Ayla Schlosser first became familiar with the Storytelling for Leadership framework in 2010 as a community organizer in Washington, DC. It was then that she learned the difference between standing up for an idea and having the confidence to stand up for herself. Ayla searched for opportunities to use storytelling to break down leadership and confidence barriers for women internationally but was unable to find the approach being used in this way. She reflected on one of her favorite quotes:
“If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am only for myself, what am I? If not now, when?” – Rabbi Hillel
Deciding to take action, Ayla founded Resonate and moved to Rwanda in 2013 to pilot the use of Storytelling for Leadership for women’s empowerment. Despite 64% of the representatives in parliament being female, those same levels of leadership are not reflected at the local level in Rwanda. Ayla wanted to see if the Storytelling for Leadership framework could help women and girls take full advantage of the opportunity available to them in a country that is a strong advocate for gender equality and women in leadership.
Shortly after arriving in Rwanda, Ayla met her co-founder, Solange Impanoyimana. After the genocide of 1994, Solange did not have family or close friends with whom to talk about her experiences. When she became familiar with the Storytelling for Leadership framework, it helped her understand and talk about her own experience, and she saw it as a critical piece of empowering others with the strength and courage that comes from the ability to tell one’s own story. She joined Ayla and together they successfully adapted the Storytelling for Leadership tool from political campaigns and issue organizing to women’s empowerment and development. Since then, Resonate has continued to grow and work towards catalyzing women leading change.