Gratiyana Ningrat Kusumasubrata

Gratiyana Ningrat Kusumasubrata

Gratiyana Ningrat Kusumasubrata

Gratiyana, simply called Gratiya is always passionate about inspiring, motivating and empowering people to stand up on their feet and improve their quality of life. She was a national head of finance in the one of the largest global youth leadership movement-AIESEC. Her role was to support the sustainability of products that support the SDGs and youth leadership development for under 30s in Indonesia. She has also been part of numerous education projects for children and women in rural areas as volunteer, committee member and other key roles.

A global platform for young people to explore and develop their leadership potential in around 150 countries, AIESEC is a non-governmental, not-for-profit organisation in consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), affiliated with the UNDPI, a member of ICMYO, and is recognized by UNESCO. In December 2015, AIESEC’s young global leaders and representatives from 126 countries and territories gathered at the United Nations Headquarters to promote and drive youth participation in the implementation of the Global Goals for Sustainable Development and Gratiyana was emerged in this meeting and in the Youth 4 Global Goals; an initiative powered by AIESEC that aims to activate the leadership potential of young people by engaging them in purposeful and cross-cultural projects around the globe designed to impact the Sustainable Development Goals.

In her experience at AISEC she says that in Indonesia, there are a lot of project based on the SDGs, yet she continues to give awareness to the youth about SDGs by creating platforms for youth to speak in big cities in Indonesia. Based on her judgement, the youths are really doing a great job and she says the Non-Governmental and Government sectors are really working together to support SDGs in the implementation of public policy.

She has a background in Finance at that enables her to clearly see the 8% gap in financial literacy between men (33%) and women (25%). She also points us to OJK’s (a Financial Institution in Indonesia) focus on improving financial literacy among women and their specific projects to improve women’s financial literacy.

Talking about finance, says Gratiya ‘women do a lot of crazy things in the quest to escape poverty, these includes prostitution and other vices that make them vulnerable to trafficking, but it is financial literacy that will really help women escape poverty. Financial literacy is about how you can manage your money but not only that, financial literacy should be more comprehensive than only management. It should also improve your capability and skills to gain and maintain an income. Financial literacy is a great step for economic inclusion and poverty alleviation.’

She also went ahead to iterate the role of personal development and live long learning amd it’s impact on women’s economic empowerment. In concluding this session with Gratiyana, here is what she says to youths out there “whatever SDGs you are working on, big or small, keep believing that what you are doing right now can make a great impact on your society and the world. Someday, your contribution will inspire people to do the same. That’s the ripple effect of positive impact.Thank You She-LEAPS University for the great role you are playing”.

Theodora: The golden heart for women

Theodora: The golden heart for women

Theodora Aidoo is a broadcast journalist from Ghana. Special for her love for women development, she believes that being a woman doesn’t hinder you from attaining any goal your heart desires. It is disheartening; she says, when I see many women especially in my profession give up on their dreams and aspirations. Only a few women are able to live their dreams and achieve their goals. We must create a paradigm shift, by making sure more and more women are gradually conscious of the fact that they too can dream and live their dreams.

I asked her the source of her great passion and she said “Well, I’m particular about women because I am a woman and I get so agitated when I see female folks sidelined all because they are women. Society has placed it in our subconscious that there is a limit to what women can do. It dates back to the archaic perception about a woman’s place being in the kitchen. There is this notion that certain roles/goals are for men only. The way a male child is groomed is so different from the way his female counterpart is groomed. The boys are made to believe that they ought to be hardworking to be able to cater for their family whilst the girls are groomed to be homely. Society has for a very long time looked down on the woman’s ability to contribute to social development. It’s high time women are viewed as humans that can contribute their quota to the development of human capital and infrastructure. I am optimistic that all these will change with time but it is in our role to accelerate the change.”

She said “charity they say begins at home. That’s why I use every opportunity I find and every platform available to encourage women. Let’s begin to see ourselves as persons who can make impact in the society. Let’s believe in ourselves and our abilities. Until we change our own mindset about who we are, it will be difficult for others to see the good in us.I always say that everyone has a life to live. I hear these phrases daily like; you are not growing younger, your mates are married, you are too ambitious, when u pursue leadership roles, it’ll be difficult for you to get a husband and all that stuff, but the question I ask is; is marriage the ultimate thing? God created everyone for a reason and I doubt marriage is one of that reason. Women leaders should emphasize what the book of Ecclesiastes 3:1 says that for everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven. On a lighter note, there is no award for early comers or late comers in marriage. It takes some women minutes, hours or days to get the right man for them. It takes others months even years so there is nothing to hurry about.”

