The Jollof Chronicles: Inspired at MILEAD

It’s Friday the 13th and I did not even notice until late in the afternoon. I am not someone you’d call a superstitious person but when stuff like this come up, I find my senses becoming even more alert and wary, for no specific reason. I consider today to have been one of my most productive days since the MILEAD Institute started. Unlike the previous three days, I was all bubbly and eager to share ideas and contribute to most of the discussions we had today. I was also able to interact and learn more about Fellows I’d initially not had the opportunity to converse with on a one-to-one basis. The Liberian Fellow,Kiabeh, brought us bracelets at breakfast toady and we were all excited. Picture quality is bad because I had to take it with my left hand (Yea, too lazy to switch band to that wrist) 🙂

Kiabeh’s gift to all the fellows!

The day started with a lecture on the History of the Women’s Movement by Mrs, Dorcas Coker Appiah, a Ghanaian women leader who has taken great strides in advocating for the rights of women. Mrs Appiah took us down history lane, highlighting the struggle women went through to make their voices heard. I was particularly touched by the story on the first Beijing Conference, which saw the participation of several thousands of advocates. This, according to her, was a great improvement from the first UN conference on women held in Mexico in 1975. The Beijing Conference sparked so much interest in the various groups and the Chinese Government was concerned by the number of delegates expected for the Conference. As a result, the ‘Side Events’ that were usually staged by the organisations were moved to a town about 40km from Beijing. The delegates, in their resilience, endured the unfavorable conditions there in a bid to meet their goals and effect change in their societies. Their story touched me in several ways and reminded me of my responsibility to pick up from where they stopped and help in ensuring that their dreams come true and their sacrifices do not go in vain.

As leaders, it is important to have great Communication skills to successfully carry out our responsibilities. It is with this knowledge that Moremi connected us to Dr Jemima Anderson, a Professor and Communications Specialist to give a lecture on ‘Effective Communication Skills. Dr Anderson delivered a very interesting and interactive lecture on the various types on Communication and gave us tips on how to effectively communicate as emerging leaders. I was particularly interested in this lecture as it was a sort of refresher of the Communications lessons in school; only in simpler terms. She emphasised on the recognition of various cultural values as part of our nonverbal communication skills. I was surprised to learn that in Ghana, one cannot flag a taxi with the thumb as it is considered an insult. You didn’t know that either, did you? Oh well, take note now and thank me later 🙂

Everyday, we engage in a team-building activity after lunch. Today , we were grouped into teams of four for the activity. Each group was given a pen and was expected to go out in the neighborhood and exchange it for something of greater value. The team with the most valuable items would eventually be crowned winner. My group set out, gauging people and trying to assess how much we could get from them even before approaching them. Talk about judging a book by its cover. The first duo we met gave us God in exchange for the pen, as they felt there was nothing of greater value than the Creator. We went ahead with our pen after taking one of their numbers down and promising to keep in contact. Further down, we got to the Department of Archaeology and there, we were able to leave with four items and words of wisdom from one Professor Wellington. The librarian gave us an old book on Geography and a 20 pesewas coin, urging us to ignore the monetary value and recognise the significance of the exchange. A lady we met in one of the offices gave us a chain made from cowrie shells, reminding us of the value of our culture and how we can use that as leaders to reach out to more people. I think the most interesting exchange was that of the Professor, who started by criticizing our method. He pointed out the unfairness in our exchange and linked it to the current situation in Africa. Prof. Wellington felt one of the major problems we face in Africa is that of leaders who come into power with very little and want to gain so much more than they give. He urged us a s future leaders to challenge the status quo and change the system. Initially, my eager self wanted to argue that the main purpose of the exercise was to build our skills in communication and persuasion, while learning various lessons from our interaction with strangers. After listening carefully to him, I realized he had a point and thanked him for the rich knowledge he’d shared before taking a picture with him. (I’d post it here but it’s in one of the volunteer’s cameras). At the end of the exercise, all the teams came back with various items including money, but more importantly, each one came with a lesson they’d learned.

The final lecture was by a very strong lady who exuded an aura of confidence and grace in her presentation. Dr. Esi Ansah is a Professor and also owns a company called Axis Holding Capital Ltd. She took us through a lecture on Time Management, another crucial skill necessary for all people. We examined the four main temperaments present in humans : Sanguine, Choleric, Melancholic, Phlegmatic. These helped us identify the different traits that could be found in people possessing them and thus, enable us to chart out the best ways of communicating with them. Each Fellow was tasked to do a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) analysis on their time management skills and the lecture was followed by an interactive exchange of questions, answers and suggestions between the fellows and Dr. Ansah.

Each lecturer gives us a set of values they have used to achieve their goals and feel would be useful to us too. On every post, I’ll share one value from each one of them. Today’s ladies left us with these:

‘Believe in yourself; that you are worthy and capable of doing anything; that you will not be put down by anybody’ Dorcas Coker Appiah

-‘Don’t give up easily; don’t give up on your failures’ Dr. Jemima Anderson

– ‘Integrity; do what you say and stick to your values’ DR. Esi Ansah

After dinner, a couple of fellows stayed back to engage in a discussion with Mawuli and Maame, the Board members supervising the training. We talked about corruption and it was very interesting to hear each person’s opinion on the issue. Each fellow expressed their feelings on the problem and together, we tried to devise solutions to it. One question that still stayed unanswered when we left for our dorms was ‘What is Corruption’. Mawuli also asked to know if corruption was  a natural trait in man or just something that comes up in a given context. Dear Linguerites, I’d like to hear what you think of these questions and if possible, what you think we can do to end the menace in our society. Catch y’all tomorrow! 🙂


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