Adele Yayra Boadzo, University of California, Davis

Adele Yayra Boadzo, University of California, Davis

October 12, 2019 0 By Stanley Isaacs


Jeronimo Augusto: Our next
speaker, representing South Africa, Miss Adele Boadzo, hails from the University of
California, Davis. [Cheering] Adele Boadzo: When I think of
setting the sceen for great African stories, I think the breathtaking
beaches of Gambia, the rich aquaculture of the Congo River, the
grass covered and rolling hills in South Africa, and so many more. Every single one of our African
countries is filled with countless, powerful stories exhibiting our
distinguished and highly influential leaders. Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. My name is Adele Boadzo, and
my message today is designed to encourage young leaders to share
their extraordinary stories because, young leader, your
power is in your story. As leaders, we need to harness
the power of our stories. We need to understand our
life and leadership journeys. We need to see how our stories fuel
our passions to create the authentic and purpose-driven leaders
we were meant to be. I’ll illustrate this by talking about
some of my favorite African leaders and lessons surrounding
their leadership journeys. My first lesson is to pay attention,
pay attention to the things that keep you up at night. Pay attention to the changes around you. Be curious. One person who embodies this
is Kenyan born Wangari Maathai. Wangari Maathai was an
environmentalist, human rights campaigner, and Nobel Peace
Prize winner who paid attention to the environment. As early as 1977, Wangari Maathai
realized that the climate and weather had suddenly become irregular. And this is how she
discovered her life’s purpose. And along with the women she grew
up with, she planted over 13 million trees to save the environment. Wangari Maathai said, “It’s the little
things people do that make a difference. My little thing is planting trees.” My second lesson is to
challenge the process. Be the one to take the bold steps necessary
to make positive changes in our society. One person who did this was Kofi Annan. He was a former UN secretary general
who made it his life’s mission to fight for global peace
and positive change. This is largely shaped by his time at
boarding school and being part of the generation to witness Ghana’s
struggle for independence and consequent victory. During this time, he led hunger
strikes for better food at his canteen, and he was also — and seeing
the change and hope that came with independence made him realize that suffering
anywhere concerns people everywhere. My final lesson is to
trust your struggle. As young leaders, we often face
adversity and opposition, and this is where we choose to give up. But today, I encourage
you to trust your struggle. Another great leader once said it’s
the — mountaintops inspire leaders, but it’s the valleys that mature them. A woman who trusted every stage
of her struggle is Farida Bedwei. Farida Bedwei is a Guinean software
engineer, author, and activist. She was born with cerebral palsy, a condition
that causes poor muscle conditioning. Because of her condition, she wasn’t
able to go to school for the first 15 years because the schools
didn’t have adequate facilities. So she was home-schooled for 15 years. By the age of 15, she skipped high
school altogether because she was – so she skipped high school altogether. She was always good at computers,
so she enrolled in a computer systems diploma, and this was the start
of a career as a software engineer. She went on to do another
diploma and degree in the UK. Today, Farida Bedwei is the
co-founder of Logiciel in Ghana as well as the creator of gKudi, a
microfinance app that’s responsible for helping microfinance
companies operate more efficiently. In an interview, Farida was asked,
“What’s it like living with a disability?” Her response was, “We all
have strengths and weaknesses. It’s just that my
weaknesses are more visible.” In a similar interview, she
was asked the same question. “What is it like living
with a disability?” Her response was, “What is it
like not being able to code?” So Farida is a primary example of
someone who used every stage of her struggle to become the
successful woman she is today. Finally, I will share my story. I was born in South Africa to two
Guinean parents, and as the eldest, with three younger brothers,
I’ve always had a strong sense of responsibility and hard work towards —
so sorry — hard work towards my studies. I grew comfortable in my career and
enjoyed topics like renewable energy and electrification. But it wasn’t until I heard of the
passing of my grandmother that I truly moved into my purpose. So my grandmother lived in a rural
village in Ghana, and she was an excellent community leader
and voice for women’s rights. So one day she was
operating a gas stove. So she switched it on, stepped back,
and then she switched on the light and then caught fire and
died a few days later. So this not only shook me, but
it pushed me into my purpose, into realizing that I need to use my time,
my talents, and my experiences to empower women like my grandmother,
who did not have half the opportunities I had. So today, I’m the founder of Hope
Rises Solar, an organization that’s built on the premise that enhancing
the status of women is the key to rural development. Our goal at Hope Rises Solar is to
bring solar lighting products to over 50,000 households by 2030, and we
hope to do this by developing female solar entrepreneurs, not only on the
technical side, but the business side. Now, this room is filled with
countless extraordinary stories. So today I encourage you to pay
attention to the things that keep you up at night, challenge the process
at every stage, trust your struggle to mature you — because, young
leader, your power is in your story. Thank you. [Applause]