I have been eager to ask this question so I took my chat with Theodora as an opportunity to ask about the rumors I hear about Ghana. It is said in Nigeria that in Ghana, children bear their mothers name as surnames and that women actually pay the bride price and if it has helped to reduce child marriage, in response she said; children do not bear their mother’s name as their surname and women do not pay bride price. Child marriage isn’t less popular however there is a conscious effort by the gender ministry and NGOs to combat child marriage in Ghana. My surname is Aidoo and that’s my father’s name.

As we prepared to wrap the session, Theodora said “It’s hard to tell someone who feels her dreams have been shattered, because she is a child bride to pursue her goals. However, marriage isn’t the end of life. There is life after marriage. Before she was given out as a bride, she had dreams and it isn’t late to actualize her dreams. She should seek orthodox methods and take advantage of platforms like She-LEAPS University.  I really empathize with women and girls and my final words on this platform is directed to females who were given out as child brides – You are beautiful, You are unique, You are able, And you can do whatever you set your heart to do. So please dream again. Set goals for your self. Get help where necessary and see yourself succeeding. You too can make it. “Be yourself and live your dream”

The Lawyer for Diversity

The Lawyer for Diversity

The Lawyer for Diversity

Labophilani Kometsi Nthona is a lawyer and mediator by profession. She is a mother to the EbaPhuthi children and learned Isiphuthi; her local dialect at the age of 24, with the intentions of passing the language on to her kids. She is also a member of Libadla le baPhuthi; a registered NGO whose main objective is to highlight the cultural diversity of Lesotho. Libadla has been negotiating with the Government of Lesotho since 1966 on the recognition and inclusion of EbaPhuthi in issues of language and chieftaincy. She has established the women’s branch and encouraged EbaPhuthi women to resuscitate their culture and dress.

Through her advocacy skills she has held public gatherings to create awareness of the minority ethnic groups in Lesotho. She also uses social media as a platform to create this awareness and mobilizes for the inclusion of Isiphuthi and other ethnic minorities in decision making.

She is a mother to two beautiful girls; one aged 8 and the other aged 5 and a cute 3 years’ old boy. They all speak their mother tongue. But Labophilani says one major challenge persists. This challenge is that since Isiphuti; her mother tongue is not taught in schools; her children cannot learn in their own language. It’s also a challenge for the parents teaching them how to write the language as there is no literature to refer to in the country and outside. IsiPhuthi is classified as an endangered language by UNESCO thus close to extinction and that bothers Labophilani a great deal.

In her words “from my perspective, Lesotho is not celebrating the cultural diversity it has. Since it has come across as homogeneous for more than 50 years since its independence, other minority ethnic groups shy away from being associated with their true culture due to embarrassment of not understanding their culture and speaking their language. I wrote this open letter to her majesty the Queen last year, on the last day of Women’s month. I asked her to intervene in the apparent exclusion of the minorities in Lesotho. I didn’t get any response till date. I hope the contents of the open letter do address most of the questions asked.

Labophilani is a lawyer whose husband recently bagged a PhD. She says “education has really enlightened me in so many respects. It has first exposed me to knowledge that I was not privy to. It has given the confidence to voice out my opinions. I have come to appreciate the Lesotho saying that goes ‘Thuto ke lebone’ loosely translated ‘education is the light’. With the education, skills and knowledge women like me have, I am challenged to pass it on to uneducated women through trainings on pertinent issues and put in place what my best friend Thato Mochone calls One teach One. She-LEAPS University is also doing a great job in knowledge sharing. There is still hope and if we as women join hands, we can together change today’s world for the better”. In deed educating a woman is educating the whole nation.

In conclusion Lapophilani says “Giya Boga, Giya Bonga,Ndiyabolela, Thank You!

Claudia Rivas

Claudia Rivas

Meet Claudia Rivas the young lady that never gives up. All her life, she has tried to go for bigger objectives. She took to engineering, a male dominated profession, where she worked hard to build a successful career. Then she also was chosen champion for change by Empower Women and just recently, she got this scholarship to study in China. The scholarship took about 2 years of preparation but she didn’t give up in spite of people telling her it was impossible. Against popular perception, Claudia says her scholarship was complete product of hard work and focus.

Claudia Rivas is a native Spanish who she speaks English and Portuguese. She says “I feel myself as a global citizen, I enjoy traveling and would never get tired of that. I would say that I wanted this big change because I was feeling I needed a purpose. All my life, I did what I was supposed to do, so I wanted to be independent and live by my own terms.

