Our YALI 2021 Experience: Civic Leadership Cohort

The Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) is the United States’ signature effort to invest in the next generation of African leaders. One of the programs offered by YALI include the cohort trainings through Regional Leadership Centers. The cohort trainings are divided into three tracks:

  1. Business & Entrepreneurship Development
  2. Civic Leadership
  3. Public Management and Governance

I was privileged to be among the recent graduates from the Civic Leadership Online Cohort 12 of the YALI Southern African Regional Leadership Center (YALI RLC-SA).

In this post, I am honoured to host two of my colleagues who also recently graduated from the Civic Leadership track- Pennina from Namibia and Sethunya from Botswana. Together, we will share our YALI expectations, experiences, key take-aways and action points.

I hope you enjoy reading our dialogue of different perspectives below and get encouraged to join as a YALI member and apply for the program.

  • Why we chose the Civic Leadership Track?

Nsatu: I chose the Civic Leadership track as it gravitated towards providing essential skills for Civil Society Organisations and Non-Governmental Organisations. From as far back as I can remember, I have always been inclined to helping the less privileged in society and being a channel of sensitization, hope and change. I have volunteered for a number of organisations and co-founded some initiatives. I know that the more I grow, I would like to continue being an active agent of change in my community and beyond and to do so, I need the right skill set among other resources. From the descriptions of the tracks offered by YALI in the Regional Leadership Cohorts, I knew without a doubt that the Civic Leadership track would give me the need tools required to make a difference. I should immediately mention that my expectations were exceeded.

Sethunya: My name is Sethunya Kenyaditswe, hailing from a small village by the name Gweta in the northern side of Botswana. When I first read about Civil Leadership cohort, I knew in my heart I had to submit my application.

Having grown up in a rural village where most of the basic needs are hard to reach, I am in a better position to advocate for my community. A few years ago, my mother who is retired came across a 5-year-old girl staying with her grandmother at the cattle-post. This girl was due for grade 1 but since her grandmother stayed in the outcast of the village, which is 15km away, she would not be able to go to school from there. Furthermore, she found out that she has been sexually molested by a teenage boy who worked in one of nearby farms. She called me to tell me this story and asked for my advice on how best to help this little girl to which I recommended her to take her in.

I went back to my home village a few weeks later and met this girl for the first time. She was shy, frightened and you could tell she has never really experienced being loved and taken care of properly, and I promised my mother that I will help her take care of her. She is now part of the family and knows she is loved. She knows how to express herself now and you can see how free she is.

It is this girl who I now refer to as my daughter that inspired me to get into the YALI Program in order to know more about how to run an NGO and how to be helpful in my community.

Pennina: Between the start and the finish is purpose. Purpose is only fully attained when one is in knowledge of the right tools, has them and propels them towards the right focus. I come from a community like any other that has it’s unique set of problems, and in working towards successfully solving them, I need to play my part too. Civic engagement is vital in any community set up, not only does it rest the notion of personal responsibility on individuals, but it encourages others to do so as well through authentic civic engagement which is built on a shared understanding of community needs. My work at the Northern Charity Initiative here in northern Namibia helped me in realizing that engagement should be a priority in order to strengthen democracy.

  • Expectations before starting the YALI program

Nsatu: I had no specific expectations when joining the just ended YALI program. All I knew was that I was going to learn a lot, meet new people and gain new experiences. I started the program with an empty jar and with every discussion, webinar and assignment- my knowledge jar was filled.

Sethunya: I recognize that even though we managed to help one girl, there are many more children in my village who need the same help. Through the program, I expected to gain skills that would assist me as I work hard to make sure that I get my CSO off the ground running. This is in order to ensure that more girls get to go to school and are taken care of.

Pennina: Most of my expectations were weighing on the network I was looking to grow through this program. A network of same minded people, who understand that change happens when we show up with courage and compassion to improve our societies.

Graduation Picture with leaders from various countries and our lovely facilitator: Nishta Jooty-Needro

  •  How the experience was and key take aways

Nsatu: One word to describe the experience would be: INSIGHTFUL. It would take an entire book to adequately unpack the lessons from the program. However, it is my wish and desire that I get to implement the lessons learnt through various initiatives. That notwithstanding, I must admit that the package gave so much more than I expected. It was particularly interesting to note that CSOs and NGOs need to be as intentional about revenue making as they are about creating a difference. The interactive discussions with my group members and the care group that would check on our mental health was really the icing on the cake. It was worthwhile.

Sethunya: I have learned a lot from the program, it opened my eyes to a lot of subjects, such as how to get funding, how to form partnerships and how to know if an organization is the right fit for your CSO etc. I am grateful for YALI, because before I joined the program having a CSO was a dream which seemed way too far to reach but now I am pumped and highly motivated to take all the lessons from the program and implement them.

Pennina:  The YALI experience is a once in a lifetime adventure, coupled with a plethora of lessons to pick.  My best being the significance of authentic and transformational leadership that is a generational need for Africa, in avoiding a more permanent and dysfunctional inequality of opportunity on the continent.

