CNN’s Isha Sesay: we need to empower girls to stand up as leaders

Celebrities, Girls' education

Isha Sesay knows all about leading from the front. She’s a well known face around the world thanks to her job as an anchor with CNN International – but she wants to see for herself the events and the people making the news.

She has covered major global events including the funeral of Nelson Mandela, the Egypt protests and the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. This year she also has reported from Nigeria on the kidnapping of the Chibok schoolgirls and the #BringBackOurGirls camaign.

But Isha is also a passionate advocate for girls getting education and mentoring to help them fulfil their potential.

She is a member of the Emergency Coalition for Global Education Action – a group of influential leaders who champion education for the 58 million out-of-school children around the world. Isha also founded WE (Women Everywhere) Can Lead, which helps schoolgirls in Africa to become a new generation of dynamic female leaders.

A World at School caught up with Isha backstage before the recent #UpForSchool rally in New York, where she was a guest alongside the likes of Graca Machel and Gordon Brown, the United Nations Special Envoy for Global Education.

Talking about her rise from a childhood in Sierra Leone to her high-profile roles on British television and then at CNN, she said: “A lot of people look at me with what I have done and see me as some kind of outlier. And I’m not.

“I think talent is equally distributed around the world, across the continents and it’s just that people don’t get the chance to fulfil their potential.

“So for me it’s about creating a whole army of girls and getting them to stand up as leaders in whatever capacity they can. I just want to empower girls  to let them achieve their dreams.”

WE Can Lead is working with local communities, business and political leaders and NGOs to assist with education reform. Each year it will select 20 extraordinary teenage girls who will get financial support for five years at secondary school and take part in a leadership development programme.

On the role of the media telling the story of global education, Isha said: “The attack on Malala brought to the forefront what girls are going through in parts of the world. it personalised it, it humanised it.

“People know there are large out-of-school populations and the majority are girls – but it’s like they are nameless, faceless masses. Malala put a face to that and also showed the potential of these girls, that they are bright, that they have ambitions,

“And then we saw what happened in Nigeria. That showed to the world the ferocity of these groups that oppose girls being educated and it gave birth to an indignation on the part of the global community. That they can’t sit by quietly.

“So I think media organisations see that and want to do their part. I know at least CNN definitely wants to do its part. We know that if we get the stories out we can change perceptions, we can change communities and we can bring about real change.”

Isha feels strongly that having women delivering the message is important. Going further, she said: “You have got to have female voices who also understand the environments we’re talking about. It gives credibility and validity to the message.”

Find out more about WE Can Lead and how you can donate here.

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