Speaking of Shanghai, she said “I have been in Shanghai for one month, I really didn’t have that big cultural shock because Shanghai is a very modern and futuristic city. I feel very good, I like the efficient public transportation and the thousands of opportunities this city has. Many people, specially Latinos feel scared of just the word “China”, but I have to say this is a very rich country with a highly developed economy and more opportunities than Europe for example. The problem of course is the language. I’m challenged to speak Chinese but I still can communicate since this a multicultural and friendly city for foreigners. I invite you to apply for a place to study in China.

Talking Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, she says “Industrial engineering is a very attractive career for women, so about 30% of class mates are female. But some other STEM careers like system engineering, telecommunications engineering, chemical engineering have not many females. I feel the gap is closing every year because the country is somehow trying to promote more science careers among women. We have a council of science and technology but still don’t have a ministry specialized in science. I believe in maybe 10 years we might have that ministry and the gap would be finally reduced.”

We talked about women empowerment and she said “Peru; where I come from, and all Latin America are still very traditional. I have seen very smart girls preferring to marry rather than develop a successful career. It is a choice because that is probably what makes them happy. I guess the reason is the environment they grew up, where they have an image of a father that was authoritarian and a mother who teaches girls that the only way to be happy is to be married which is not true. I guess in my case it was different because my father was very supportive with my dreams and he always told me I could achieve anything I want. He saw me as a smart person who was capable of doing anything even if it was something for boys. He is a true feminist yet I never realized it. My mother and my family in general have been very supportive. Although they sometimes though I was a little insane because of my ways of thinking, they never cut my wings.

I had a nice time chatting with Claudia Rivas and wrapping it was such a big deal. But I finally asked her to give her parting words to that young lady with limited options and she said “I would have to say if you are reading this, is because you probably already think different and have dreams. I can tell you sooner or later if your put in effort your dreams will become true. Now it might seem too far away but if you develop a plan with small goals, you will be able to achieve whatever you wish. The opportunities for studying and working are out there, just invest your time relating with the right persons, participating in everything that will add to your career and do not listen to what other say. I did that and now I am in another other part of the world, Thank you.

Fily: The Finest of Mali’s Youth

Fily: The Finest of Mali’s Youth

Today we spoke with Fily Keita, a visionary 23 year old, a true amazon working with rural women on grass-root agriculture.

Welcome Fily Keita, l am so pleased to meet you. Will you introduce yourself to the tribe? Who is Fily Keita?
Fily Keita:
Fily Keita is a graduate from the Faculty of Letters,Languages and Science of Language (FLSL) of the University of Bamako.She is an aspiring Social Entrepreneur who is passionate about rural development.That’s why, she is working on a social venture (Agrowomen) which aims at empowering and supporting Rural Women through agriculture (Sesame exploitation). She is also working on a project which aims at creating an organization to support rural Girls Education. An active member of PYAfrica Mali, she is an active member of EPC(English Practice Club) of Bamako. She was General Secretary of English for Us (EFU) of Kati. Fily is a 23 year old, working as an intern at a national NGO named Le Tonus.
I work for Rural development at Tonus, where we work with clusters of woman farmers

Can you tell us a bit about your vision?
Fily Keita:
Agrowomen is a social venture project which aims at empowering rural women through sesame exploitation ( production, transformation and selling). We want to create a transformation institution for sesame oil production. Agrowomen wants to work with clusters of women in rural areas. We want to involve rural women in community development by sesame operation.

Sounds like a really great idea. What is the situation of women farmers in Mali?
Fily Keita:
Yes it is. Women farmers in Mali face problems in their work.Their don’t make much profit from their production and their work is not well organized.They are not so prosperous in their work. They also lack farming materials and trainings.

How much is being done by the government to help these women and how ready are the women to take advantage of present opportunities?
Fily Keita:
Our government is helping women achieve their goals .Women are willing to work because they are aware that they are key actors in development.
However, Literacy is a major issue. Eighty percent of these women are illiterate.They should be educated. Knowing that women have great impact in rural development and Girls education, Agrowomen decided to work with clusters of women in sesame production and transformation.
I’m new in the field of entrepreneurship, and as I said, Agrowomen is just my idea, we have to work to achieve it’s aims.

What is your inspiration?
Fily Keita:
I am inspired by the challenges women face.
My motivation is my desire to see success, my self confidence which pushes me to go ahead, my passion for the emergence of my community

Leave Her Alone

Dear Men, when a woman says, “leave me alone!” OR “I want to be alone”, just leave her alone. No matter how much she adores you, no matter how much charm you think you have over her, no matter how excellent your intentions are at that moment, no matter how much physical power you have to restrain her or persist, no matter how good you are with words or managing people, no matter how much you think you know or understand her…once a woman speaks those words to you, cease immediately and depart from her if possible.

