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An Update for Partners and Stakeholders

Taking Charge: A Story of Success and Determination By Yilkal Hassabie Wudneh Ethiopia, Cohort 5 The power of self-introspection is often underestimated. Soon after I arrived at the YALI Regional Leadership Center East Africa as a participant in Cohort 5, I realized I had come to a place where I could openly share my experiences and explore new approaches to leadership. I came to know myself by looking inward, examining my past, planning my future, and developing a personal vision and mission. At the Center I realized I did not have a clear vision, but within a short time I was able to gain clarity in terms of what I wanted to do with my life. To understand how critical this personal transformation was Police Officers attending legal training facilitated for me, it is important to know my background. At the age of by Yilkal. five years, I lost my eyesight to measles. Because I was born to parents who were peasant farmers in Yetnora in rural Ethiopia, an area where access to medical services was poor, I lost my sight to an otherwise treatable disease. Despite this initial challenge early in life, I was afforded an opportunity to attend school when the area chief proposed to my parents that they send me to a boarding school for the blind. When I was six years of age, I left behind my family and all that I knew. It was at the boarding school that my passion for education was born. While boarding school was significant in my development, in hindsight I understand that it surrounded me with a cocoon of protection from reality. I came face-toface with this when I entered high school and began studying with students who could see. It was at this point in life that I realized opportunities for those who could see were markedly different from those of us who were visually impaired.

Members of the public taking part in a legal training facilitated by Yilkal.

This was not an easy time, but as someone who is determined to overcome obstacles, I soldiered on. Whenever there was a hurdle in my way, I found a mechanism through which to overcome it. For instance, I soon realized that not all learning materials were available in Braille, so I found a friend who would read aloud to me. This helped me be successful on my final high school exam. From there on, I was convinced that I could achieve my goals. I now hold a Bachelor’s degree in Law and a Master’s degree in Law. I am a licensed lawyer working as an advocate and a law professor. Early in my first job as a public prosecutor, I realized that, even among friends, my visual impairment was perceived as a disability. Visually impaired public prosecutors were confined to the desk to review case files, research, and draft proposals. At that point, the file would be handed over to a full-sighted public prosecutor to physically present the case before the court. I challenged this system and told my boss that I wanted the opportunity to litigate my own cases. I was the first visually impaired public prosecutor to litigate a case before a court in the area, but soon others followed. Now it is customary to have visually impaired prosecutors appear before the court.

I developed a passion to defend human rights, specifically those of persons living with disabilities. I am the Vice Chair of an association of visually impaired teachers and lecturers. Even with all my accomplishments, I knew that something was missing in my life. It wasn’t until I participated in the Center that I gained the clarity I needed to take the next step in my leadership journey.

I now have the self-confidence I need to achieve my goals, due to my time as a Center participant and alumnus. Where I previously felt isolated, I am now good at building relationships, which enables me to work with others to realize my dreams. The Center is a place of transformation. I know this because it happened to me and I intend to use the tools it provided to change the lives of youth with visual impairments. Thanks to the At the Center I developed ideas on how to expand my Center, I am taking charge of my life and making my association’s reach and impact beyond Ethiopia. Looking dreams a reality. back at the struggles I had as a student, I want to ensure that visually impaired students now have access to information and new technology. I work through the association and local universities to provide them the resources they need to succeed. When I joined the teaching faculty at Debre Berhan University, I collaborated with the administration to introduce computers for visually impaired students. My dream is to have a well-organized audio library and computer center where visually impaired students can access information. I am now a Master of International Law student at Syracuse University in the United States, and I am using this opportunity to build networks that will help me realize ‘my big idea’.

Yilkal (L) facilitating a training session

Yilkal during his Commencement Ceremony at the YALI Regional Leadership Center East Africa.With him is Kimberly Kippels, former YALI Co-ordinator at USAID.

