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Women in Africa "Lean In," Taking a Page from Sheryl Sandberg's Book

Alice Monje is realizing her potential and "leaning in."

With the recent launch of Sheryl Sandberg’s book, Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead, discussion of the value of women in the workforce has blossomed. It’s clear women make great entrepreneurs—something the women of Africa have known for centuries but is often overlooked.

Sandberg encourages women to realize their potential in the workplace with all the resources at their disposal to help achieve their goals. Resources in Africa are far less accessible, but when they are, women take full advantage, and the results further support Sandberg’s refrain: Women in the workforce are great for business.

 In its 2012 report on gender equality, the World Bank found that working women are important contributors to their families and communities and may in fact be better in business than their male counterparts. For example, in Burkina Faso, simply re-allocating agricultural resources from men to women resulted in a 6 percent increase in production. 

We’ve seen results from Aid for Africa members like Women’s Microfinance Initiative. Since the Initiative made its first loan in 2008, women in East Africa have been “leaning in.” Take Alice Monje, for example. Alice, a mother of nine living in Buyobo, Uganda, was struggling to provide for her family. Through a small loan from the Women’s Microfinance Initiative, Alice started and grew a successful poultry business and created supplemental income by diversifying to include agriculture. Now, smiling modestly, Alice describes her family as “well off.” Taking a page from Sandberg’s book, Alice took advantage of the resources made available to her, which empowered her to achieve financial independence and stability.

While Africa may seem light years away from Sandberg’s Silicon Valley, her message about support for women in business may be just as relevant to women of Africa. Aid for Africa members Women’s Microfinance Initiative, the Akilah Institute for Women, and The BOMA Project, provide African women the opportunity to use their natural business sense to better their communities, support their families, and pave the way for future generations of female entrepreneurs.

Want to “lean in” to support the women of Sub Saharan Africa who are building better lives for themselves, their families and communities.  Here are some things you can do: