The 21 women leaders from 11 countries who recently attended Coady’s Women’s Leadership in Community Development certificate program presented their leadership action plans May 23. The presentations ranged in topic from women and girls’ education, to financial literacy, to gender-based violence (GBV) health centres, to agriculture and economic empowerment. As each graduate returns to their home community, they will work to implement their learnings and actions plans developed during their Coady program.

Alaa Al-Araji, Iraq

Alaa Al-Araji is a senior volunteer with Iraq Builders – an organization of doctors, pharmacists, engineers, workers, business owners, and community members who work to eliminate poverty and support neglected populations.

“Iraqi people are suffering deep social and psychological issues,” Alaa says. “We suffer from many things – early marriage, honour killings – we have a lack of freedom and choices. I realized that I should do something.”

Alaa presented a social media plan designed to bring people of varying backgrounds together to improve tolerance and appreciation of their differences through education and networking. She also outlined her own personal goals.

“I realized that I should work on equipping myself with all the knowledge I need to have to advocate for human rights properly. Without deepened knowledge and awareness, I will not be able to advocate in any issues that I face in my life.”

Carly Redding is the incoming Director of Community Engagement at University of North Georgia, USA. In her previous role at the university, where she has worked for 12 years, Carly and a group of students started a food pantry for students, staff, and faculty. The program currently serves approximately 400 people per month. Part of her leadership action plan is to open up this resource to the community, which the group recently tested with a mobile food pantry event.

Carly Redding, USA

“We literally moved everything out by the side of the road. We took refrigerators and freezers, set it up under tents, and opened it up to the community for one day. We served over 600 people in four hours,” Carly says. “We were really pushing to show the university how much need there is right here in our local area. It’s one of the things we would like to see happen on a daily basis.”

She also noted some observations from her stay at StFX University where she attended the Coady program.

“One of the things that I’ve really noticed from being here is that there are always a lot of people on this campus. As a university anywhere, you have the opportunity to provide a lot of resources for your community.”

In her goal of increasing university-community partnerships, Carly emphasized that it’s not just about having the staff and faculty engage within the community, but equally important to welcome the community onto the university campus.

“I created a list of other ways we can get people on our campus to utilize the resources that we have… like the library, the walking trails, the gymnasium, and all of this space that we have that no one is using except for the people in the university community. I would like to see that opened up to everyone.”

Enitan Okediji, Nigeria

Enatin Okediji is the Manager of Knowledge Management and Communications with Global Health Supply Chain in Nigeria. She is also completing a Masters in International Development with University of York.

Through the convergence of many women leaders from varying contexts Enatin says it’s her own leadership style that has been most affected from her experience at Coady. After trying to do things on her own, she says she now sees the importance of partnership and collaboration while working to drive change.

“My overarching goal is to become a better collaborative leader,” she says, “I’d like to go beyond just managing people to leading the process and empowering people to also manage that process – so they can see themselves as leaders as well.”

“Coady has been quite inspiring,” she adds.

“The concept of leadership was used loosely before I came here, but now I’m able to get across what it means to be a woman and inspire people within women’s movements. I am very happy that I was able to come here and meet all of you.”