It was a nice experience to be a fellow of the Dalai Lama fellowship. The Dalai Lama Fellowship offers emerging leaders a rigorous, interdisciplinary program on ways to be a different kind of leader, a leader that connects and cares for self, extends genuine compassion to others, and works for the common humanity. Fellows cultivate practices in mind-training for increasing self-awareness, self-care and resilience, for connecting with others and working across differences, and in building solutions for generations to come. Over the course of the year, with the support of mentors and coaches, each fellow designs and implements an original field project addressing a global challenge. Upon graduation, fellows join a lifelong community, where they connect with and support each other while continuing to advance their leadership journeys.
The program awards year-long Fellowships to next generation leaders that are working on social change projects in local communities to address one or more of the following areas: mitigating economic disparity, diminishing violence, gender inequity, improving cross-cultural and inter religious cooperation, and enhancing environmental sustainability. The fellowship is a yearlong training and community service.
I started this journey a year ago with a project aimed at ensuring girls live out their potentials and never wallow in limitations. It has been an amazing year. This program has been huge for me. The learning has been intense and been shaping my thoughts in my personal and leadership journey. I have been stirred up by the rich conversations I have had across networks. It has indeed been refreshing and intellectually stimulating. The importance of values, ethics and being mindful has made more meaning to it. To the Glory of the Lord, I have completed the program requirements and have graduated and looking forward to making the lessons learnt to be of impact to others. May God grant me the grace to pay it forward to others. Thanks to all Dalai Lama Staff. The graduation was held at the University of Virginia, U.S.A
Find below my storytelling session presentation at the end of the Fellowship year.
I grew up in a patriarchal society in Nigeria. I grew up constantly questioning my identity and deeper than this, my self worth. Yet there is this part of me that always had this desire to be a leader and also help other girls to be leaders. This is what drew me to the Dalai Lama Fellowship Program. I wanted to learn how to be a leader and I was curious how to re-imagine it. So then I came into Dalai Lame Fellowship, and I started to learn things that I did not realize had anything to do with leadership, beginning with the power of now. As a woman who was always trying to prove her worth, one way I did that was by committing to a lot of different projects to show what I was capable of. The more I did this, the more stressed out I felt. Also as a woman trying to prove my worth, I felt I had to do this on my own; the idea of collaborating did not really make sense because then you would not be able to prove yourself.
Learning meditation and the power of now, which is stepping into the present moment, this helped me become more aware and to internally regulate my emotional reactions. And the more I practiced being present, the more at ease I felt, the more confident I felt, the more I was able to step into my own power as a woman. I began to realize that I had to believe in myself first before I could support other girls in Nigeria in believing in themselves.
As I worked on my leadership from an internal space, I started to realize that working with others was actually beneficial to the work I wanted to do externally. As of result of realizing that I did not have to lead alone, I started collaborating and developing partnerships, which allowed more creativity. I discovered that one can achieve more when one collaborates, it is like harmonizing ideas, one is looking at things from multiple perspectives, one is combining resources and ideas. Two heads are indeed better than one. I shifted from independence from interdependence. We need to work together to do things in the world.
Lastly, in my work during this past year, I realized that I can not change people. It is really not in my power to do so instead I learnt that the only way to get to the root of some questions and find answers is through reflective dialogue with others that hold stereotypes, inviting people who hold views that are different from my own to engage with me in a conversation and to reflect on why they feel that way. The purpose is not to prove anyone wrong or right or perhaps change mindsets, rather it is to understand each other and through understanding, perhaps arrive at new realizations and insights together. It is simply to create space for reflective dialogue. Most people believe what they believe because they grew up with this view but they have never reflected on the why. A lot are victims of culture but never questioned why. This question will also create an opportunity for generative listening and dialogue. Through reflective dialogue that we are able to question and possibly change our views and habitual thought processes.