Women in leadership: Léonie and Olivia working together for a better future for Madagascar's youth
Women leaders are powerful agents of change.
However, like in many countries, men are more commonly seen in leadership positions in Madagascar. Projet Jeune Leader’s partner schools are no exception: Across our 45 middle schools, only a handful are led by female directors.
Ankaramena middle school is one example where women lead the charge.
In a small, rural community in the Haute Matsiatra region, Director Léonie oversees and leads a team of teachers to serve 189 middle school students. In 2020, Projet Jeune Leader started in her school and Olivia – an exceptional 2nd year PJL Educator – was placed to work there.
Léonie and Olivia are both young, dynamic women. Director Léonie has always been an extraordinary leader, challenging gender stereotypes throughout her life. As a student, she loved being part of the Math Team and participating in traditional speech contests – once even taking home a 2nd place prize. Olivia has shown that same spark for leadership in her time with Projet Jeune Leader. While other PJL Educators previously worked in pairs, Olivia was the first female PJL Educator to work alone – teaching and mentoring an entire middle school of students. In her second year, she took on the challenge of working in Ankaramena middle school - not only a new partner school, but also one of the most rural ones PJL has had to-date.
These two leaders provide quality education for their students. They pour their hearts into their work – a characteristic seen so often among female leaders.
For instance, Director Léonie goes above and beyond her counterparts in caring for her students. If she notices a student has been absent for an extended period, she will find their parents, assess their problem, and see how she can help bring the student back to school. When she first heard that Projet Jeune Leader had chosen Ankaramena middle school as a partner, she was overjoyed to have reinforcements to address such a pressing issue. “When I heard [Ankaramena was chosen], I became so hopeful,” she said. “The door opened to overcome school abandonment by having Projet Jeune Leader.”
At the beginning of the partnership, Director Léonie was also one of our most dedicated partners in establishing Projet Jeune Leader in the community. For example, she helped plan and coordinate the logistics of PJL’s first parent program at the school. She also attended and enthusiastically participated herself! It is clear how much she loves her work in raising children, given her advice during the program that “…parents should always show and express their love; do not change that even when your child goes through those [challenging] behaviors as an adolescent.”
PJL Educator Olivia has a special sense of motivation as well. She can always be found encouraging her students and spreading joy both inside and outside the classroom. When she is not teaching, Olivia continually looks for ways to engage her students, whether it is with dance, games, books, or just listening and talking with them. She embraces Projet Jeune Leader’s goal of helping students feel more connected to their schools, and feedback from students have shown she is succeeding. As one of her students wrote, “I am grateful for you, Olivia. Your games, songs, and advice make us happy, and I know that you do it all because of your love for us.”
Even though Olivia is still a young adult, her leadership style also resonates with older teachers at Ankaramena. One teacher told us, “It is a joy for us to have Projet Jeune Leader at Ankaramena and we ask that it always continues. We really wish that the current leader [Olivia] is placed here again as well.”
Both Director Léonie and PJL Educator Olivia choose to challenge traditional notions of leadership. As role models and mentors, they offer guidance and hope for the young female students at Ankaramena to follow in their footsteps. With more leaders like Léonie and Olivia working in education, we wholly believe that youth can have a better, brighter future in Madagascar.