My journey with the YALI Center began on November 16th, 2015 when I enrolled as part of the 3rd cohort. My experience at the Center was inspiring. It was both humbling and exciting to know that I had been selected from almost 2,000 applicants. Meeting other like-minded young leaders from 14 countries across the region was one of the best parts of the program. Hearing the great things young people were doing in their communities to bring about social change renewed my faith in our generation and the future of our continent.
The YALI experience made me more socially-conscious to the injustices that go on in our society, and I got a renewed zeal to want to be part of the change. When I joined the Center, I was a medical student and was also a founding member of ‘Fly Sister Fly Foundation’, a community-based organization that I founded alongside nine colleagues from the University. Through this organization, we work in Samburu a remote town in the northern part of Kenya. Our vision is to promote girls’ education as well as conduct advocacy outreach to discourage detrimental cultural practices such as female genital mutilation and early forced marriage.
Going through the program, gave me an opportunity to collaborate with others and improve what we were already doing as an organization. I went back with a zeal to have a greater impact in the community. Six months after graduating from the program, I was appointed President of ‘Fly Sister Fly Foundation’, largely because, my co-founders realized I had the capability to lead the organization, something I attribute to my experience at the Center.
Through the experience of ‘This is Africa’ class, I got a better understanding of myself as a leader and what it meant to be a leader in Africa. I left YALI with the realization that leadership is about influencing others through your actions. I left with knowledge on running social ventures and ensuring sustainability of solutions. Overall the YALI experience instilled in me the spirit of ‘Pan-Africanism’, which is important for the development of our continent.
YALI was a life-changing experience and I am forever grateful that I got the opportunity to go through the leadership program. I am happy to know that there are other young people who are going through the program, which signifies a promising future for Africa as a whole.
Following the program, I adopted Nelson Mandela’s quote as my personal mantra, ‘Every now and then a generation is called upon to be great, you can be that generation’. I believe today’s youth are the generation that will have the greatest impact on leadership in Africa.
This article was written by Joan Kanja. She is a YALI Regional Leadership Center East Africa cohort 3 alumna.