“Writers from all minority groups, and women writers, and those from colonized nations—all of us who have been spoken for, instead of listened to, have had to seize our own narratives.” Aminatta Forna

In reflection, I see this volume putting into words the experience of constraints and challenge that women navigate in the world: restricted, underestimated, not allowed, undermined, violated… and it also speaks to our personal challenges of feeling scared, not enough, an imposter. But the volume does more. These voices, these words, these stories, are about action and impact in the face of all this.These women speak courageously and defiantly, of doing it anyway. Despite. They show us the power of faith, of doing it together, of pulling each other up, of partnering or co-founding with other women. They describe what it means to draw inspiration and motivation from those around us, those who have gone before, and those who will follow. And whilst these are stories of African women, they also bring to light how the other layers of our identity are intricately connected to our struggles and achievements. These are stories of women, and they are, at the same time, stories for and about all of humanity. It is an honour to hear all these voices and it is with true gratitude that we share them with the world. I hope these stories move you in the way they have moved me: to begin, to persevere, to be purposeful, to be bold, to take action, to rest, to trust, to connect and be in community, and to be yourself – your whole self.

Sarah

In the process of putting these stories together, I had a conversation with a woman whom I deeply admire who is an innovator in her industry. She spoke about the idea of feeling insecure and crippled by an impending challenge. In reflecting on her journey to create alternative narratives she was reminded of the value and depth of her contribution to the African continent -both present and future . This volume is a reminder to us all of the incredible women who are overcoming fear and insecurity; emotional and otherwise on a daily basis. It is a reminder and invitation to acknowledge the challenges and continue to create pockets of representation of a new reality, a reality exploding with light and hope.

Chengetai

I am humbled and inspired after reading these stories that illustrate the solidarity, and differences; diverse experiences and the commitment of women across a wide range of contexts and countries, to Africa’s future. Stories are influenced by Ancestors, elders, Spirit, mentors, mothers, and relationships to make each achievement part of a larger whole. These are stories of women leaders’ determination to be part of creating and nurturing Africa’s growth. Women bring grit, creativity, vision, caring, intelligence and passion to shape the mystery of what it means to be a Woman; what it means to be African and to have Africa in you.

Moyra

In our last week of finalizing this volume, I was part of leading an event where there was a talk on the Courageous Leadership needed for the future[1]. Although speaking in an entirely different context, I heard the speaker reference all the elements of our We Will Lead Africa framework – A focus on serving the collective, grit and leading at the margins, with, and on purpose. There was an additional quality that she said women struggle with, but when they find that quality, their impact is exponential. That quality, is the ability to be uncalcified to the norms expected of women: willing to be different, do different, and say yes to something she may have no idea how to do. Uncalcified! The word would not leave me – and as I thought of what makes the women in this volume follow the paths they have chosen to courageously lead in African contexts, it is because they are, Uncalcified! Positively defiant. So to me, the stories in this volume are ultimately about passion, identity, courage and positive impact. It has prompted me into an inquiry that I invite you to as we conclude: In what ways do we need to become (more) uncalcified in order to achieve the positive impact we want on the world?

Yabome

As We Will Lead Africa Women launches, gratitude for the women ancestors who were and are so it could be. Toasting to our mothers, and their mothers, and we too as we do the work that ensures the future for our descendants.

Judith

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[1] Talk on Courageous Leadership trends/needs in Canada by Joyce Drohan of Deloitte Canada, May 8, 2019

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