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Mandela Washington Fellows: Week Three Reflection

Three weeks down, three more to go for the 2017 Mandela Fellows. The Fellows continue to learn and explore the city of Manhattan and the state of Kansas. The Mandela Fellows are on a educational journey for a six-week Civic Leadership Institute at Kansas State University. Throughout the course of the Institute, the Staley School will facilitate opportunities for cultural exchange and leadership development to advance the work of each Fellow by growing their capacity to lead change upon return to their home countries.

The Fellows visited the Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library, Museum and Boyhood Home. Abilene, Kansas. Source: Diksha Beeharry, Mandela Fellow from Mauritius.

Week three started off with celebrating July 4th! The Fellows experienced the festival and fireworks in Wamego, Kansas. Videos, pictures, and hashtags blew up the social media page as the Fellows were eager to share wtheir learning from the tradition of Independence Day in the United States. Follow the hashtags to keep up-to-date: #MandelaFellows, #YALI2017#KStateYALI.

During their learning modules this week, the Fellows had the opportunity to go to Abilene, Kansas, home of the 34th president of the United States, Dwight David Eisenhower, where they visited the Eisenhower Presidential Library, Museum and Boyhood Home. On Thursday, July 6, they engaged in a conversation called “Eggs and Issues” with current and former Kansas elected officials. This was an opportunity for the Fellows to learn from experienced leaders when it comes to addressing sensitive issues relevant to a city, on a local level, a state, or a country on a national level. On the panel of discussion were, Governor John Carlin who served as the 40th Governor of Kansas (from 1979-1987), City of Manhattan Mayor, Usha Reddi, Kansas State Senator, Tom Hawk, Kansas Representative, Tom Phillips, and Manhattan Mayor pro-tem, Linda Morse.

Group picture of the Kansas elected officials and the fellows

Ruby presents her Ignite TalkAnother highlight of this week was the Ignite talks, which took place in the Staley School Town Hall on Thursday, July 6. Initiated last year, the Ignite talks give the Fellows an opportunity to present their work in a speech to an audience and receive constructive criticism from their peers and a panel of experts in public speaking. The Fellows got introduced to Ignite talks on their first week, and practice sessions ran throughout the second week. This year’s talks were as inspiring as last year’s. The audience listened to the storyteller Ruby Yayra Goka, from Ghana, who besides being a dentist is a writer. She advocates with schools, libraries, and the Raising Readers Foundation to promote early literacy in Ghana. She writes books for Ghanaian children. Her mission is to help children become life-long readers by including characters in her books that resemble the audience of readers. She believes that this will help them to identify and better engage with the characters and see the similarities with their culture and environment. Also, in doing this, Ghanaian children will feel they are relevant; they will realize that their stories matter and that their stories are good enough to be documented. “The ignite talk ignited me!’ said Ruby. “It just put everything into perspective and reaffirmed the relevance of what I was doing. I have a full-time job and writing alongside it can be draining at times, but my goal is to have as many diverse stories as possible because Ghanaian culture is diverse and children from each region and tribe deserve to see themselves represented in Ghanaian children’s literature.” Ruby is the author of several books for children that have been made available to the public through WorldReader apps and on Amazon. You can connect with Ruby Goka here.

Folasade Bamisaye, from Nigeria, also impacted the audience with her passion for women’s empowerment. She shared her vision to see a society where menstrual hygiene is a priority for the well-being of young girls and women of reproductive age. A society educated enough to show respect in all understandings of this “taboo” topic in her country. Her mission behind My Period Kit, her website, is to partner with individual organization, government agencies, donors, and CBO’s to improve menstrual hygiene and well-being of young girls and women of reproductive age and to increase access to an affordable and healthy transition into womanhood. Fola believes her participation in Ignite talks has helped to not only identify her communication strengths but also points out that she will focus on improving to help build strong and long lasting partnerships invested in working with her toward the objectives of “My Period Kit” initiative. You can connect with Fola here.

Fola presents her Ignite Talk
Folasade Bamisaye of Nigeria presents her Ignite talk

Marie presents her Ignite TalkThe message of women’s empowerment echoed even louder with Marie-Leopoldine Tossou from Ivory Coast, who is a blogger and social entrepreneur behind the Smart African Women Leaders Platform (SAWLP). The vision of SAWLP is to create an Africa where all girls and women are empowered to reach their full potential. One of her missions is to organize training on women empowerment that includes the Information Communication Technology (ICT) 4. Her project, which will empower women with disabilities through an ICT training. You can read more about Marie’s projects in her blog. You can also follow her here to receive the latest updates. Marie believes that her experience during Ignite talks will help change the game on her approach to tell her story and connect with others. “The ignite talk was a good exercise for me. I am introvert and find it difficult to build new relationships. Running a new organization and having this challenge enabled me to engage my members and get new partners. I believe that this exercise will be a great move for me to make a difference and be the best version of myself,” said Marie.

As a whole, all the Mandela Fellows demonstrated immense passion for the work they do to enact meaningful social change in their respective countries on a local level and in Africa on a continental level. They are invested in a diverse range of issues, from gender equality, gender-based violence, civil conflicts, social privilege equality, socioeconomic development, to rights for education, and health care. You can see all of their Ignite presentations here.

Besides passion, one other aspect of a leader that the Fellows have demonstrated this week is desire. The Fellows showed a true desire to help during Habitat for Humanity ReStore community service on Saturday, July 8. They had the opportunity to learn about the process of recycling.

Compassion is also a value of a leader, and we are grateful to hear that the Fellows appreciate the activities we offer to raise their awareness on such a value. “Thank you to the Staley School of Leadership Studies for giving us the opportunity to watch the Special Olympics. One of the objectives of participating in this activity was to learn how to motivate our team as a leader. At the end of the day, I found myself motivated by the participants. They were so good.” This is a Facebook post from Marie Leopoldine Tossou, Fellow from Ivory Coast, when they returned from watching the Special Olympics softball game with the YALI staff on Sunday, July 9 at the Twin Oaks Softball Complex

Selfie after the softball game with Marie, from Ivory Coast, Izel, from Kenya, Gloria, from South Sudan, and YALI staff member, Katie Meek

We are thankful to work with this dynamic community of young African leaders. We continue and look forward to the work ahead. We appreciate everyone who is contributing to make the Mandela Fellowship at K-State a rich and memorable experience for everyone involved. We encourage our readers to connect with our Fellows to follow the work that they do beyond YALI, for their respective country, and also to serve as agents of accountability. To participate in YALI is also a legacy of the Staley School in our mission to develop knowledgeable, ethical, caring, inclusive leaders for a diverse and changing world. Here is to all of you who support us, a dab for a winning team. Thank you all!

The fellows dab with Visiting Faculty Member, Jackie Oluch-Aridi

See more photos from the 2017 Civic Leadership Institute on our Facebook page!

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