With March being Women History Month it is only befitting for Nouveau Exposure to feature a woman who is impacting the world locally, nationally and globally. Carlisha Williams is a woman of many hats. She was born in Monroe, LA and raised in Tulsa, OK. She started her career as a young woman teaching and has grown to be the Executive Director of Tulsa Legacy Charter School. She also does consulting work as well as runs a growing organization known as Women Empowering Nations (WEN). She describes herself as a social entrepreneur. In her own words, she “helps leaders to identify their power, unlock their purpose and develop their platform.” Her passion ignites the most when she is working to empower young girls and women.
It wasn’t until Carlisha attended college that she felt something unlock within her to ignite change. Carlisha experienced her own struggles with self-esteem during her childhood and from that was inspired to help young ladies to be able to overcome any struggles they experience and take every opportunity she could to expose them to a world they never knew was accessible to them. Upon her completion of undergraduate studies, she competed and won the Miss Black University of Oklahoma pageant and went on to compete for the Miss Black Oklahoma USA pageant. From her role as a pageant winner, she was afforded the opportunity to travel and speak with girls across the state of Oklahoma helping them to build their self-esteem and find their purpose in life. After her graduate studies ended, she resided in Gambia working on a consulting project with the Gambian government for a girls education program. It was also there that she started Women Empowering Nations with their Literacy and Empowerment program for girls. From there, she returned to the United States to participate in the Teach for America program.
Through teaching, she was able to see how all the pieces of her life had aligned together and to took advantage of the partnerships she had created. She brought the work of WEN into her classroom and other schools to provide social and emotional development for female students.
WEN has been operating since 2009 and promotes the self-esteem and leadership development of girls through mentorship, leadership, and travel seminar programs. In the United States there are girls participating in Tulsa and Oklahoma City in the state of Oklahoma as well as participants in Houston, TX. The participants and mentors attend the quarterly sessions focused on leadership development, team building, global awareness, women’s empowerment, advocacy, and more. The experience culminates in the summer with the travel seminar to The Netherlands and Tanzania in July where the girls will participate in the Girls Leading Our World Leadership conference that WEN will be hosting in Tanzania. They will have the opportunity to build relationships with Tanzanian girls and do volunteer/mission work. There will be connections made on the social level and exposure to places inaccessible in the local communities of the participants.
What is beautiful about the WEN organization is that the girls who were in one of the very first programs in Gambia have completed the program and graduated from high school. Some of those young ladies are now mentoring in their own branch of the program in their own country. This is truly an accomplishment in Gambia as Carlisha informs that only 30% of girls go on to even enroll in high school. Not only are there past mentees participating as mentors in Gambia, but in the chapters in the United States as well.
The program directors are currently working to build a technology platform for the mentor relationships to connect with participants abroad and across the nation. This development limit he barrier of having to be in the physical location of a partner school. Now mentors will be able to reach girls globally in their homes through technology.
With all of the work that Carlisha is doing through WEN, it is not as a faith based organization but the leader does have a Christian foundation. Carlisha is also a published author on top of everything that she does. She has written a book entitled Choosing Faith Over Fear.
“My motivation for writing this book was to share the story behind the glory and allow for people to realize that this life is precious and it is time to step out of your comfort zone and run towards your calling,” said Carlisha when asked what inspired her to write this book. She became an executive leader at the age of 28. Carlisha has been asked what her secret to success is to accomplish all that she has done. She simply felt the need to share her testimony of how her faith in God grew. People were able to see the success but were unaware of the choices that she had to make. Carlisha simply explained that for this reason she decided to share through this book how she has chosen faith over fear in her professional choices, relationships and self-views.
With a book having such a powerful title some would think that there just has to be a strong foundation of faith. Well, while Carlisha was raised in the church, there was a pivotal moment in the 7th grade when her life changed. Carlisha experienced a tragedy losing her best friend, at the time, who was murdered by their father. Carlisha recalls that she was supposed to have a sleepover at the friends’ home and her mother had told her that she didn’t feel right about her spending the night that particular evening and had her stay at home. The next morning a mutual friend called to tell her to turn on the news and she learned that the friend and her entire family had been murdered by the father.
The following week Carlisha attended a youth group that her friend would bring her to and remembers that the words the minister spoke that evening felt as though he was speaking directly to her. She feels that literally from that moment her life had changed. She began to travel to do mission work and witness to people in various countries. From there her view of the world was unlocked.
Carlisha’s life has been a puzzle coming together piece by piece connecting each story and building a grand portrait of what her heart has a desire to accomplish. She has a heart to encourage others and God has enabled her to continuously have opportunities where her past experience helps to build the future. To you, our readers, she says, “Really take a hold of your gifts and your passion to use it and not allow the obstacles you face or the pain and the valleys you go through to be a detour from that path of purpose. Often times it’s in our pain that God transforms it into purpose to be used to bless the lives of other people.”