Resonate’s first workshop in Rwanda was with the Akilah Institute for Women. I had the pleasure of spending a week in their Leadership class exploring the influential power of narrative and working with the 54 students of the class of 2013 on developing their own Story of Self.
Despite being a large group, these women have been in class together for years, and now they are just weeks away from completing a degree in Business. The excitement in the room was tangible any time the word “graduation” was mentioned, and it was clear that they are ready to put their degrees to use.
During our third session the students began to share their personal stories with one another. The level of focus in the room intensified as I watched each of them listening intently to their peers describing the choices they had made and the challenges they had overcome that allowed them to be sitting in the Akilah classroom together that day.
One woman talked about growing up in a different country with peers who did not see her as part of their community. Another shared what it was like to be the only girl in a family with six brothers, and the stand that she had to take over the course of many years to convince her father that she, too, should get to attend school.
At the end of the week each of them was able to craft and present these stories of hard fought triumph, and yet they also uncovered another important principle.
One participant shared a thought that was echoed by the whole room. “I have been in school with my colleagues for many years now. Always, I just saw them as students. Now I see that each of them is a strong woman. Her stories inspire me and help me know that whatever challenge we meet, we have the opportunity to overcome it.”
“I understand my own story better now since I have heard the stories of the other girls. It is important to tell,” she said, “and also to listen.”
The Akilah women are intelligent, educated, and eager to take on the world. Yet their graciousness, compassion, and willingness to learn from each other is a lesson we could all stand to learn.
Who in your life can you learn from today?