You know why? Three things can happen in that instance:
1. The quarrel could proceed to a permanent irreversible damage.
2. A physical fight can(will) ensue with the man being guilty of intimate partner violence and abuse.
3. Murder happens. One frustrated push, one frustrated hitting of the head against the wall, one simple unplanned move…and…headlines!

Dear Men, do not ever let your physical might deceive you. The force within a vexed woman can effectively relocate Everest if it could be harvested raw at that time. Note that I said force, not power! Forget what you think you know about women. Many men would tell you how they regret underestimating a woman at different points of their lives. All women are NOT the same. There’s no particular way to be a woman or even the men you all are.

Dear Men, letting us walk away when we say we want to be away for a while is sometimes the much needed miracle. Every human being places a premium on their WILL. It doesn’t matter how non-issue the situation may seem. By the time we say we want to be away from you, it is 101% about our WILLS. You may survive breaking that will by making us do otherwise but…pray! Let me be clear here, the statement “l want to be alone”, is a statement of will, NOT a request!

Dear Men, I understand how insurrectionary this seems in defense of the patriarchal ego. But please understand that there is no honor in breaking another human ‘s will or being the object of an unrecognized hatred from someone you think you love. In fact, it is very dangerous for your well-being. A broken will breeds vengeful contempt. Some women will never follow through with it, some women will mildly, some women really will!

Dear Men, here is where you win with this. If and when you let us walk away or be alone when we ask for it, the forgiveness of the offense, the healing from the hurt, and recovery is almost always instant. The endearment returns and it is easier for us to remember all the good you have done by then. Then, we will come back like saucy cats to creep into your laps again. That’s your chance for gra-gra, don’t do it sha?. We appreciate if you fetch us a glass of something nice to drink instead???. Oh shush, we’ve been waiting on your individual nansanse since you were born!???.

Building Intellectual Capacity

Building Intellectual Capacity

approach to situations and circumstances.
Everyday will pose a new set of challenges specifically to you as a woman and to humanity in general. Withdrawing into a penumbra of despair places a glass ceiling on your creativity and critical thinking, regardless of the results of your IQ test. Raising above every day challenges, require that you need build your intellectual capacity.
To amass a high level mental horse power, you must believe you are more than your looks portray and greater than your present circumstances detect. You must arise and place a demand on your mind; knowing assuredly that every solution begins with minute blurry thoughts that culminate into ideas, clear as crystal.
An understanding that your mind is in a perpetual state of minting thoughts that eventually become best selling products and solutions and an acknowledgment that you have the same number of brain cells as the world’s famous inventors places you in the right posture for critical thinking.
It is common place for the mind to under perform in your initial attempts at critical thinking, that’s not to worry. I love to think of it as Inertia. As you continue to disregard that under performance and continuously place demands on your mind, the brain cells get stimulated, causing a proliferation in the frequency and an improvement in the quality of thought your thought waves.

This is a sure recipe for building Intellectual Capacity.

STEM Girls Rock

STEM Girls Rock

As I attempt to pry into todays privation of women in the field of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), memories of the only girl in class during my Diploma days arise. Acing courses like FORTRAN, even the best compliment I ever got had a disparaging over-tune.
Daily abridging the full participation of women in STEM related professions, such vilifying stereotypes along with more intricate issues, like the portrayal of women scientist as a special interest group rather than a professional network, have instead of stimulate an innovation ecosystem, broken the link between human dignity and self-actualisation and affected the bottom line (women’s economic empowerment).
As social entrepreneur and United Nations Global Champion for Women’s Economic Empowerment at Empower Women, my quotidian vocation stimulates a strong conviction that all is not lost for women in STEM fields.
We all should in our own capacity help and encourage women and girls to pursue their dream and savour the sweet splendour of dreams-come-true. To look beyond the limiting tendencies that hold them bound to their present circumstances, to take a deep breath of the air of confidence and to doggedly unleash their full potential.
And at the right stage in the journey- if they so please- to walk down the aisle, with and only with the man who believes in the beauty of their dreams and in the unique path of their chosen career.

Life’s Marathon

Life’s Marathon

Life is a race, or so they say. For some it seems a sprint, for other a relay, and yet for others, life seems an endless marathon with no stops, no breaks and a finish line that lies somewhere in the horizons of your mind.

