For Thioro Gning, a 2019 Mandela Washington Fellow and director of the nonprofit Space of Empowerment and Support for Women, every day is an opportunity to empower women across Senegal, providing them with the skills and resources they need to build a more sustainable future. In this blog post, Thioro shares five ways young leaders can work with integrity and do well by doing good in their communities.
1. Be Open-Minded
In her work leading empowerment and skill-building workshops, Thioro came to realize the power of listening closely to the needs and concerns of others.
“When we organize conferences on women’s rights, we always ask questions of the crowd,” Thioro says. “It’s those discussion questions that allow us to explore a topic more deeply and understand our community’s needs.
“It’s important in your work not just to train but also to go where people live, to see how your plans are set up, and to be a listening ear.”
2. Set Realistic Expectations
A challenge arises, Thioro notes, when young leaders assume that the workplace will be free of trouble; rather, Thioro advises individuals to accept that challenges will arise and to develop strategies to overcome them.
“My father lived a difficult life; he got sick often,” Thioro says. “But he really believed in himself, he worked hard and rose to the top of a bank in Senegal.
“He told me, ‘Everything is hard in this life and you have to fight.’”
It’s that determination and strength of will that underlie Thioro’s work and keeps her accountable to her peers and to herself.
3. Follow Your Passions
To work with integrity, Thioro also stresses the importance of working on passion projects and seeking out work that inspires.
“It was in 2014 when I was working with women in rural areas that I realized I was made to do this job,” Thioro says. “I was so happy…when I helped these women to sell their products.”
Thioro’s passion comes through in her work and keeps her focused — not on short-term profits, but on long-term gains.
“In Senegal, a lot of youth have great ideas but think that if they don’t have enough money, they won’t succeed.”
Instead, Thioro encourages young leaders to follow their passions and work with integrity, an approach that will one day reap greater rewards.
4. Have the Right Attitude
In a similar vein, Thioro advises young leaders to work with humility and joy.
“It’s important in development work to consider the needs of the people you’re working with,” Thioro says. “Dress like the people so that they see that you belong to their community. And be humble.
“That’s how I want to be remembered: as someone who relieved some pain in my community, as someone positive who shared love,” Thioro says.
“We should love what we do. That’s the first step.”
5. Empower Others
Taking this a step further, Thioro encourages young leaders to look for ways to build up those around them.
“I always want to encourage those around me and do my best to make them shine,” Thioro says. “It’s important to share ideas and to push others to succeed.”
Finding ways to inspire peers is key, as Thioro explains, to leading with integrity both today and for years to come.
Interested in Thioro’s work? Learn how you can stand for integrity on our #YALIUnites page.