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Alumni Interactions in Mombasa

Five years after her Humphrey experience, Aissata Traore (Niger, Pennsylvania State University, 2007-2008) attended a workshop in Mombasa, Kenya on the leadership challenges that confront women in developing countries. The workshop, entitled, “Transformational Leadership for Women’s Empowerment” was led by one of her role models and fellow Humphrey Alumna, Shanta Nagendram (Malaysia, Tufts University, 1987-1988).

The two alumni had become close during Aissata’s Humphrey year when Shanta was a featured speaker at the Global Leadership Forum. They sat next to each other at dinner one night and discussed their mutual passion for leadership. In the years that followed, Shanta kept Aissata informed of workshops and events in their field, and it was Shanta who invited Aissata to attend this gathering in Mombasa.  Aissata was the only representative from West Africa to participate in the five-day workshop; however, she quickly realized that, “Be it in Kenya, Tanzania or Niger, our challenges are the same.” In both East and West Africa, Aissata saw how women can benefit from leadership training. To start a dialogue on leadership, attendees discussed effective communication, networking, conflict management, and team building skills.

According to Aissata, her greatest takeaway from the workshop was realizing that, “The only person over whom you have direct and immediate control is yourself.” In order to succeed, she says that women must “unlearn the traditional methods of leadership and organizational management” and take advantage of opportune moments. She also notes that women must “identify [their] strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats” so that they can be effective leaders. The group tackled the challenges associated with women’s empowerment through group exercises and role playing. This transformational workshop equipped Aissata with a variety of communication and negotiation skills that she will take back home to Niger where she is works for the Ministry of Secondary and Higher Education.

In the photo, Aissata Traore (center) receives her workshop completion certificate from Professor Esther Kahangi. The women are joined by Shanta Nagendram (far right) and other program participants.