“To be a leader … is to mobilize people to be better.”
Ruka De-Liman values equal access to opportunity.
When she was a young girl in Ghana, De-Liman’s neighbors thought that instead of going to school, girls should marry. But her parents thought differently. They wanted all of their children to get an education. Now De-Liman, who has a bachelor’s degree in community development, advocates for girls’ education, an end to violence against women and the elimination of female genital mutilation.
“Empowered women will be better and go further in everything.”
Now 28, De-Liman also runs an expanding poultry business that she started with savings from her teaching job. She employs mostly local women and teaches them and others how to manage money. “I try to get them to adopt savings practices,” she said.
During her Mandela Washington Fellowship, De-Liman studied business at the University of Wisconsin–Stout in Menomonie. Visiting local companies, she learned about the concept of supply-chain management. “You need to know the players in your supply chain and how to relate to them so your business can be more profitable,” she said.
“I have had a wonderful time sharing my experience with colleagues and younger women, trying to inspire them to become more committed to community development and issues that will promote national development.”
“I have shared the skills and knowledge I learned about new business concepts like supply-chain management, organizational structure and marketing with some of my colleagues who also own businesses,” she said after she returned home from her Fellowship.
De-Liman was invited to serve as a mentor at a camp organized by the Ghana Think Foundation. “A lot of the participants were very happy to interact with me. … They also consulted with me [about their] community service ideas that they wanted to initiate.”
De-Liman will use her newly developed skills to help one friend with a children’s education project. Other friends are working on malaria prevention awareness and a laundry service business, and De-Liman plans to help them too.
When she returned to Ghana from the Fellowship, the entrepreneur also organized a volunteer day called “Paint Our Home” to bring young people together to raise resources to paint the Tamale Nyohini Children’s Home, an orphanage.
“This is to inspire the spirit of volunteerism in the people and also let them see volunteering as a skill in developing opportunity,” she said.
De-Liman is reaching out to her community about the 2015 Mandela Washington Fellowship application: “I have been encouraging young people to take initiatives that would help build them a strong accomplishment statement, and I have volunteered to support interested persons with the application process and also guidelines for preparing for the interview,” she said.
De-Liman stressed that through her Fellowship she has learned about real leadership.
“To be a leader is not just to be at the forefront — it is to mobilize people to be better.”