*By Cynthia Kihuma, Akili Dada Intern

A woman with a voice is by definition a strong woman.

For decades now, women have been pushing for equality in leadership positions and indeed the movement has gained momentum. However hidden barriers remain that still favor the status quo – male dominated leadership spaces. Though the number of women leaders has increased globally, they remain a small group compared to their male counterparts and they have to fight for unbiased coverage and recognition that unfortunately perpetuate the negative view that society holds towards women. A quick online search of any of the renown women leaders today often promotes negative stereotypes and biased coverage that more often than not is geared towards tainting the image or putting the credibility of the female leaders into question.

                                                            African Women Leaders.                                                             African Women Leaders.

Currently, more than twenty countries worldwide have a woman as their head of national government, a fact that should be celebrated and acknowledged, unfortunately these stories are reserved for ‘special occasions’ and only mentioned in certain spaces that are deemed fit for purpose. Additionally although we have seen an increased number of women in political leadership, most governments reserve the so-called soft industry positions such as health, welfare and education portfolios for women and this is often to secure public confidence in their minimal efforts to promote gender equality. In the rare event that women are appointed to the hard industry portfolios their performance and achievements are downplayed as their every step is ridiculed. This therefore affirms the narrative that leadership is aggressive in nature and therefore is considered to be something that is better suited for the men.

It is with this understanding that we celebrate and appreciate actors, journalists and organizations such as our partners Women and Girls Lead Global that create platforms to recognize and celebrate women leaders and the work that they do. Through their efforts they not only recognize women leaders in the political sphere they recognize women professionals, entrepreneurs, social innovators and human rights activists who are doing their bit in identifying community challenges and are creating waves of change that will leave a positive impact not only in their communities but in the world. Indeed our very own 2013 fellow Pamela Dio was recognized for her efforts in environmental stewardship and friend to Akili Dada and mentor Miriam Ngolo for excelling in a male dominated field as a woman scientist.

Mercy profiled as a nominee for this years Women in the Red Awards. Photo credits WGLG Kenya. Mercy profiled as a nominee for this years Women in the Red Awards. Photo credits WGLG Kenya.

At Akili Dada we consciously invest in girls and young women equipping them with the skills and resources to not only be leaders but also to amplify their voices so that they can tell their own stories, enhance their visibility and the impact of their work in transforming lives and promoting social change and prosperity in their communities.

Through platforms like Dada Dialogues and Dadas Speak we work with young women to inspire them to not only participate and take charge and drive the discussion around women’s leadership. This therefore ensures that they are able to elevate their work to earn the recognition they need to draw in partners and like-minded individuals that would enable them to grow their initiatives to scale. In a sense we need more platforms that empower women to tell their own stories so that when the media comes calling, they are in a position to shape their stories and avoid the trappings on the stereotypical same script. Indeed the time has come for women’s leadership stories to be front-page news not featured as special stories. For women’s leadership stories not to be relegated to the ‘women’s pages, implying that this news is less news worthy, but to have it in the front pages. It’s time for the world to hear and see more positive women’s leadership stories.

Find out more about the #tellourstories campaign here.