My name is Alexandra Daignault – I’m an Indo Caribbean Canadian woman, and the founder/owner of Sarjesa Inc., a socially focused tea company that raises awareness for missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls while supporting impactful violence prevention programming for women in crisis. I participated in the 2018 YWCA Think Big, Lead Now program, and gained a lot from it.
Leadership is such a funny, flexible word — in that there are so many different ways we can use and demonstrate it. I think it’s definitely a quality that is cultivated, not something we are born with. A friend of mine recently discussed with me the concept of ‘unlearning’ – and in a lot of ways, I think that’s what leadership has been to me. It’s the process of unlearning the helplessness I have ingested as a Canadian girl-child.
When I first started Sarjesa, I constantly felt like I was not enough. I found myself looking to others for answers on how to do business and how to be an entrepreneur. If only I could go back in time and tell myself: “don’t be so quick to give away your power.”
I think that, as girls, we often underestimate our own ability to learn. Starting a business is a reasonable thing, as is running a business or being a leader. I think we often sell ourselves short, by imagining ourselves as fixed beings — saying “oh I’m not good at math;” or “oh, I’m shy so I wouldn’t be good at sales.” When we give away our power like this, we restrict ourselves to a disempowered position – instead of seeking out opportunities to learn.
My ancestors were brought as indentured labourers from India to work in the fields of Trinidad. Were they scared? Probably. Did they come at great personal risk? Absolutely. My Nanny (grandmother) traveled from Trinidad to study nursing in England. Was she scared? Yes. Did she have doubts? Absolutely. If the women who came before me hadn’t taken these risks, hadn’t pushed themselves to learn their way through the unknown, would I be here? No.
To me, this is what leadership is – the courage to seek the challenge and discomfort of deep learning.
No two leadership journeys are the same – especially for women. I think what was powerful about my experience with the YWCA was that it brought many women, with vastly different learnings and experiences, together in solidarity with each others’ work. Bringing women with different perspectives, opinions, and voices together in this way is important because it teaches that no matter how different we are, we can still stand in respectful solidarity with each other and work towards more equitable spaces for all. I think this encourages us to learn from each other, combatting the divisive and polarizing spaces we often find ourselves in.
To learn more about my work and the work of Sarjesa, you can visit our website at: www.sarjesa.com
We offer a monthly subscription service, delivering boxes of tea each month across Canada. At Sarjesa, we work with elders and community members on our blends and packaging, source a combination of local and international organic ingredients, and donate $2.00 from every box sold to impactful and culturally specific violence prevention programming. We want to be YOUR tea of choice, and are proud to offer YWCA community members a 10% discount with the code: LeadNow