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As election season reaches fever pitch across Europe and electorates debate the qualities of effective political leadership, we shine a light on young women leaders in sub-Saharan Africa. In her election season blog, Fiona Mavhinga, co-founder of Camfed’s CAMA alumnae network, reflects on what it takes to be a great leader. Focusing on CAMA’s women leaders, she describes how, through their education, those once among the most marginalized in society are using their life experiences to redefine the status quo and change the face of leadership in Africa.

“Difficult life circumstances build in people a resilience, willingness to stand up for oneself, and moreover an empathy and a readiness to stand up for others.” – Fiona Mavhinga

Two examples in the political arena are Afishetu Alhassan and Hawa Tambo of Karaga District in northern Ghana.  Born and raised in rural Karaga, Afishetu overcame numerous challenges to get an education, train as a teacher and eventually become the first female Assemblyperson and CAMA member to hold elected office in Ghana. Following in her footsteps, two years ago Hawa was elected to the Karaga District Assembly with strong support from community elders. The first girl in her village to complete secondary school, Hawa has first hand experience of the challenges her constituents face and a deep-seated desire to bring about lasting change. A role model and a trailblazer, Hawa’s story exemplifies what’s possible when girls get the education they need.