empowering women and youths
Based on the literature on international development and personal success, why has Sara Idohou been so successful in her undertakings?
Some key characteristics come to mind: Idohou did not let obstacles and difficulties be a source of despair, but instead used negative childhood experiences to motivate herself to assist others to develop their potential.
Idohou is a strong proponent of INNOVATION and LIFELONG LEARNING. She understands that DEVELOPMENT IS NOT EASY.
Starting and operating a social business requires a lot of passion and sacrifice.
It also requires a lot of courage, patience, and perseverance and the willingness to DARE to face the challenges necessary to realize one's dreams.
Aye Femi Cynthia Sara Idohou was born in Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire, in 1990. She was raised in Cotonou in the Republic of Benin. Sara is the firstborn in her family, which was something of a disappointment to her father, who had hoped for a son.
Expectations were high for her when she was growing up. Her father always wanted her to be the best in everything. Idohou did very well in school, but always felt she was somehow failing her family, especially her dad, for not being a boy and not going into medicine, law, or accounting, the fields he had chosen for her.
Sara briefly considered suicide during the time she was feeling that perhaps there was nothing she could do to make her family proud of her. Fortunately, she realised taking her life was not the answer.
She had her parents, siblings, friends, teachers, and mentors who cared for her, even if one or two did not always express their affection in a manner that felt supportive.
Idohou came to the realisation she was not the only woman in West Africa or even the world whose family had tried to decide for her what she would do with her life.
She recognised she needed to stand up for what she believed in and to follow her own path. In doing so, Sara knew she could not only help herself, but also help others who were facing similar circumstances.
Idohou was determined to become a business consultant, motivational coach, and social activist as a means to help and inspire other women and youths to gain the confidence to fight for the realisation of their dreams. She also began to use public speaking as a means to share her message that families should encourage their children and help them to discover and develop their talents.
In 2010, Sara earned her bachelor's degree in finance and tax administration at the Abomey-Calavi campus of the National University of Benin.
She went on to earn a master's degree in accounting, control and audit management from ESGIS, a private university in Cotonou, and recognition for her speaking and leadership including: a TOP 3 win in 2012 in the competitive Dr Martin Luther King Junior Dream or Prophecy Speech Contest organised by the US Embassy in Benin and her selection as one of the TOP 25 Young Beninese Leaders to join the US Ambassador's Youth Council in Benin. She serves on the council's entrepreneurship committee through which she contributes to outreach activities that benefit young people.
Through her speeches, Idohou shares her vision for the development of Benin, Africa and the world. In this vision youths are supported at home, able to take on meaningful leadership roles, and enjoy careers that benefit themselves, their communities, and beyond. Sara also organises conferences, training and coaching sessions, and is currently writing books that focus on self-development and entrepreneurship.
Her strong belief in the importance of women and the youth being able to develop to their fullest potential motivated her to start a non-profit organisation called Young Leaders' Corporation (YLC) in 2012. Through YLC, Idohou and her team of volunteers promote individuals' talents and empower youths and women through leadership programmes, entrepreneurship, coaching and personal development training. She uses YLC as a means to also teach about the spirit of volunteerism and how to become responsible citizens. To date, YLC has impacted more than 10 000 people across multiple communities. YLC continues to grow. Chapters are being established in several cities and on university campuses in Benin as an extension of YLC's activities.
Idohou is also the founder and CEO of Empower Pyramid (established in 2014), a consultancy firm that specialises in tax advice, accounting assistance, and designing training and coaching sessions for businesses and employees to help them to boost their own performance and that of their companies.
In April 2015 Idohou was interviewed by Avenue 229, a French-language blog dedicated to sharing information about Benin. She described the activities of YLC and the moving testimonials from participants about the satisfaction they received through the projects and programmes the organisation has hosted, including the Young Volunteers in Service of Development Project and a Social Entrepreneurship Fair.
Idohou developed the Social Entrepreneurship Fair after participating along with 800 other young leaders from 139 countries in a two-week International Youth Forum held in Russia. The opportunity to travel across international boundaries is something that she views as important to the development of strong and successful projects. In addition to her experience in Russia, Sara has volunteered and completed training programmes in Ghana and travelled to Togo and Côte d'Ivoire.p>Idohou also spoke with Avenue 229 of her selection into the highly competitive Mandela Washington Fellowship programme in the USA.
The fellowship programme enables 500 outstanding young African leaders to be hosted by a US university for six weeks to gain specialised training and networking opportunities.
Idohou told Avenue 229 that after completing her civic leadership programme at Arizona State University that she hoped to return to Benin more experienced, more professional, and with better initiatives and methods for executing them. Particular initiatives she hopes to focus on are expanding the YLC beyond Benin's borders and the creation of an institute with a model curriculum for education in Africa that includes training in leadership and entrepreneurship.
Making the dream of expanding YLC into other countries come true could happen sooner rather than later and her dream about shaping the education system in Africa too.
Idohou is one of 100 Mandela Washington Fellows who have been accepted to complete an additional six week Professional Development Experience (PDE) in the USA after the university-hosted programme.
Idohou is currently based in the Baltimore, Maryland, office of the International Youth Foundation.