"My constant dream was to be a woman on my own terms: you are your biggest asset.."

Voices of Positive Change: “You can’t be what you can’t see” – Marian Wright Edelman

Zahara's Dream Interview with Judicaelle Irakoze, Executive Director of Choose Yourself

1. What was your first dream as a girl-child? /as a young girl?

I had different dreams as a girl child at different ages. At some point, I want to be a dancer for Beyonce. I loved dancing at that time and I still do. But seeing Beyonce on TV, owning her power and moving proud, empowered 9 year old me. But my constant dream was to be a woman on my own terms. Since a young age, I constantly questioned society’s expectations of women.

2. What does Empowerment mean to you?

Empowerment to me means being lifted, being seen, being validated and also being equipped. It’s that life changing procedure, moments that make you connect to inner power and agency.

3. What does Opportunity mean to you? / what does equal opportunity for women look like to you?

Opportunity for me is intentional possibilities. I think of equal opportunity as the intentional equal possibilities for women rooted in defying and dismantling the discrimination they might experience due to their gender.

4. How do you start your day to achieve the objectives you have set for yourself?

I always meditate in the morning. It’s a routine that helps me connect with my inner self and set my intentions for the day. This also helps me map my plans for the day.

5. How can mentoring benefit young women and girls?

Besides the self-confidence young women and girls need, mentoring is also guidance . And we all need guidance and advice from those who have walked in our shoes.

6. What would be a piece of advice for young women overcoming social and economic adversity?

My best piece of advice is to always come home to yourself. You are your biggest asset. Do not give up on yourself no matter how hard it gets.

7. How do you manage disrupters/toxicity in your journey?

I focus on the journey and hold on to the vision. I am aware being an ambitious woman comes with a price of appearing too much when you want more for yourself. I make sure I continue to believe in myself.

8. How did you survive your greatest fear?

Fear is a lie. I survive my fears daily by confronting them and sitting with the discomfort.

9. How do you turn fear and failure into strength and opportunity?

Failure is a proof that I at least tried even when uncomfortable with my fears, I always remind myself I rather live with “ it didn’t work” than random what if I had tried, or what If I had confronted my fears.

10. What is the best career advice you were given?

Be authentic. Your people, your opportunities will find you when you are authentic.

11. What is your personal motto?

Love as the truest, realest, honest and purest of all revolutions.

12. What would you tell your younger self if you were to meet her now?

Look at you baby girl, you made into the woman of your dreams.

13. What is your advice for young women and young people worldwide?

Be part of the journey. Be present, be vulnerable, be part of the communities, always be part of the change you want to see.

14. How do we address patriarchy within our society?

By realizing women cannot be fully empowered unless we dismantle patriarchy. And that’s a responsibility of both men and women.

15. What vision of the future do you see/hold for young women?

I want to us free, liberated and emancipated young women, walking in their power.


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