This month of March in recognition of Women’s Month, we celebrate all the amazing women that Ahaspora is blessed to have. Founded by a woman, and with a core management team of mostly females, Ahaspora has blossomed into a thriving young professionals network of greats both on the continent and within the African Diaspora. Though there are several solid men that contribute immensely to the success of our group, the input of women to event organization, the mentoring program, newsletter creation and other key initiatives is outstanding. From our 2018 Women of Ahaspora infographic, it is clear, the women that make up our community are global powerhouses – whether professional students, mothers, corporate execs, entrepreneurs or even just proactively figuring life out. From domestic goddesses to business managers to lawyers and startup founders, we’re highlighting our first selection of 6 women that moved back home and inspire us all as we each continue to strive to be our best selves to in turn improve the world around us.
ESTELLA JOSEPHINE ANKU
A healthcare professional and mother who lived her initial adult life between the UK and Ghana, Estella is now firmly rooted in Accra after 13 years abroad. She completed both undergrad and graduate school in the United States and now works for General Electric since being back 6 years ago. Saving the world isn’t what brought Estella back home, but rather a chance to clear some emotional baggage and to find herself. “I do not want to romanticize the idea of living in Ghana. It’s hardly the constant enjoyment of Christmas visits,” she says. Despite the countless frustrations, Estella describes life as happy and energized. Her achievements have been many since her return: working in Sierra Leone to conduct training with senior military personnel on gender mainstreaming, working with the Ghana police and commercial sex workers on the prevention of HIV, deploying trainings matching medical technology and healthcare workers in primary healthcare centers and best of all – giving her daughter an opportunity to grow up knowing both her Ghanaian and American heritage. Estella who loves to bake (makes a mean chocolate cake and apple pie!), hike, paint and play with her mini-me when she’s not busy, believes we’re all born to stand out.
After just one not-so-smooth year, life in Ghana hit a nice groove for Aba who works in Human Resources. Upon returning from the UK, she had big ideas to build human capacity within local companies to a global level, but hit many walls trying to find well-paid employment in Ghana where her young age seemed to be a deterrent. Ashesi University – owned by Ghanaian Patrick Awuah – had a strong mission for boundary-pushing change that resonated with her, so she came onboard their staff after a year in a different job. Travelling 4 hours each way to work doesn’t put a dent in Aba’s work ethic. Her job acceptance she says is “one of the best decisions of my life!…knowing it’s another day to influence a life, change a path and train a future leader whose impact will live on longer than I will.” On moving home, she compares it to ripping off band-aid – you can’t hesitate! If you hesitate for a minute, don’t do it. It is usually a rough ride but in the end it only gets easier.
Born to a Sierra Leonean – Ghanaian father and Black American mother, Cordie sold all of belongings , cashed out on her retirement fund and showed up at Kotoka International airport with 4 pieces of luggage ready to begin a new life in 2011. Though raised in the United States, her father planted a love for Africa within her. After attaining a Master’s degree in Communications, Cordie worked in that field in America with her career path eventually leading her to work for the United States Congress Commitee on Homeland Security. Here, her passion for Africa was rekindled with intensity. Working for one of the most powerful organizations in the world was very humbling, but also very frustrating at times as a member of the African Diaspora, seeing many African countries not getting what they deserved. On repatriating, Cordie says 100% “do it!” Cordie came here because she felt she could be a greater contributor to society. She warns candidly though that one must ensure they are financially ready to make the move. She was able to find her feet in the initial two years while living off savings. Dabbling in a few business ideas including marketing consulting, she eventually found her purpose in waste management and founded Environment 360 in 2014. Four years later, the organization is known for creating the first successful community plastics recycling program and is sought out by multi-national and diplomatic agencies to run projects. “I must say it is an amazing feeling to know that we are impacting so many lives and creating opportunity for so many people”, Cordie says. When not talking trash, she likes to read and travel.
Four years in the bag in Ghana and an overall amazing life experience, Freda says one must know their “Why” before returning. Having grown up and nearly fully educated in the United States, she’s been lucky enough to have also lived across the globe in France, South Africa and Hong Kong to name a few countries. Good fortune struck again with a USAID development job that brought Freda to the land of her parents. After 13 years away, “I called myself Ghanaian but felt I didn’t know much about Ghana or the Continent”, she confesses. Moving back and seeking to also work with what was available at home to make Ghana a favorable place to come to for those of us who lived abroad most of their lives, she quickly took leadership within Ahaspora and in 2016, created her Kaeme skincare line. Kaeme uses purely African crops like shea butter to create skin-loving soaps and lotions, and is now stocked in stores around Accra, in other West African countries and even in France. Winning with both a successful full-time career and a not-so-side entrepreneur venture, Freda is quite the Superwoman and cools off with fitness routines, including Insanity workouts and marathons.
At 25, having lost 2 close friends, Lizzie who had a lucrative job at a hedge fund in New York, felt a jolt to start making the most of life. She quit her job and headed to Ghana where she’d only been once at the age of 10. For a year she simply tried to enjoy Ghana and discover her new home. She then jumped into a very humbling National Service experience with Ghana Health Service at Tema Polyclinic, Tema General Hospital, Dodowa Health Research Center, and National Health Insurance Scheme. How were people trying to save lives through Dumsor? Medical school could wait; she needed to do something about Ghana’s lack of infrastructure. A year’s contract to open an office for the Ghana operations of a renowned international Energy Company turned into a 7.5 year journey and a discovery of her passion and career. After going back to the US for her Master’s, she’s now returned and working exclusively in power generation in Sub-Saharan Africa for her new firm, Globeleq. “Returning home no longer has to be only physical,” says Lizzie; who encourages involvement with affairs in Ghana through remittances and investments. If you do decide to move home, she advises you BE HERE! BE PRESENT! BE ACTIVE!
CHRISTABEL E. DADZIE
On her 14th year in the States, in 2010 Christabel resolved for New Year’s that it would be her final US chapter. By mid-year she was packed up and headed West back home to Ghana. She had left her home country to go to school and had a Master’s degree in International Affairs from Columbia University to show for her school efforts. After completing grad school, Christabel worked with a public policy firm on both US and international development work. The beginning was tough, having graduated during the height of the US economic crisis when it was difficult to find jobs. Starting off with one she didn’t really want, she took it anyway, made the most out of it, and eventually found herself leading a large project funded by USAID, which was an excellent stepping stone to her present situation. Christabel works in international development for World Bank in Ghana, and has also lived in Burkina Faso and France. It wasn’t all rosy upon her return though; for her or any of the other returnees who she spent lots of time with. Their shared frustrations and challenges came to a head at a lunch, leading Chris to found the Ahaspora Young Professionals Group with the aim of providing a community for returnees, as well as a means of giving back. “Ahaspora really has kept me home. It’s given me purpose to stay even in the most difficult times, with my highlights being hearing people express that they’ve stayed because they met an Ahasporan at Happy Hour who helped them get a job,etc”, she says. Without hesitation Christabel encourages repatriation but cautions that the move is done for oneself — not for family; not because everyone’s doing it, but because you have your own strong personal reasoning.
Thanks to Christabel we now have this superb community. These are just a few of the great women of Ahaspora winning at life “back home” while having a positive impact on the communities around them. The Black girl magic within our group offers us inspiration and a society of females we can look up to and reach out to in a bid to also to gain confidence in our uniqueness and become our best selves.
Written by Awoyaa Mensah