#LLAInterview: “I believe in the Power of Voice as a Force for Greater Good”Leading Ladies Africa Meets Maame Afon, Women’s Right Advocate, Recording Artist and Founder, Management for Impact Leadership and Transformation

Maame Afon is an internationally recognized thought leader and passionate advocate for women and girls. She is also an activist, coach/mentor, facilitator, and mother who enjoys raising her three children with her husband. In her capacity as board chair of the African Women’s Development Fund USA, she guides the overall strategy and direction of the organization. 

She has translated her passion for transformative coaching, mentoring, women’s rights and leadership into her career and board service with organizations including the Global Fund for Women, We Care Solar (Board Chair), Cocoa360 (Board Secretary), Ghana Bamboo Bikes (Vice Chair), Days for Girls, Ghana, Street Business School, How Women Lead, Nurturing Minds/SEGA, African Women’s Entrepreneurship Cooperative and African Philanthropy Network among others.

As a recording artist, Maame Afon uses the power of music to promote philanthropy and social justice. She holds a B.A. in French and Spanish and an M.A. in human rights, gender and international development. 

She has been recognized as one of the 18 African Feminists to know by For Harriet (2015), featured in AfroElle Magazine (June 2015 Edition) and in Pretty-Period – #Pretty365. She is a 2019 Rise Up Leader, a 2016 Cordes Fellow, a 2017 Hive Global Leader, and a 2009 Woman Leader for the World Fellow (How Women Lead). 

Maame contributed her story to We Will Lead Africa – Volume Two: Women (African Everyday Leadership Stories) – 32 stories by 36 contributors, available now on Amazon.  She is also the founder and lead trainer/facilitator of Management for Impact Leadership and Transformation (MILT), where partners and clients get to “Experience the MILT Edge.”

Maame Afon takes the Leading Lady spotlight of the week walking us through the “why’s” “how’s” and “aha” moments she’s had on her journey.

What inspired your latest song?

The vision for a new way of seeing Mama Africa. I quite remember the first time after a creative expression session with MasterCard Foundation secondary scholars in Accra in 2017, when Ivy Hollys walked up to me and said she had written a song as a result of that session. I was eager to hear it. When I head those words, “close your eyes and visualize Africa like paradise”, I fell in love, and was instantly sold on the song that has blossomed into Right Here Right Now Africa!

What do you hope to achieve with this song?

To contribute to shifting the negative narrative about Africa. I see Right Here Right Now as a rallying cry, an anthem, connecting people with a simple message of hope, inspiration and optimism for the bright future of Africa. As a call to action, this song beckons and challenges us to examine our role in pushing forward a bold and visionary agenda for Mama Africa to take its rightful place on the global stage.  

Why the specific focus on music as a tool to effect change?

Throughout history, there are countless examples of the catalytic power of music to shift the atmosphere, bringing about an uplifting experience, soothing the heart and depositing a refreshing energy to move forward with determination, renewed zeal, passion and resilience. It was Bob Marley who aptly described the power of music as a tool for transformation saying, “one thing about music is when it hits you, you feel no pain…so hit me with the music.”

Reflecting on various movements, music has played a critical role in the civil rights movement and various independence movement across Africa. In my work with women’s groups, organizations and spaces, I have seen firsthand how music by itself can change how everything unfolds and evolves, often starting organically. Similarly, I have seen how music becomes a creative tool to mobilize support and different forms of resources including money to promote social justice.

What are the highlights of your career journey so far?

Walking in my purpose to inspire and support leaders, especially African women and girls to enjoy a fulfilling and wholesome leadership journey is everything to me—I find joy and come alive when I am functioning in what I see as my calling and vocation. Through intentional, proactive, deep and authentic mentoring and coaching, I help to ignite the spark in leaders, harness their potential and get them fired up for action.

I also believe in the power of voice as a force for greater good, which is why I am passionate about making wholesome music to inspire, uplift and encourage. Hearing feedback from folks about how modeling the use of my voice inspires and motivates them is priceless. Furthermore, many mentees continue to share their growth and amplification stories, all of which fuel me to show up fully and walk boldly in my purpose.

What are the challenges you have faced on the journey?

