The AWLI Gave Me The Freedom and Courage to Pursue a Career That I Was Passionate About

Ashanut Okille

Ashanut Okille is a lawyer and development practitioner with over fifteen years’ experience of supporting interventions that promote human rights, governance, gender equality, and institutional/organizational strengthening in Africa. Ashanut holds an LL.M, and is trained in Organization Development (OD), which gives her the unique ability to have both a sound understanding of the content of human rights and social justice issues, and the skills to facilitate processes that enable organizations/institutions function better.

Driven by a passion and commitment to support development interventions that promote human rights, gender equality, foster cohesiveness and contribute to social justice, Ashanut has worked with National CSOs, UN Agencies, International development agencies, the World Bank and Government agencies in Uganda, Rwanda, Kenya, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Mozambique, Burundi, Senegal, Zimbabwe, Sierra Leone, Somaliland, South Sudan, and Nigeria. She is an alumna of the African Women’s Leadership Institute (AWLI) and a mentor under our TuWezeshe Akina Dada Young Women’s Leadership and Mentorship Program. This is her AWLI experience!

Relating herself to a mare because of her independence, agility, intellect, resourcefulness and protective nature over her own, Ashanut recalls the AWLI as providing a great opportunity to meet different young women from across Africa. For her, the AWLI holds memories of encountering a diverse group of empowered African women who were pursuing incredible careers and being courageous to defy stereotypes of who African women were meant to be, how they should be behave and what they should do.

She came with a desire to learn about women’s leadership and how she could grow her leadership skills and learning she did! Not only did the institute serve as a turning point for how she viewed herself as an African woman, it liberated her to pursue the career she was passionate about:  using empowerment as a critical approach in all her interventions. Ashanut believes empowerment is about supporting individuals and organizations to get better at what they are do, and more importantly identify what is inherent in them that can enable them be the best they can be paying particular attention to young African women.

I try to pay special attention to young African women and to be of support when I can because I know some of the challenges and barriers that they will face. I share my experiences and encourage them to always look at the bigger picture and not be distracted by challenges and quick money. Integrity, hard work and consistently striving for excellence always pay in the long run.

Following the Feminist and Transformational leadership training she attended, Ashanut prides herself in being able to pursue a career that spans law, social development and organization development. According to her, this took courage, particularly in a context where at the time, women were often required to limit themselves to specific professions. She is now able to span the different areas comfortably and just be herself.

Keeping in touch with the faculty especially Algresia Akwi Ogojo and Sarah Mukasa provided Ashanut with a feminist mentorship which has impacted her leadership journey beyond the AWLI. Ashanut affirms their depth of knowledge and ability to articulate their views with such confidence and a great command of relevant issues and terminologies which inspired her to pursue constant learning to grow her feminism. This enabled her to find her voice and confidence as a young woman in spaces that were dominated by strong male leaders.

One of the challenges she has faced during her leadership journey is losing touch with the sisterhood due to various engagements and busy work schedules which take up a lot of her time and do not lend her the flexibility that she would always desire. Nonetheless, Ashanut revels in being able to meet sisters when the opportunity arises, usually in work situations. To renew her energies, Ashanut takes long walks, reads and exercises regularly. She is a lover of art and a fashion designer at Kara designs.

On her favorite African Female authors, Ashanut enjoys Wangari Mathaai’s and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s publications. She recommends Unbowed and Half of a Yellow Sun because of the former’s inspiring story of a woman who held onto her dream and worked consistently towards achieving it and the latter’s beautiful and descriptive writing.

Ashanut recommends the AWLI as a great opportunity for learning and getting inspiration which young women should attend with an open mind, ready to challenge assumptions that they have known all their lives about themselves, as well as the various stereotypes about African women. Ashanut is a believer that African women hold the African continent together- in business, as teachers, as farmers, as nurses, as mothers, name it. What must be done is ensuring that women find and leverage their power in all the spaces they are in and in all the roles they play.

The AWLI is a great opportunity for connecting with different sisters and I do hope that like me, it will serve as a critical turning point in their lives.

Are you an alumna of the African Women’s Leadership Institute? How would you like to document your leadership journey for future generations? Reach out to us at amwa@akinamamawaafrika.org to have your story featured today!