Young Namibian leaders, who recently attended the intensive programme of the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) in the United States of America (USA) last month have returned home to share their newfound skills and to motivate other youngsters.
Elzaan Le-Anne de Wee (24), one of the young leaders who attended the summit, says she was selected to participate in the Civic Leadership stream and was placed at the Wagner College in Staten Island, New York, for her seven-week fellowship.
“I had an opportunity to visit various organisations in New York City. These included the United Nations Headquarters, the Clinton Global Foundation and Lifestyles Centre for the Disabled in New Jersey. I also had the opportunity to meet and network with professionals in my field of work. The final week of the fellowship was dedicated to a Presidential Summit in Washington D.C, where I had the opportunity to meet U.S. President Barack Obama,” she says.
She says during the summit she learned what it means to be a true leader. “It is not about having power or status, but listening to people and identifying their needs and just wanting to help people. You can be an ordinary person that sees a need in your community and just want to take a stand when no one is standing, and make a difference wherever you are,” she says.
De Wee plans to explore many new ideas with young Namibians, including empowering the children and young people through the arts.
Norah Lydia Ngatjizeko, who has over four years’ experience in public management and administration, says the experiences during YALI were many and the lessons plentiful, but one of the key factors highlighted in all three streams was the focus on effective communication and transparency. “I have a keen interest in economic development in rural areas, so that will be my focus area as from now on,” she added.
Hipandwa Shoombe (32), a volunteer, field promoter and orphans and vulnerable children’s coordinator, says he has completed YALI in civics leadership, which addressed issues of individuals, corporations and government in every corner of the world.
“I’ve learned that all communities must feel a sense of ownership of their community for them to invest in it. Communities must debate and discuss issues, such as transparency and good governance and work together to drive positive changes for all members of the society,” he says, adding that the changes start with educating “ourselves” and making a commitment to inclusive growth.
“It was quite inspirational to meet 500 young leaders from sub-Saharan Africa for seven weeks. I am so inspired when I see other young people working towards building communities and helping others, despite their difficulties. Through the programme I also learned more about myself and the world around me than I ever could have in a classroom,” he says.
YALI was initiated last year as the flagship programme of President Barack Obama to empower young African leaders through academic coursework, leadership training and networking.
Annually the fellowship provides 500 youths from sub-Saharan Africa the opportunity to hone their skills at a higher education institution in the USA with support for professional development after they return home. The number of fellows is expected to double next year.