Powering the Albinism Movement in Kenya By Florence Kisombe (Kenya, Cohort 2)

Unlike a majority of other people with Albinism, I was fortunate enough to grow up in a community where I was accepted. My parents played a major role in building my self-confidence because they consistently reminded me that I was beautiful. My elder brother was also born with Albinism, so by the time I was born my parents already knew and understood the condition, ensuring that my brother and I were well cared for and loved. It was not until I was in high school that I began to develop an interest in boys and realized they showed interest in my friends but not in me. With time, I came to understand that they thought I was different and didn’t want to be friends with me. It was only then that I came into contact with real discrimination. Later, when I enrolled in university, I moved to Nairobi where I came to realize the protective environment that I had been afforded through my upbringing. For the first time in my life, I was called derogatory names because of my condition. I went through moments of confusion and hurt, but I refused to let this bring me down and instead tapped into the confidence and self-esteem my parents had nurtured within me. I soon realized that other people with Albinism had similar negative experiences and that due to the discrimination many had low self-esteem. A number of them lived in hiding, preferring invisibility to discrimination. While I was involved with initiatives to support persons with albinism, I was not clear on what I wanted to accomplish.

Everything changed for me when I was accepted as a member of the YALI Regional Leadership Center East Africa’s Cohort 2. One of the courses we were provided was Franklin Covey’s “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” and one of the things we were encouraged to do was to write down our personal vision. When I was thinking about my vision, it became clear to me that I wanted to give back to my community by creating awareness about persons with Albinism. After I graduated from the Center, I began seeking more ways to support my vision and become involved in opportunities to empower persons with Albinism. As such, I volunteered as a director and ambassador with the Colour Kwa Face initiative run by local Kenyan musician Nonini. Volunteers visit schools across the country and share our individual experiences with the students. When I was growing up, I always had a fascination with make-up. Feeling empowered after developing my personal vision at the Center, I made the decision to audition as a model. I now work with photographers and activists posing for photos in order to break the stigma about Albinism. I’m also using the fashion and makeup industry to tell the story of Albinism, hopefully inspiring other young people like me to embrace who they are and to build their self-confidence. I hope through these mediums, society will accept that persons with Albinism are people just like everyone else and deserve to be loved and treated with respect.

Looking forward, because I am passionate about film, photography, and media, I hope to build a career as a television anchor. I will use this platform to tell the story of persons with Albinism. It is an honor to serve as an inspiration to many and I am glad that my photographs have been shared across the region and on mainstream media, including on CNN. I have come to realize and to appreciate that my success is not just for me, but for all people living with Albinism. The path on which I embarked after my time at the Center has changed me and I am grateful for the transformation that has taken place. It is now up to me to share my story and the tools I have been provided with others who are suffering discrimination because of their condition.


Connecting Youth in Democratic Republic of Congo By Dolin Pululu (Democratic Republic of the Congo, Cohort 2) Dolin Pululu (Center)

I came to the YALI Regional Leadership Center’s Cohort 2 on a mission to find my leadership niche. Already interested in information and communication technology, I desired to utilize my skills in both IT and finance to benefit youth and low income people in my country, but the concept for how to do so had escaped me. From the outset, I realized the Center’s learning environment was different from anything I had ever experienced. I learned that communication, problem solving, and innovation were the pathways to where I wanted to go, but it was not until the Design Thinking course that the concept which had alluded me finally came into focus. Once back in the Democratic Republic of Congo, I formed a social enterprise called Creditech that specializes in providing low cost and affordable information technology devices and solutions to youth, educators and to any Congolese citizen that cannot afford them. I believe that access to information and communications technology (ICT) is a basic right that should be available to all regardless of geographical location, social status or financial situation. I also believe that information technology is essential to development and that connectivity brings people together to share ideas and promote innovation. Whether for laptops or smart phones, or other technology Creditech provides a pathway both Congolese youth to procure these products, but also gain access to the training to use them effectively. Under my initiative called “Connect the Teacher and the Student,” I hope to provide ICT solutions for the professional development of teachers as well as their students in order to promote digital literacy in all areas of society. Creditech now has five employees and has provided more than 1,000 Congolese youth and other target customers with a low cost way to utilize technology to enrich their lives, enhance their livelihoods and increase their productivity. For years, I had searched for that one big idea and the ability to make it happen. I found both at the Center and it has allowed me to enrich the lives of my fellow citizens by promoting affordable connectivity, free flow of information, and increased exposure to innovative approaches.