She was quite young at the time, and like the few girls who had the privilege of getting a formal education in her community, she was basking with hope. The hope to come out of school, build a career and one day walk down the isle, adorned in a sparkling white tube dress, the choir singing her favorite hymn, and her Prince also wearing a black suit over a white shirt and a bow tie as red as the petals of a rose eagerly await the moment when the priest declares “I now pronounce you husband and wife. You may kiss the bride”. That was not too much to ask, but that was her dream and she cherished it like a little girl would cherish her first baby doll. Hiding her dreams in a special closet somewhere in her heart, she would go about her days activities, only to return every night to the reassuring warmth of it’s embrace.

Getting a secondary education in her part of the world was said to be tuition-free but neither cheap nor easy. So as a jolly fifteen, she briskly hooped out of bed at the first cock crow. Before the first light of dawn she must set out, walking for hours on foot, only to arrive the school compound before the security guards mount the gate like faceless status and students in their countless numbers waive white sheets on their payment receipt as as proof of payment for the terms PTA levy.

Her tiny frame, scantily covered by a brown pleated skirt (which she sew with a needle and tread to avoid the cost of tailoring), a white long-sleeved shirt covering her long hands from the extremely harsh and unfriendly kisses of the wind and her head, wrapped under a white head gear; as it was the culture of schools in Northern Nigeria. This tiny teenage girl absolutely loved her school uniforms and will stop at nothing to flaunt it as she ran pass the houses, across the highway, then through the football field, crossing two streams to get to school every morning.

Yeah, crossing the football pitch was one event too remarkable, she says; as the winds where in a constant struggle to know the exact details of whatever was under her skirts. Determined to see her pants, it whistled lovely rhythms as she approached, then as she began to enjoy the rhythm, the winds will gain a sudden momentum and with all its might, the winds will blow up her brown pleated skirt and wave it round about her frame. That was a daily routine she never got fond of.

Although she could not afford to pay for her senior secondary school examination and was at the risk of repeating her final year, she studied as if her life depended on it. Reading under a push lamp until the phlegm in her nostrils were colored by smoke. But rather than give up on her dreams, she simply decide to store them away and concentrate on surviving the events of the moment while she went out in search of a job. Saddled with so much burden, she had built up into a little woman, having nerves of steel connected to her jelly spine. Kind and soft spoken, her heart became hard as nails. So it was that after many years of work, further education and career advancement,

Perception Matters

Perception Matters

With the days of Machiavelli long behind us, society has construed a stereotyped representation of power and leadership. Thinking power is amoral and any means however unscrupulous can justifiably be used in achieving political power is be to mildly explain it.

The opinion of leaders as shroud and political office holders as heartless bull dogs, willing and able to tear down every opposition has done no good to the perceived suitability of women for leadership roles at all levels.

Women undeniably have stronger emotions and greater feelings for family than men. But does that translate into weakness? Are women more or less likely to set goals, pursue their goals and smell the sweet scene of accomplishment? Does women’s strong affinity for other women, children and family make them more or less able to make firm choices when occupying decision making positions?

Women everywhere are hunted by one monster. It is called perception. A bold, belligerent and plain spoken man is openly applauded and recommended for high stake leadership roles, while a woman with the same qualities is regarded as confrontational, uncontrollable and suitable only for rehabilitation.

Rooted and grounded in religious beliefs that subjugate and confine women to a place of submission, it is very easy for women’s ambitions to get drawned in this deep sea of vilifing opinions and with their ambitions so does their potential and intellectual horse power get drawned.

Without any intention of arguing the limits of a woman’s submission, I personally believe a woman’s submission is bordered by the lines of marriage and that with the mutual consent of both spouses, they should be no limits to how much a woman can achieve and the heights she can climb in public life. I cling very close to my heart, the belief that marriage was intended to amplify the potential of both spouses and that every type of woman has a man suitable for her. That just like every other aspects of life, the ambitions and aspirations of both spouses are mutually inclusive and the closer both spouses gets to self actualization, the happier and more romantic their relationship gets.

Women should not be made to choose one over the other. Power over love, romance over self actualization and intellectual prowess over unpaid care work should be totally eliminated from the woman equation. We can have them both. With better planning and more empathetic understanding from our spouses, family members and the society, it will be a whole lot easier for more women to rise to positions of power, unleash their ingenuity and contribute a huge chunk to society and the world.

Let’s see mothers in parliaments, lets have grannies as ambassadors. Give us female ministers that were never married; for what does it matter if she is the president of prime minister? This is are not rhetorical as questions. She needs answers.