I have learned that on this journey as a mentor/coach, you will be disappointed, feel used, taken for granted and get fatigued, but you can’t give up because you never know who is holding on to you as a lifeline, last resort, or the only option. I have also learned that there are those who you may never meet in person, but from afar they are watching, and you are inspiring and mentoring them more than you know.

As an independent artiste, there are many hurdles that you must jump to get your music out—working on your own, juggling multiple schedules for work, family and other responsibilities, not having access to financial resources or platforms to share more of your music, teaches you a lot about resilience, determination, how to be efficient, effective and nurture authentic relationships. Often, in the quest to get your music to be heard, people must make sacrifices and compromises, but I have learned the importance of integrity to your vision, passion and core values. You can never replace quality and excellence with quantity and mediocrity.

Where do you see your career in the coming years?

In the coming years, I see my vocation being amplified, yielding multiple dividends, transforming lives and creating a movement of “whole women and whole leaders”, who are free to bring all of who they are to everything they have been called to and are becoming. I see the gifts and talents of people harnessed and unleashed for the greater good. I also see more resources made available to promote more wholesome music. I want people to be empowered, their gifts celebrated, and their potential unleashed in service to humanity.

What advice do you have for people who want to tow this same path?

Go all in, take a stance, be clear about your vison, build healthy relationships, surround yourself with a diverse network of people who challenge you and push you to grow. When you experience setbacks, use the lessons to accelerate and propel you forward.  Make room and time for reflection, solitude, and prioritize selfcare – I have learned the importance of operating from a place of being self-full and supporting others from a place of overflow instead of an emptiness. My faith as a follower of Christ and my identity as a proud African and an unapologetic feminist is integral to everything I do and therefore I will not compromise on that. One of my favorite quotes comes from 2011 Nobel Laureate Leymah Gbowee, who shares, “You can never leave footprints that last if you are always walking on tiptoes so go all in.”

What would you like to be remembered for?

Maya Angelou writes, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” I want my legacy to be that in showing up in my true and authentic self, it made it possible for others to do the same. My personal golden rule is that in service to others and humanity, we must certainly “do good, but first we must do no harm.” Speaking my truth is so important to me and therefore I am intentional and proactive about facilitating opportunities for that to happen for others as well. I want people to remember my wicked and crazy sense of humor, my contagious energy, my pride as a descendant of resilent, courageous, resourceful, visionary and pioneering african women. That I am unapologetically feminist and boldly christian.

What counts as fun for Maame Afon?

Music (making music with my husband, singing/performing and moving aka “shaking what my mama gave me” to great music), playing tennis, exploring and experimenting with different culinary styles, spending time with family, watching movies, especially a marathon of Nollywood and Ghallywood movies, doing bootcamp, talking regular and prayer walks for fitness, endurance and self-care. I cherish my contribution as a mother and enjoying doing life with my husband, family and close friends. I love a good massage and the sounds of nature to lull me to sleep or calm me down.

If you could have a lunch date with one woman you admire- who would it be and what would you ask her?

My Mother—I would have cherished the opportunity to sit and talk intimately with my mother. Having grown up with her as a single mother and watching her navigate within a society that labels, stereotypes, uses tradition and culture to place limitations on women and girls, I would love to know her secret recipe that enabled her to achieve all her successes in the face of these obstacles. I also watched my mother endure adversity and would love to know how her faith played a role in facing these setbacks. What lessons she learned and applied from those experiences. My mother passed away auspiciously on March 8th, 2013 and I often sit and wonder how our relationship would be if she were here. In her absence, I ponder on some of our poignant conversations and the nuggets of wisdom she deposited into me at different times.

You can stream Maame Afon’s latest song- Right Here Right Now here

The Leading Ladies Africa Series is a weekly interview series that focuses on women of African descent, showcases their experiences across all socio-economic sectors, highlights their personal and professional achievements and offers useful advice on how to make life more satisfying for women.

It is an off-shoot of Leading Ladies Africa; an initiative that seeks to effectively mentor and inspire women, with particular emphasis on the African continent.

Do you know any woman of African descent doing phenomenal things? Send an email to lead@leadingladiesafrica.org and we just might feature her.

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