• Dr. Yakama Manty Jones

Driving Change or Breaking Glass Ceilings? Please bring others along. A Converse-Passion-Discuss

Updated: Jan 21

Happy New Year!

We ended 2020 with hopes and prayers for a better 2021. Many people made 'Resolutions, Set Personal or Professional Goals' whilst others decided to 'Go with the Flow'. Personally, my goal remained constant – service to humanity whilst striving to be a better human. Whatever our personal goals or approaches are, may 2021 be a better year.


On 15th January 2021, I was selected to join the 2021 cohort of Amujae Initiative. Amujae, meaning "we are going up" in Kru, a Liberian language, has been redressed to suit a growing league of female leaders across Africa. The Amujae Initiative is the Ellen Johnson Sirleaf Presidential Centre for Women and Development's flagship program. It focuses on advancing women's public leadership across Africa.

I am incredibly excited to join and learn from this sisterhood of African leaders and inspiring women, including former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf (Founder), our very own, Mayor of Freetown, Her Worship Yvonne Aki Sawyerr (Inaugural cohort), Former Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation in Sierra Leone Madam Isata Kabia (Co 2021 cohort member), other former heads of state, and leaders of international organizations.


Coincidentally, 15th January 2021 marked the 15th anniversary of former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf's inauguration, when she 'broke the glass ceiling' to be inaugurated as President of Liberia, thus becoming Africa's first democratically elected woman president. I sometimes try to place her achievement in context: Most African countries, except the few that were never colonized gained independence around the 1960s. It was not until 2006, almost five decades later, that the continent produced its first female President, Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. In that same year, she became the first African female Head of State to address the UN General Assembly. Only three other African female Heads of State have addressed the UN General Assembly, with the most recent being Sahle-Work Zewde of Ethiopia in 2019.


What makes her breaking of the proverbial glass ceiling more ground-breaking for me goes beyond what she achieved in office. It is how she has continued to bring along more women not only in the public service and leadership space but also in the private sector and civil society. Indeed, when you break glass ceilings, please bring others along.


Today…


Today, I join the rest of the world to 'wow' at the inauguration ceremony of the United States of America's 46th President, Joseph R Biden. Not only have they displayed the power of democracy, but seeing the first woman vice president taking the oath of office sent my mind racing. Today, Kamala Harris is sworn in as the First Female Vice-President of the United States of America. Being of African descent, her win is a win for women in Africa and across the globe.


"Here's the thing: every office I've run for I was the first to win. First person of colour. First woman. First woman of colour. Every time." This famous quote by Kamala Harris is a powerful guide and inspirational boost for women across the globe. Women who are scared; women who are bold; women who are unsure; women who needed a push towards something bigger and better.


Image from :Justin Sullivan /Getty Images


Her journey to becoming the vice president tell tales of strength – but more than anything redefined hope for every woman. Standing on her mother's words: "My mother had a saying: 'Kamala, you may be the first to do many things, but make sure you're not the last", she has been making conscious efforts to inspire other women, ignite the spirit of hope and bring other women along.


According to the BBC (Ms Harris is fond of saying: "While I may be the first woman in this office, I will not be the last." This speaks hope, transformative change, influential leadership and groundbreaking representation. Today, Ms Harris, the newly sworn Vice-President of the United States of America is a woman who has broken glass ceilings including being the first female to hold that office whilst also having a record of a unique dress sense of "Suits & Converse" – a wordless appearance of strides to break the regular.


What does this milestone mean to me?


Sitting with my husband and my two girls (Gold & Silver), sipping grapefruit juice and watching the inauguration ceremony, I am re-motivated to pursue excellence; follow my passion to promote human capital development through education and entrepreneurship and bring others along through the journey. I intend to do these by relaying stories of learning and doing and sharing data.


If my story alone cannot inspire you to join the fight to promote human capital development, especially through reading, let the data and evidence spur you to action. Routinely, I would be sharing data and stories about my work as a philanthropist via the Yak Jones Foundation's social media platforms: Twitter: @jones_yak ; Instagram: yakjones_foundation and Facebook: Yak Jones Foundation .

A selection of the Yak Jones Foundation's Reading Squads


Hope for the future:

Kamala Harris' win is one of hope for us all. Hope for women and girls in their homes and on the streets. Hope for women fighting tirelessly to break ceilings. Hope for more female representation in politics and governance. Hope for women and girls' comprehensive safety. Hope for women and girls' empowerment advocates. Hope for women across the globe.



A cross-section of the Yak Jones Foundation's Reading Coaches

Driving Change or Breaking Glass Ceilings? A Converse-Passion:

Today, I am moved to continue the converse-passion approach by aspiring to become better, showing passion, sharing data, dig deeper whilst intentionally bring more people along on this journey of creating positive, sustainable change in Sierra Leone and beyond.


To those already contributing to the 'positive change' space, I encourage you to keep learning and doing. To those still contemplating how you can start ….. remember a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. You do not need to run the course alone. Bring others along.


Congratulations to Her Excellency, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, former President of the Republic of Liberia on her 15th anniversary when she became Africa's first democratically elected woman president (15th January 2021) - a milestone for women's leadership in Africa and the globe.


Congratulations His Excellency, President Joseph R. Biden and Her Excellency, Vice President Kamala Harris, on becoming the President and Vice President of the United States of America respectively.


As Sierra Leone will mark her 60th Independence Anniversary this year, it is laudable to note the improvement in female representation in various spheres. However, we still have a long way to go in achieving substantial and sustainable economic and social empowerment for our women. As we strive to be better using the human capital development approach, let each be reminded to bring others along.


Do you have ideas still twirling around in your mind? Do you want to chat about a potential intervention? Do not hesitate to reach out. Nothing is too small. Every little helps. Let's bring each other along and create a generation of change makers and remember, 'better is always possible.