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A bumpy taxi ride, a video camera and 30 girls in an outdoor classroom in The Gambia, West Africa was the beginning of Women Empowering Nations (WEN). Founder and Executive Director, Carlisha Williams Bradley, accompanied by Dawn Harrison Brown and Jason Lemon, traveled to The Gambia to launch a global program that provides exposure, development and mentorship to underserved girls of color to develop as global leaders.
“In 2009 I started Women Empowering Nations with a vision of wanting to do more and to give back to a country and a community that had done so much in just me connecting with my own identity.” Williams Bradley told the Black Wall Street Times.
Willams Bradley is passionate about education and currently serves as a member of the Oklahoma State Board of Education. During her trip she noticed the lack of educational resources and tools needed for success. “I saw the deep gaps in education and educational equity and access to resources to support that educational journey. She desired to be a bridge for educational access and leadership development.
When she traveled to The Gambia with her team, she quickly noticed the language barriers were greater than she initially thought. She brought with her a curriculum based on United States practices; the curriculum was not culturally relevant, so she had to throw it out and start from scratch.
“The first night of our leadership and empowerment program, I scrapped everything, everything that I brought,” she said.
The experience opened her eyes to the biases she held for the American school system. “It was my first introduction to really the ways in which I had been indoctrinated in my own educational system,” she said. “To think that this is what the standard was. It revolutionized my ability to co-develop and to create and to seek to understand before seeking to be understood. It was very humbling.”
Women Empowering Nations
In 2013, WEN expanded its reach with Girls Leading Our World (GLOW). WEN held its first year-long mentoring program serving young women across the globe. GLOW hosts both a travel seminar and annual leadership conference. To date, the seminar has been held in Tanzania, Ghana, Morocco and The Gambia. The conference has been held in various cities in the United States and several countries in Africa.
“We bring together global leaders ages 17 to 23 from across the globe, and we provide professional development and personal development workshops, networking and career exposure for them. That experience culminates with a travel seminar,” Williams Bradley told The Black Wall Street Times.
Continuing the Mission
In 2020, during the pandemic, Williams Bradley started Amplify for Women, a business designed to accelerate women to executive leadership through professional branding, public speaking and leadership coaching, according to Amplifyforwomen.com.
Amplify for Women partners with WEN to help young women ages 19 to25 learn leadership skills to help them elevate their voice and gain the skills needed to have a successful career.
Williams Bradley mentioned her desire to nurture and develop Black women, since they are often overlooked in the workforce. She assists women through one-on-one coaching and salary negotiations. Her clients have received significant wage increases with her assistance. “We’ve seen a quarter million dollars of increase in wages for these women collectively,” she said.
It Takes a Village
The author, public speaker, consultant and educator gives credit to the many people who have assisted along her journey. “It has been pivotal in my journey to have the support of others,” she said.
“There have been men, women, my family, my husband, who have invested in my dreams to open doors and invest in the dreams of others, and I’m just grateful for that.”