From fear to leadership

Princess is inspiring her peers and leading change in her community after taking part in Plan International’s She Leads project.

“I used to be afraid to speak up, but with She Leads, I found my voice and gained the confidence to become a leader,” says Princess. “Now, I can stand up for what is right and represent my community as a young people’s advocate. She Leads has transformed me into the Princess I was meant to be.”

Princess is a courageous 17-year-old from a poverty-stricken village in Moyamba District, Sierra Leone. Despite having the odds against her, this fierce young lady is determined to chase her dreams and make a difference in the world.

Living 2 villages away from her school, Princess faces a daily struggle to get an education. Her parents, who are farmers, struggle to make ends meet and cannot afford the 20 leones (about $ 0.88) per term required to pay her school fees. Despite these challenges, Princess remains determined in her pursuit of a brighter future. 

After school, Princess returns home to her crowded household, where she takes on numerous responsibilities. She does laundry, cooks, and takes care of her younger siblings. However, her passion for education and her community extends far beyond her household chores.

Princess’s community faces several challenges, including a lack of access to clean water, farming difficulties, abuse against women, and a shortage of teachers. These challenges have resulted in many children following their parents into farm work instead of going to school. However, Princess sees these challenges as an opportunity to make a difference. 

Princess speaking up in her class at school
Princess speaking up in her class.

She Leads project – a catalyst for transformation

Princess’s life took an extraordinary turn when the She Leads project, funded by the Government of the Netherlands and run by Plan International Sierra Leone, was implemented in her community. 

The initiative empowers girls and women to break free from societal constraints and take on leadership roles. It also creates mechanisms for decision-making in organisations and bodies that promote girls’ and young women’s safe participation while simultaneously eradicating harmful gender stereotypes. It doesn’t stop there; activities such as debates and school talks are organised to help girls build their confidence to thrive in a world that often tries to hold them back. 

“I used to be afraid to speak up, but with She Leads, I found my voice and gained the confidence to become a leader.”


The She Leads project proved to be the catalyst that Princess needed to transform her life. Before joining the programme, she struggled with public speaking and found it challenging to assert herself. However, with the help of She Leads, Princess discovered a newfound confidence in herself and she has learned to speak with conviction, lead with confidence, and make a difference with courage.

Her confidence did not go unnoticed. Her classmates elected her as their class prefect, a position that previously seemed unattainable. She is now able to distinguish between right and wrong and stand up to the boys who once bullied her in school.

Her community also recognised Princess’s potential and appointed her as a young people’s representative in her community. In this role, she serves as the voice for children’s needs and concerns. Whenever strangers visit, she speaks passionately and unapologetically on behalf of her community’s children.

Creating real change

Under Princess’s watchful eye, as class prefect, measures were put in place to deter boys from mistreating girls. If they were caught, they faced a 2-week suspension. But that was just the beginning. The school started holding meetings to address the pervasive issue of harmful behavior toward girls.

The impact was immediate and far-reaching. The incidents decreased significantly, and girls were given equal rights. Young girls who were once forced to stay home because they were pregnant or had children could now attend school and parents were educated on the importance of their daughters’ education.

Juliette Barassa from Plan International Netherlands visiting Princess‘s school
Juliette Barassa from Plan International Netherlands visiting Princess‘s school.

Juliette Barassa, a programme manager from Plan International Netherlands, visited Princess’s school and was amazed by her growth and the impact of the She Leads project. She says, “By involving young girls in advocating for their own rights and addressing issues such as early marriage, we can create a trickle-down effect that expands the reach of our programme and brings about real change within the community.”

Princess’s mentor, Jennifer Lee, had high praise for her young protégé. As the head of the Future Leaders Group, Moyamba District, Lee watched as Princess transformed into a confident leader who fearlessly spoke up for her rights and advocated for the rights of other girls. 

Princess has a powerful message for anyone who will listen. She urges people to seize every opportunity for education, whether there is help or not, and to find a way to get an education no matter the circumstances. Her goal is to become a medical doctor so she can serve others and make a difference in her community.

With her newfound confidence and passion, there is no doubt that Princess will continue to inspire others to follow in her footsteps and make their dreams a reality.