Abibatu Michaella Conteh is a young leader, a Leadership development Coach and a visionary movement builder. She has over five years of experience in advocating and empowering young women and girls. She is the founder and Director of the Young African Women in Leadership (YAWL), an African Based young women’s organization whose mission is to Empower young women to pioneer change and innovation, whilst striving for gender equality in the African Continent. Abibatu works with an amazing team of more than 100 young women in 16 African countries. Her work is focused on leading, Coordinating and facilitating young women’s empowerment training, advocacy and mentoring activities in her country and other African countries.
In 2016, Abibatu amongst other young African leaders represented her country Sierra Leone in the United States in the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African leaders under President Barack Obama Young African Leaders Initiative.
As a survivor of Sexual violence against girls, Abibatu is passionate about young women and girls issues. She is committed to building social change movements, empower, invest, create opportunities and spaces for young women to realize their potential to lead and influence change in this changing world.
SNAPSHOT ON CAREER
Current Job – Executive Director, Young African Women in Leadership (YAWL)
Education – B.Sc. Peace and Conflict Studies, BA History and Political Science, University of Sierra Leone
First Job – Paralegal, Timap for Justice Sierra Leone
Necessary Luxury – N/A
Your Passion – Girls empowerment, Peace, Equality and Leadership
WHAT FUELS ME?
Determination: Determination and passion has been my greatest tools in my work. As a young woman trying to bring change that matters to her in this challenging world, determination has been a very useful tool that has open opportunities for me.
Hope: Hope is my daily bread. I am a woman with big dreams and achieving those dreams are very challenging in all aspect but hope has been the fundamental in all my activities and my vision. I am very hopeful and courageous that whatever I want in life as long as I work hard and make sacrifices towards it I will achieve it. Hope encourages me to be courageous, persistence and be determine to reach my goals.
Integrity: In all what I do I try to be steadfast, integrity is one of my core value as a young leader and it as shape the way I deliver my work and present myself.
MY GREATEST INFLUENCE:
Vulnerable girls around me, particularly economically disadvantaged girls and survivors of gender based violence. They influence my work, my thoughts and actions. I am a survivor of sexual violence against the girl child and my story has been my greatest motivation to lead change for equality, peace and a just society for women and girls.
MY TOP THREE ROLE MODELS:
- Bisi Adeleye – Fayemi – I see Madam Bisi Fayemi as a role model because of her hard work in promoting and supporting women and girls in Africa. As an African Women, her perseverance, hard work and passion for women and girl’s issues in Africa has inspired me and my work greatly. Madam Bisi is the Co-Founder of the African Women Development Fund, former Director of Akina Mama wa Afrika. She has been Co-Chair for the International Network of women’s Fund and Honorary President for the Association for women’s rights (AWID) (2003-2015). She has served as resources person in varies organizations such as Comic Relief, UNIFEM, UNDP etc. Currently, she is an adviser to the Global Fund for Women. Ms. Fayemi is a leading voice not only in the African women’s movement and civil society, but in the global women’s movement as well.
- Fanny-Ann Conteh – My mother is my role model because of her courage, hard work and hope. I was born in a family of four and we are all females. I was grown up in a family where each and every day my mother was told that her family is not complete because she was unable to bear male child but her courage, hard work and hope influence me to be the woman I am today. She thought me to dream big, love unconditionally, work hard and become whoever I want to become regardless my gender or what society thinks about my gender.
- Haja Zainab Hawa Bangura – Haja Zainab Hawa Bangura former United Nation Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict has been a role model to many women and girls in our country Sierra Leone and the world has a whole. She was the first female to contest for presidency in the country. Regardless of her losing the race, she is still hoping and determine to achieve that goal. She has served in varies Government offices and civil society organizations promoting gender, good governance and peace in Sierra Lone. Madam Zainab Bangura is currently one of aspirants to contest in the next presidential election in Sierra Leone.
IN THE NEXT FIVE YEARS…..
Leading a well-recognized nonprofit that is committed to the empowerment and investment in young African women whilst striving for gender equality.
I envisioned an Africa free from violence, inequality, economic and social discrimination against women. A society where opportunities are accessible to women and youth on the continent.
Yes! I do not only have people I discuss my vision with but I also have groups I work with to contribute in making my vision a reality in Africa.
THE AFRICAN WOMAN’S CHALLENGE:
The struggle women face in Africa are varies. Women are face with economic and social discriminations, Domestic, physical, sexual and emotional violence, cultural pressure, Lack of opportunities like education and health particularly those living in rural and slums communities. As a survivor of gender based violence, I am using my greatest skill which is to build movement for social change. I do not only build movement but also create opportunities for young women to be empowered, be educated, be engaged and be able to participate effectively in society.
WHAT I DO TO RELAX:
I get tension off/relax by either reading inspirational books, watching comedy moves or embark on a long ride alone in a lonely road with cool music and meditation. Sometimes I pray and read Bible.
MY – I.C.E. [INSPIRE|CELEBRATE|EMPOWER] VISION
African women should be celebrated because of our courage, strength and fearless effort in contributing immensely in a society full of discrimination and cultures that limit us.
African Women should be inspired and empowered to help them realize their powers and potentials to influence change in this changing world.
MY AFRICAN UNION PLANS:
If such privilege arises, I will seek the responsibility of the African Union Chairperson, because with such responsibility/role I will be able to effectively make decisions that will improve the lives of women and motivate head of states to make women’s rights a priority in their countries.
FINAL WORDS OF ADVICE:
To the African Mothers, Wives and Aunt, my advice for them is to raise their children with tolerance, respect and dignity. Teach them to be patriotic, teach them to accept diversity and respect the rights of others, especially the male child. African mothers and wives have a very important role to play in the development of the continent because they give birth to Africans and raise Africans. With such important role, they should stop limiting their children, instead encourage them to dream big and work hard towards the development of themselves and the continent.
To our daughters, sisters and friends we should know that we are an incredible resource to the development of Africa. The time to start is now, right where you are, no contribution to nation building is too small. Your gender, financial or social status doesn’t define you, even your educational level is not a limitation on what you can do or achieve. Let force ourselves to leadership by empowering ourselves, by getting involve and engaged in society. As young women we should always be positive, be hopeful and be very determine to reach our goals in life. We have the power to do and achieve whatever we envisioned.