  • Closing Remarks

Nsatu: I would like to encourage anyone interested in setting up or being part of changing society through an NGO or CSO to consider applying for the YALI RLC and specifically, the Civic Leadership Cohort. I value the developed network with the various leaders across the Southern African Region. I cannot wait to create, collaborate and contribute to change.

Sethunya: I am grateful to be able to connect with my fellow leaders from different countries, we will be able to share ideas and help each other going forward. I look forward to many many interactions with the leaders and I hope we can recognize that we all need one another for make our dreams a reality.

Pennina: People are central in our communities, and we need to collectively do better for and by them. YALI gives you the tools you need to do better, and knowledge that sets you apart. Take the opportunity.


I would like to extend my gratitude to my two amazing ladies and fellow leaders, Pennina and Sethunya for taking time to feature on this blog and for sharing their experiences. You, ladies, are made of gold. THANKYOU. I cant wait to witness the greater good that comes out of the knowledge gained from the program.

For those interested in the program and the many other online courses and initiatives by YALI, here are the links to YALI resources:

  1. https://yali.state.gov/
  2. https://yali.state.gov/courses/
  3. https://yali.state.gov/network/

Thankyou for reading!

Until next time,

Live long & read on!

Miss Nsatu.

On Culture: Sounds from Africa (#WinterABC- Day 15)

Picture credit: Uclg

I think it is inadequate to speak of the African Culture without bringing music in the conversation. I’m very Afrocentric and gravitate a lot towards African Music- both old and new school.

In this post, I share up to 10 of my favourite jams across the continent. I should immediately say that this list is not exhaustive. Also, get your dancing shoes if you can or grab some coffee… as this will be both banging and soothing. Because if there’s one thing African Songs have it’s RANGE.

  1. We dive in, with a befitting song to toot the African Horn:
To be honest, I hardly understand what is being sung but I just feel this could make for some sort of African Anthem, don’t you think? A gem.

2. Oh, Tuku… A regional and international treasure. This is one of my many favourites by him (he may feature more than once on this list):

One of the Youtube comments which I rely on for interpretations of songs I cant understand describes the song as follows: “This song came out during the Era when having HIV was like a death penalty. He is basically saying that what shall we do to get the cure for this pandemic. If there is anyone who can have the ideas on the solution to this crisis, please come forward. He goes on to say: it is so painful to be raped by your married partner, knowing that you have HIV. Above all, there is no solution after death, we want the solution now

3. This is one of Awilo’s greatest projects. At a very young age, I knew it was not a party before this song was played:

If at this point your head is not bopping and your waist is not shaking… You’re disappointing our African Ancestors.

4. To keep the pace, here is yet another classic that captures the high African Spirit and our love for dance:

We could replace the desired African Passport with knowledge of this song and I am convinced people would still get by. It is one of the popular ones that easily crossed national boarders and became household favourites.

5. I bring you to my home town with is one- one of our timeless Artists (then known as Exile, now Israel)

This song is a comfort song. Pretty much telling someone, “you don’t look good being miserable, a face of yours deserves constant happiness and laughter” – don’t we all need to hear that sometimes?

6. Whilst we are in Zambia, it is only right that I roll out another one from a favourite:

This song pretty a vibing song. It talks about how his muse makes the time stop and temperatures rise. Romantics in the house say awwwwwww 🙂

7. We can’t deny the era, P-square ushered us into. This is definitely another African Sound. Easily made me get hooked onto Naija beats:

My schoolmates and I had a dance routine to this song. Good times.

8. This list cannot be complete without a feature from the legendary Brenda Fassie. This my personal favourite from her:

What a jam!

9. To shine a light on the new school, I know this scale is not balanced, I reminisced on a few songs and found myself going deeper. Buuut, Sauti Sol!!!! Helloooo… these guys are really doing everything beautiful. Here’s one of my favourites by them:

The aesthetic, the vocals, it’s EVERYTHING for me.

10. And to end on a high note, here is one for your waists… Waah!

I love how diverse and beautiful the African Culture is. Music is a very integral part of our culture. It is used to entertain, comfort and educate as shown in the pieces shared above.

This week, the Afrobloggers camp is heating up Winter with all things Culture and Fashion. Looking forward to more of what the week has in store.

Until then,

Live long & read on!

A story is told of a land …

Image by: Ellis Capital & Co.

A story is told of a land

Whose vast culture is almost impossible to capture

If culture was a currency, this would be the richest land

The abundance of expressions and traditions passed on through generations

The culture, a sculpture of a tree that’s deeply rooted yet blossoms in various impressions.

A story is told of a land …

Whose heritage gracefully carries legacies

Of brave men and women chained in captivation seeking emancipation

Staring in the face of death with strength and courage

Trading their lives and safety for the future they could not see but believed in

A story is told of a land …

Whose heart is engraved with art

It’s existence radiating an aura of beauty, strength and divinity

It’s nature- enriching, healing and refreshing

It’s people- majestic, creative and innovative

A story is told of a land

Some call this land AFRICA

I call it HOME.