Building Resilience &Embracing Opportunity: Reflections on My Journey as an African Young Women Leaders Fellow
It has been a daring quest spanning 16 months, filled with thrill, excitement, immense learning and mind-blowing discoveries, all of which defined my purpose ‘To be a part of a revolution, a dynamic force of young African women leaders and visionaries, poised to shape the destiny of a continent and beyond.’ Armed with determination and a burning passion, my mission unfolded: to embark on a journey that would redefine the future.
Guided by the sacred tenets of the SDGs and Africa’s visionary Agenda 2063, I set out to become a beacon of change, igniting the world with my expertise, designing ground-breaking development programs, and leaving an indelible mark on the tapestry of progress. Brace yourself for a story of empowerment, resilience, and the unyielding spirit of a young leader ready to conquer the world stage.
Now, let’s rewind a bit. The first attempt, well, let’s just say it didn’t exactly go as planned. Cue the infamous “we regret” message. But fear not, dear reader! Destiny had a different path in mind for me. Fast forward to the second attempt, and lo and behold, I found myself magically transported to the bustling heart of Nairobi, Kenya, right at the awe-inspiring UN headquarters for Africa, nestled in the vibrant hub known as Gigiri, as one of the 40 African Young Women Leaders Fellows (AfYWLF) selected out of the 5,253 applicants. And thus, my friends begins the tale of a 16-month odyssey that has left me energized to do and be more, where triumphs and challenges intertwined to create a mesmerizing tapestry woven with intrigue, enlightenment, and an unwavering quest to make a profound impact. Join me as I peel back the layers of these remarkable 16 months that will leave you spellbound and driven to carve your own path of significance.
On 27th March 2022, I left the warm heart of Africa, Malawi, and ventured into the ‘land of 13 sunshines’ popularly known as Ethiopia. There, for five extraordinary days, in the company of 39 young African women leaders, I delved into the captivating world of the AfYWLF orientation workshop. With passion and expertise, United Nations Development Program (UNDP) representatives unveiled their organization, igniting a fire within us to become change agents and leave a lasting impact in our world. Through enlightening discussions led by UNDP and African Union Commission (AUC) professionals, we gained insight into the projects, programs, and portfolios awaiting us. Our understanding of youth and development in Africa deepened, empowering us to embrace our role as young leaders as they unpacked the AUC structure to us with a focus on their Youth and Women portfolio.
As we embarked on this thrilling 5-day workshop, we were well aware that footsteps of greatness had already paved the path before us. The anticipation swelled when four remarkable ladies, veterans of the first cohort, graced us with their presence. With hearts brimming with wisdom and minds bursting with stories, they shared their awe-inspiring experiences and answered our eager questions. Their tales of triumph ignited a fiery excitement within us, propelling us toward the adventure of a lifetime that awaited us. With their guidance and cheers, we were fuelled with the energy and determination needed to conquer the challenges ahead and embrace the remarkable chapter about to unfold in our lives.
The cherry on top of this transformative experience was the opportunity to hear from the visionary behind the AfYWLF program itself: Ahunna Eziakonwa. Her words resonated, urging us to fearlessly claim our seats and triumph in every endeavor we undertake.
With Ahunna’s empowering words encircling me like an invincible breastplate, I landed in Nairobi, Kenya, on 3rd of April 2022. Stepping into the UNDP office, the atmosphere was hushed, as Covid-19 restrictions loomed large. But this unexpected tranquillity worked in my favor, as I explored the office freely, acquainting myself with the layout before meeting the curious gazes of my new colleagues. Then, I encountered my supervisor, Julius Coredo. For over four intense weeks, he took me under his wing, meticulously unveiling the inner workings of the project that would consume my time during this contract: The Green Economy Youth Activation Program (GrEYAP). Julius exuded a composed yet vibrant spirit, effortlessly imparting the intricate details of UNDP operations. It seemed as though he had foreseen the upcoming whirlwind of workshops, training sessions, and countless administrative tasks that lay before us. He equipped me with the knowledge and skills needed to navigate this demanding landscape, including the art of submitting procurement and finance requirements with efficiency and finesse. Before I knew it, I had mastered it, and together, we embarked on this thrilling journey, ready to leave an indelible mark.Bottom of Form.
My work with UNDP Kenya has been fulfilling, focusing on engaging youth and women in the green economy and empowering them to establish successful businesses. Through GrEYAP, we unlocked sustainable green jobs and livelihood opportunities by nurturing innovative youth start-ups. I passionately impacted youth and women-led SMEs in various ways such as:
- Partnering with KEPROBA, I organized trainings in five counties for potential and existing exporters, boosting their capacity to access international markets and take advantage of the African Continental Free Trade Area.
2. Conducted a workshop to inspire innovation-led entrepreneurship through digitalization, benefiting managers of UNDP’s MIS/BDS-supported platforms.
3. I contributed to knowledge management within the governance and inclusive growth portfolio, developing knowledge products that convey the thought leadership and programmatic interventions in the inclusive growth portfolio (check out some blogs I developed at UNDP KENYA — Medium)
4. I played a crucial role in training and empowering women in cross-border trade in Kenya.
5. Supported the synthesis of best practices and lessons learned to direct formulation of substantive policy advice and engagement
Working with UNDP has been instrumental in building my resilience. The dynamic and ever-changing nature of the work demanded adaptability and perseverance, allowing me to develop a strong ability to bounce back from challenges. Through navigating complex projects and collaborating with diverse stakeholders, I learned to embrace uncertainty and remain resilient in the face of setbacks. The exposure to diverse contexts and issues reinforced my capacity to find innovative solutions and keep pushing forward, even when the path seemed difficult. UNDP’s commitment to sustainable development and addressing global challenges has instilled in me a resilience that will continue to guide me in my future endeavors.
My time with UNDP Kenya has been truly captivating, allowing me to empower youth and women in the green economy. But it’s not just the work that made it amazing. The past 16 months have been a journey of unleashing the leader within me, navigating turbulent seas and formidable challenges with unwavering conviction, a reminder that I am a custodian of change. Guided by wisdom and fuelled by determination, I embraced the dawning era of progress, daring to recreate a world where equity and prosperity know no bounds. I’ve been fortunate to work alongside incredible colleagues and visionary leaders who fostered growth and created an inspiring environment.
Thanks to the African Young Women Leaders Fellowship, I’ve flourished and impacted the world around me.
Authored by Tamiwe Kayuni.
AYWFL fellow at UNDP Kenya.