Empowering her sisters

Molly Boylan, Asst. Community Editor

Books on leadership and strength building line the bookshelves in Sister Jane Wakahiu’s office in the O’Neill Center for Healthy Families. But what Sister Jane knows about leadership hasn’t only come from the words in the books that line her shelves. They come from her many years of service helping women of Africa find their strength to be leaders in their own community.

Sister Jane Wakahiu, a member of the Little Sisters of St. Francis, started her career teaching high school students in her home country of Nairobi, Kenya. She has worked as an associate principal and has also worked as director of Catholic Women in her dioceses.

She currently holds the title of executive director and project manager of African Sister Education Collaborative (ASEC) at Marywood University. Last year she graduated from Marywood with a doctorate in Human Development.

Sister Jane has worked closely with Sister Ann Munley, IHM, president of Marywood University, in conducting research and creating new ways that the women religious in Africa can acquire the education they need to further their leadership skills.

Sr. Jane glowed when she spoke about how she was involved in the program.

“My passion has always been to work with women; to advance women particularly in Africa. Where culture has always seen more males than females in leadership.”

Many women in African cultures do not have resources to an education. ASEC implements distance learning because, “not many women actually have a degree, so we are trying to see if the ASEC can collaborate with African Universities so that more women religious can go to an institution and get the degrees that they require.”

The African Sister Education Collaborative (ASEC) spans over six countries in Africa to teach women religious technology advancement, provide distant learning through Moodle and videoconferences.

According to the ASEC website, the program strives to assist African sisters gain leadership roles in their community. Sr. Wakahiu believes that, “Women have potential to lead. Most of the women do not recognize their own potential because most of the time they do not have access.”

As mentioned on the ASEC website, another project that the ASEC has previously worked on is helping the Bigwa Secondary School for Girls in Tanzania because many of African girls rarely have a high school education. ASEC has helped provide the funds for educational programs, equipment, and construction of a science lab, computer lab and dining hall. They have worked towards improving the poverty, education and culture for the African women.

Sr. Jane has attended Marywood University to achieve a doctorate in Human Development. Since graduating; her scholarly works can be found on her website. She has been involved in numerous presentations, research and papers with Marywood and ASEC. Yet, the benefits of her missionary works can be seen in the lives of real women learning how to be leaders in Africa. It shows that there is proof that the ASEC has richly benefitted the lives of African sisters

Sister Jane mentioned that “Her call is to serve humanity. My passion has always been to advance women.” Marywood University and the ASEC have given her the chance to answer the calling and help women all over Africa become leaders in society.

“I believe that what we do for ourselves is good and remains for ourselves, but what we do for others lives on,” said Sister Jane.