Think like a queen. A queen is not afraid to fail. Failure is another steppingstone to greatness.
Ms Danielle Taylor has worked as an international development activist, specializing in harmful gender-based social norms in the US and Sub-Saharan Africa. She has spent the past decade researching the impact of religious and cultural practices on gender based violence and the opportunities afforded to women and girls to live and thrive. In 2017, Ms. Taylor founded Òman Baako, an international non-profit organization that works to build stronger, more equitable communities in Africa.
‘My passion for development in Sub-Saharan Africa and the African diaspora began as an undergraduate student. I visited Africa for the first time and discovered a place that looked like me, that felt like me, that gave me a sense of belonging. I also saw the pockets of need and frustration with systems of injustice and abuse that resonated with my own lived experience. Since that time, I’ve worked with various international aid organizations in an effort to address this need. For ten years, I’ve seen how many of these organizations perpetuate cycles of failed interventions by addressing the symptoms of unjust systems instead of directly reforming the systems themselves.’
Danielle founded Òman Baako to break away from the status quo of international development and to provide an alternative model for community-driven transformation. ‘I had to overcome the fear of failure. For so long, I had ideas and convictions burning inside of me, but I was afraid to say them out loud, much less act on them. I didn’t want to fall flat on my face in front of someone, even myself. I once read a column advising aspiring writers to get over the initial writing block that comes from trying to come up with the perfect opening line. The author wrote that writers must accept that the first thing they put down on paper will be ugly. It is important to have something ugly on paper so that you have the components you need to work with to make something beautiful. A light bulb went off in my head after reading this. I realized that despite how nervous I was, and despite how unprepared I might be, I had to step out and try and accept the fact that my first attempt might not succeed. I had to go through an uncomfortable phase of imperfection to learn and figure out how to do better. Both my personal and professional life changed from that moment. I discovered that it was ok to take a risk and that part of the process of succeeding was learning from errors.’ Danielle says.
Danielle was not raised to believe that young people, females, minorities had a voice or a right to express opinions. Without the guidance on how to be firm in the face of resistance and to say no to things that made her uncomfortable or unhappy, she had to un-learn the “rules” for a young black woman to become successful. Her own experiences ignited the determination to help women, young and old alike, to overcome the complacency and temidness that have been instilled in them since childhood, and change their approach to life and personal wellbeing. ‘I believe that we must teach . We must teach our men, young and old, about respect, consent, and equality. We must uphold these values when we confront them in the media, in public spaces, and even in our homes. We must reach a tipping point in society whereby respect and parity are expected and upheld to such an extent that it becomes the norm. Only then can we expect to see women feeling empowered to be contributing members of society.’
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