This February, all month long, we’re honouring the work of 28 inspiring leaders. Women who are drawing upon and celebrating their culture while making a lasting difference in their community using their gifts. From authors and teachers, CEOs to entrepreneurs, not-for-profit directors, artists, and more, these women are changing the face of leadership.
These are truly women to watch and veza community is so pleased to share their brilliance.
May their stories inspire YOU to rise.
Meet Safia Abji.
Safia is currently the Start-Up Advisor for Aga Khan Development Network’s East Africa Civil Society Initiative. Previous to this role she worked with Aga Khan Foundation’s Yetu Initiative, building program strategies and tools to support the community fundraising efforts of Kenyan civil society organisations. Safia started her career in Canada, working for almost a decade in both relationship and program management for multiple multinational companies including KPMG, Deloitte and Rogers Communications, often in areas of organisational restructuring and redesign. She is also very active in the community, and was the recipient of KPMG’s National CEO Community Excellence Award, HSBC’s Financial Literacy Award and the All-Around Graduate academic award for her contributions. Safia holds a Bachelor of Commerce degree from the University of British Columbia, and is a trained Coach through the Coaches Training Institute. Outside of work she mentors aspiring entrepreneurs, and provides personal and professional coaching to individuals and through community workshops and speaking engagements.
When asked to define herself, Safia said that she always finds this question tricky.
“How do I define myself, when I’m constantly changing? In this case, I’ll stick to what keeps me consistent. I’m a fearless woman, who still gets scared. I’m a loving nurturer, who is still learning how to love. I’m an inquisitive child, who will never grow up. And an authentic storyteller, who can’t always find the words.”
So tell us, Safia: What inspires you most? What motivates you to get up every morning?
The fact that there’s another morning. I think about all the things I have and haven’t done, and realize those are the only things that will define my time here. Not what I own. Not what I settle for. Not playing safe instead of playing Safia. But me, how I want and choose to do it. Remembering that I’m the author of my own story keeps me as grateful and grounded as possible, even on the days it seems impossible. The stories we want to write are also the ones we want to live. My advice to anyone looking for daily inspiration? Put down the pen, and keep writing.
How do you feel that your actions teach or inspire others?
I feel that I teach others to be authentic, and own it. I don’t often say or do what is typically acceptable, but I always know someone resonates with it. I notice that the more I show up as human first, the more I’m treated like one. When I learn about who you (actually) are, our connection goes deeper than you’re used to, and there’s something liberating and empowering about knowing you can simply be yourself.
What is one change you’d like to see in the world?
Fear of doing the wrong thing, saying the wrong words, making the wrong move. Fear of life, instead of the freedom to choose one. Everyone I speak to is problem solving around the ways of the world, but what if there were no more problems, and simply solutions? To anyone looking for freedom, my time in Kenya has taught me that true liberation doesn’t only come through meditation retreats in Bali, but through confronting and finding the calm in the chaos. Keep calm and carry on.
Which of your contributions to date have given you the greatest sense of pride?
Choosing my life instead of settling for one. In 2014, I gave up my fancy job and apartment for an uncertain life sabbatical in Nairobi, Kenya. I didn’t have a plan at the time, but followed my gut and trusted the journey. Today, my experiences, career, relationships and most importantly, my self are richer for taking the less certain and obvious path. You never know how big the ocean is until you start swimming in it.
We hope you’ve enjoyed getting to know Safia! Learn more about her work and stay connected via social media @misssafiaabji
Ready to RISE as a leader in your own right?
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