Empower Me. We now take all our girls at our schools through envisioning exercises to help them clearly define the life they want to live. Once they’ve articulated their objectives, we teach them how to set smart goals – specific measurable steps they can put immediately into action. We show them that setting and achieving goals is a powerful tool that can transcend poverty, culture and discrimination, and deliver personal success. No matter where we come from, we can all feel like we’re moving forward and accomplish something if we set and achieve our goals.

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The girls in our schools are no longer strangers to me, and I am no longer a visiting dignitary in their eyes. I learned that my experience as an accomplished woman from a western country has significant value and needs to be shared one-on-one with these girls. And the more I learn about them, and their fierce determination to change poverty and gender inequality, the more committed I am to provide them with the fundamental tools that are within my reach to ensure they achieve their goals.

Learn more about AG’s Every Bottle Counts.