Akina Mama wa Afrika (AMwA)

Feminist Leadership Development

Elvina QuaisonWe are privileged to share with you the leadership journey of one true African Woman whose passion for Africa will not be barred by anything let alone boundaries. In this exclusive interview we invite you to learn more about one dynamic African woman who believes in identifying and supporting people to accomplish their dreams especially women. This is none other than our very own alumni Elvina Quaison

Kindly tells us about yourself

I am Elvina Quaison, a British Ghanaian. I am explicit in that definition because my life experience has shown me being born in the UK to Ghanaian parents has shaped me in a particular way.

I have had a keen interest in Africa as a whole and Ghana particular for most of my life. This has influenced my educational, professional and even social life decisions. On completing my first degree in Social Policy and Sociology I went to live in Ghana to gain an understanding of a country and a continent of which I felt such a strong affinity.

While in Ghana I was introduced to the African Women's Development Fund and began my path of working with African led organizations that had a mission to assist progress on the continent.

Working in an environment of strong, funny, progressive, intelligent women was like an awakening for me. I began to see there was a place and a path for me and others like me, my eyes were open. I was re-educated to see that there were many other ways of being an African woman than my western upbringing had shown me.

Following my period in Ghana I returned to the UK where I completed my masters in Migration and Diaspora studies. My path had me working with Akina Mama wa Afrika (AMwA) and then Africans Unite Against Child Abuse (AFRUCA), supporting the awareness raising and action to address child abuse of African children in the UK. These experiences brought me to the large scope of women's issues that need to be addressed such as FGM and child trafficking.

With the organization AFFORD my attention was turned to supporting entrepreneurs develop businesses on the continent. This supported and inspired my decision to move to Ghana. I have lived in Ghana for the last 3 years where I started my own business Silk Solutions to assist people to set up businesses and invest on the continent.

What are some of the unique qualities that define her personality as an African woman of strength?

I think at this point in my life I can say some of my unique qualities are;

·       Strength of character - I know who I am and I will not change that for anybody

·       I have an adaptable nature - I will listen to input from others, weigh it up and then move to action.   I can accept if another way is a better way.

·       I am a supporter - I believe if I can support a person's success, a person's growth it is our shared joy

What was your AWLI experience like? And how has it impacted on your life and career development over the years?

AWLI was a life definer as the whole process was a unique moment in time to examine self and be in a space of African women from across the continent. The time there opened up greater life possibilities to me. It made me think of myself as a feminist and what that meant.

Friendships were born there which have lasted to this day and bonded us as a shared life changing moment always does.

In terms of my career the idea of being a person who assists people realize their goals, dreams and ambitions have been central. Encouraging people to self examine and see that they can be more than they may have accepted they would be. As I look towards developing my company I will be pulling on my past experiences and influencers. AWLI is positioned very largely in this.

Are there any unique aspects of the AWLI training that stood out for you?

Two sessions still resonate with me; change management and the sexual health talk. In the case of change management it was looking at how attached we are to our beliefs and how does this/ has this impacted on how we can have the lives we want. The lessons from this session have stayed relevant. The format of the sexual health talk was done in a relaxed and open way. This encouraged an uninhibited nature to the conversation; up to that point sex had been almost a taboo subject. This session was a revelation.

I took from that to be open about all areas of importance to me because, in doing so, I could be helping someone else get the answer or ask a question that they needed.

Would you recommend any young woman to undertake the AWLI training?

I would strongly recommend a young woman to undertake the AWLI, as this kind of training is so beneficial to a person's self development. Being in such a conducive space to see the positivity and greatness in self identifying proudly as an African woman is valuable beyond words to a young woman's sense of self and future prospects.

2015 marks 30 years of Akina Mama wa Afrika advancing women's rights and building their leadership capacity. In your opinion how best can AMwA continue to remain relevant in the current context?

I urge AMwA to continue to engage with women through self-development spaces that encourage confidence building and vision building, as this is essential. Tapping into the young and older voices in the movement and creating innovative ways to amplify them would also be beneficial and raise awareness of what AMwA is about and what it can do for them.

I recently carried out a workshop for young woman in Ghana called 'Your Future Your Decision' which helped them look at how they see their actual future and explore how they would like their future to be. This was a great experience and the feedback strongly suggested the young women found it useful. This kind of activity for women of all ages would also be interesting to explore.

The women's movement in Africa is said to have lost its vibrancy. What do you think has led to this and how can the women's movement shift from this phase to the apex of activism for women's rights?

I'm not sure. There seems to be a general air of complacency regarding making changes within society, a kind of hopelessness. Perhaps people need a spark of hope and inspiration, a way to develop a belief that we can orchestrate change in small or big ways.

As we draw close to the declaration of the post 2015 development framework and beyond what would you like to see African governments commit to and why?

I would like to see governments commit to harnessing local skills and talent in home grown enterprises. We need to see sustainable job creating spaces being supported so employment possibilities improve. This will benefit women hopefully in regards to domestic violence and other abuses exacerbated by financial difficulties, improved circumstances could reduce this.

It would also offer more options to women in difficult positions or who want to forge a career have more options in their home country to be financially independent.

What is your message for any young women interested in political leadership?

I would say they should ensure they have a trusted close support group who have their best interest as their focus. They should go for these positions as their input and presence is needed practically and to inspire others.

Which one thing would you want the world to remember Elvina for?

I would like the world to remember Elvina for being a dynamic individual who supported women particularly and people generally in identifying and accomplishing their dreams. Hopefully some of this will have a positive life changing impact on this world in which we all live.