What I Learned about Women Empowerment from Working with YTF

Post by Narges Khoramshahi, Next Generation Leaders program

Since the day I walked through the doors of YTF’s Louisville headquarters in October 2016, I’ve been floored by how YTF works. Prior to joining the team, I had no idea how far-reaching and positive the impact of one organization could be.

I have the unique opportunity to embed with YTF for a year through the Next Generation Leaders program, digging deep to develop leadership skills that I can take back to my country. So far, I have been included in several talks with YTF country managers and have been incredibly inspired by how YTF leverages technology, often in places that an outsider might consider technology to be a luxury.

This exposure to emerging technologies has prompted me to integrate aspects of technology into my action plan for work back home, opening doors to become more effective.

Roots at Home and Branches Across the Ocean

I have learned that being an influential leader requires a clear understanding of the communities and people you want to work with and empower. A home base for YTF in Louisville, Kentucky, may seem strange at first, but once you get to know Njideka’s vision, experience and dedication – paired with a keen eye for the right partners and a capable team – it’s clear that no individual across the world is out of reach for YTF’s life-altering impacts.

At the same time, I’m learning that you can’t be indifferent about the community that surrounds you. Defining new projects in order to be a change agent and leader where you live is just as critical as reaching new continents. For instance, I am becoming familiar with various YTF programs such as 3D Printing Academy for Girls. While YTF’s 3D printing work started in countries like Nigeria and Kenya, this 3D printing program was recently brought home to Louisville. I have learned to appreciate the accessibility of the Louisville community and their welcoming attitude. I see a great potential for connection and collaboration.

The concept of community for YTF’s work extends beyond directly serving the people of Louisville. YTF also deeply values and benefits from partnerships and learning from their fellow changemaker organizations. YTF wants to be an active part of the nonprofit community in Louisville and as such is a member of Center for Nonprofit Excellence (CNPE), based right here in Louisville. We participated in the CNPE annual conference last fall and saw the potential of the Louisville community – an inspiring reminder of the role YTF can play in this space. We especially loved the supportive atmosphere, agreeing with fellow attendees that an effort to be fair and patient with each other can pay dividends in all our work.

Want to Make a Big Impact? Make the Details Matter.

At YTF, every single appointment, phone call and visit matters. And each interaction and communication requires preparation and focus.

We evaluate ourselves before and after our meetings and calls. We try to determine what success looks like in any session. We prepare, have a plan and follow up to establish accountability to implement tasks and keep driving forward. We make it a goal to learn one thing from every meeting. It’s clear these small, organizational culture things matter and make a difference.

This may seem obvious to some, but it speaks volumes to YTF’s operating principles. How you approach your work and how you honor people’s values makes for stronger relationships and lasting, meaningful changes in the world.

Telling Our Story, Our Way

When I first met Njideka and heard the story of how she started and shaped YTF, I knew instantly I could learn a lot from her journey as a leader. As social entrepreneurs, Njideka and I co-wrote a piece in celebration of Women’s Entrepreneurship Day last fall. Talking about our passion working with Iranian and Nigerian women is certainly close to our hearts. It’s been incredible to discover the enormous similarities between our communities when it comes to women. Even more, I’m finding through YTF the potential and the desire to break through all my limitations and to stand tall on their behalf.

I’ve been reminded time and again that empowering one woman is like empowering all women. I cherish the work that YTF does to provide opportunities for girls and women and I am honored to be part of it.

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