On February 2017, forty seven African youth attended the MasterCard Foundation’s Young Africa Works Summit (YAW2017) in Kigali, Rwanda. Fourteen of those youth delegates were selected to receive 12 months of mentoring from senior delegates attending the Summit.
Over the last months, these youth mentees have started forming relationships with their mentors who will support and challenge them during this year to take their next steps in their lives and careers. We’ve asked the mentees to reflect on what they have learned since the Young Africa Work’s Summit.
Being a delegate of the Young Africa Works (YAW) Summit 2017, I had my own expectations which mostly included meeting young people involved in agriculture, sharing my experiences and creating a formidable professional network for life.
Surprisingly, ten months after the YAW summit has been a period of epiphany and enlightenment- a light cast on my career purpose road. Themes that resonate throughout my journey are gratitude, clarity, mentorship, and thoughtfulness.
I have not been able to stay in touch with more than ten percent of the young people and senior delegates at the conference. However, I have created such a strong network with the few that I have been in touch with. With these few, I got the opportunity to regularly exchange ideas, travel to their home countries to offer my expertise in gender and rural development and to be able to connect them to my networks.
For example, traveling to Tanzania to meet CEO of Sustainable Agriculture- Tanzania and co-panelist of YAW 2017, Janet Maro, gave me the opportunity to experience a different culture. But most importantly, whilst learning how non-governmental organizations (NGOs) support smallholder farmers in Tanzania, I offered my gender expertise in developing a gender-sensitive framework for one of their key projects
My mentoring journey started with me planning my purpose road map. An activity like that has always been unclear in my mind; I just didn’t know how to conceptualize it and to put into action. Through a series of meetings with Dr Mdee where tough uncomfortable questions were asked, it finally became clearer what I wanted to be and the path I need to travel on to get there in the next ten years. Among such questions were: “Where do I see myself in five years?” and “What are the things I am ready to commit to in order to get there?”.
These questions really changed my thinking pattern and even daily habits. All thanks to my wonderful mentor Dr. Anna Mdee and the Young Professionals for Agricultural Development (YPARD) team for coordinating such sessions. I was very much inspired by the first action statement I received from my mentor; “Always take initiatives.”
Over the past six months, I have been able to make incredible success towards my path. I am looking forward to commencing my PhD in Politics and International Studies by fall next year and also proud to say that I have been able to widen my professional network across the continent. It is true what they say, your network is your net-worth. I am currently in the first stage of my purpose roadmap as a freelance researcher and proud to have worked for top think-tanks like Overseas Development Institute. I have also been an intern with the Sustainable Agriculture Tanzania- all with the incredible support of my mentor, Dr. Mdee.
My journey at a glance
Overall, my experience has been tremendous, incredible and contributory. I have had the opportunity to meet and network with more people than I can imagine and personally, it has provided me with the opportunity to be able to learn, re-learn and share with others. I cannot thank my mentor enough for being there to settle my doubts and fears; answer to my thousand questions; coach me through writing and analytical thinking, and opening my eyes to international research.
My research trip to Tanzania was enlightening and has shaped me into a more open-minded and Pan African development advocate that I have always wanted to be. I am now excited about the next growth phase in my career and I know very well that I am fully equipped to become the best version of myself for my family, country, continent and the world.
There’s an adage in the Akan language spoken in Ghana which says he who climbs a good tree is pushed up. As the proverb teaches, I have received great help on this journey of finding myself.I express my utmost gratitude to YPARD and The MasterCard Foundation for this opportunity. Also, I wake up daily thanking God for blessing me with an incredible woman and role model -Dr. Anna Mdee; the strong woman who saw something in me and decided to champion and shape it.