Jamii's Women In Leadership Initiative

LAINI is a Swahili word that means to flatten an area with the intent of making it accessible. It is a very similar meaning to “esplanade”, which is a flattened path for people to walk on. LAINI is about giving every woman the confidence and tools to see themselves as leaders; it is about equal chances, and the ability for all to walk the path of leadership.

Jamii being an arts organization, LAINI will use the arts as a tool to actively engage and inspire participating girls.


For years, Jamii has been engaging young women in its programming through volunteering opportunities, participating in creative workshops, and working within the organization.

Jamii’s most recent programmes for women include:

  • “I am me (Girl, I got you)": A photography exhibit created by a group of 10 young women, under the artistic leadership of queer-identifying artist Brianna Roye. The exhibit was part of “Contact, Photography Festival” in May 2019, and challenged society’s image of women. The group created the exhibition entirely: from choosing the theme, to taking the photos, to choosing where and how to display them.

  • “I am me. I am Beauty.”: In September 2019, a group of 10 young women participated in a series of 3 workshops inviting them to develop their own one-year goals and the journey to getting there. This was explored through group conversation, one-on-one guidance and craft, under the leadership of Empathy Facilitator Georgia Reynolds.

  • Long-term commitment to young women: Girls and young women who have previously volunteered with or participated in Jamii’s programming are offered the opportunity to work with the organization. Since 2017, Jamii has offered eight 2-months contracts to young women of color who were interested in acquiring further leadership skills and management experience, as well as, for the most part, first time working experience.


However, we have never had an official Women in Leadership programme. Between July and September 2019, Jamii invited 20 young women (Jamii’s past participants) to take part in a one-on-one discussion on the impact of the organization personally and to community.

Here is a series of testimonials that speak to the work we have already done. All are excerpts from the one-on-one series of 20 interviews. We promised anonymity to the participants.



“I gained confidence with my abilities; it was the first time singing in front of a crowd."



 “Jamii has enabled my connection with community which wasn't there before. Jamii has potential for creating social capital and link for people to access public information like town hall meetings, which I got to be part of.”



 “When you transition to high school there is no time to do things you like doing so Jamii created a space for that, and to think critically about my own creativity.”



 “Jamii brings out the need to preserve community values. This has given me motivation to advocate for community in relation to social housing.”



“Jamii programming opened me up to new art forms and better understanding of creative processes.  Especially film, being part of a production team and working/watching the entire creative process, showed me that every part of film is artistic and creative.”

“My experience with Jamii confirmed the type of photography I would like to do. Now I observe to capture interesting moments. I can capture the essence of people.”


“Jamii helped me resist the system of oppression I grew up with where in South Asian culture, young women stay at home. Jamii is offering an opportunity for experience and exposure for these women.”



 “Jamii gave me a sense of responsibility. Setting up the tent at the event made me feel like an important team member.”


Jamii’s Impact: A Self-Study Report
Opportunities, Impact, and Next Steps

Report written by: Tanjin Ashraf


As Jamii is nearing its 10th anniversary, it has become imperative to assess its impact on the Esplanade community. Building on previous findings, the purpose of this report is to capture the impact of Jamii and its programming in a more comprehensive manner. 20 interviews were conducted in 2019 to collect data on the impact of Jamii programming. The findings from this report will inform future programming such as LAINI, an initiative to encourage young women to affirm their capabilities to become tomorrow’s creative leaders.

"To create leaders, you first have to foster community, then you bring on leadership skills and contribute shaping women as the leaders of tomorrow. Jamii has enabled The Esplanade's community's potential to be iconic: it has definitely raised the potential of our neighbourhood.
Somehow, it brought its talents out. Excited to see what future programming of Jamii will be about.

This quote from one of the participants encapsulates the impact of Jamii, and also emphasizes two aspects that Jamii will focus on in its future programming: building leadership skills, female empowerment, and the nexus between the two.



Tanjin Ashraf

Tanjin has been living in the Esplanade community for the past 22 years. She joined Jamii because she heard about it's empowering programming and saw the beautiful art installations throughout the neighbourhood. In the past, she was a camera assistant for the 'At-Heart' film project and she is currently analyzing the impact of Jamii programming. Tanjin completed her undergraduate degrees in psychology and education in 2015, and finished her Master of Education degree in August, 2019. She loves travelling and has taught in China, Taiwan, South Korea, and England. She is pursuing a PhD in education policy.

This report outlines the findings from the qualitative study. The data for this report was collected through 20 one-on-one qualitative interviews which were conducted between July to September 2019. There were 3 categories and 9 themes that were extracted from the content analysis:

In addition, this table outlines key considerations in relations to next steps going forward.
An apt way to conclude is to point out an extraordinary aspect of Jamii - how it goes beyond arts-based programming and beyond community strengthening; it’s about about humanity itself. Here are a few powerful testimonies showcasing just that:

"There is something pure and innocent to Jamii where you are shown that people want to bring value into their work and care about what they do."

"Jamii is bringing a lot to youth growing up in dysfunctioning homes. It raised me in ways my home couldn’t."