Partners in Progress:

Investing in East and Central Africa’sYouth As part of its sustainability plan, the Center is continuously conducting outreach to organizations in order to initiate new partnerships. From its inception, the Center has enjoyed support from primary partners such as USAID, the MasterCard Foundation, Kenyatta University, and Deloitte along with a host of other organizations. Recently, a number of new partnerships have been finalized and are already making an impact on the Center’s ability to empower youth within the region.

Kenya Commercial Bank:

Kenya Commercial Bank’s (KCB’s) commitment to the Center has already made a profound impact. Focusing on internships, support for the Transformation Fund, opportunities such as alumni participation in the Lion’s Den program, etc., KCB’s partnership provides opportunities for participants and alumni to pursue their entrepreneurial goals.


Rendeavour is providing support to all four RLCs, specifically focusing its efforts on mentorship and capacity building for alumni of the YALI Regional Leadership Center East Africa.

CitiBank: Dow Chemical Company:

Dow’s multi-million dollar global commitment to all the Regional Leadership Centers will add value across the board through mentorships, learning/ curriculum support, innovation enhancement, and creation of visibility. Specific to the YALI Regional Leadership Center East Africa, Dow is providing support for the Transformation Fund via seedfunding to country alumni chapters as they develop initiatives to impact youth. In addition, Dow is assisting the Center in promoting positive stories of impact from its graduates by funding pilot episodes of The Leading Edge television series, which will be distributed around the world by another of the Center’s partners, Africa 24 Media. Eventually, it is the Center’s hope that this program will become a Regional Leadership Center Channel that highlights the stories of impact from all four RLCs in Africa.

CitiBank has made a major commitment to the Center by providing funding through the United States Africa Development Fund (USADF) to sponsor a business plan competition. Through this competition, alumni from Cohorts 2-11 will have the opportunity to compete for startup and/or business expansion grants of up to $10,000 each. CitiBank is also providing funding for the Center to launch a Business Development Services (BDS) support program that provides targeted technical assistance to youth entrepreneurs, helping them gain the tools to grow their enterprises.

Africa 24 Media:

Africa 24 Media is providing production and distribution assistance to highlight the impact of the Center’s alumni. They are doing this through the creation of videos, production of Speaker Series videos, featuring of graduates on its internationally distributed talk show The Scoop, and most recently by filming the pilot episodes for the RLC series.

Family Bank:

Family Bank purchased 50 additional e-learning tablets to assist the Center’s participants in getting the most out of the 8-week virtual learning component that is included in each cohort.



USADF is augmenting the CitiBank-funded business plan competition with its own resources, thus providing more of the Center’s alumni the opportunity to access resources to start and/or expand a business.

Dartmouth College:

Dartmouth’s partnership includes targeted support for the Center’s learning and curriculum environment as well as the provision of a Dartmouth Research Fellow to compile and analyze data for monitoring and evaluation.

Nailab has agreed to provide entrepreneurial support to up to 10 of the Center’s participants and graduates working on startups or business expansion.

The Center’s other partners, including Microsoft, Intel, Atlas, Atlas Mara, Cisco, Proctor & Gamble, Africa Working, Global Giveback Circle, mElimu, ONE.org, Africa 24 Media, McKinsey and Company, IBM, and Equity Bank provide a variety of crucial support to make the Center both visible and effective.This support not only boosts the Center’s sustainability, but also provides opportunities for its graduates and participants. The Center is always looking for new partners! Please contact Maggie Kamau-Biruri (maggie.kamau@yalieastafrica.org) or Edna Gathigia (edna.gathigia@yalieastafrica.org) for more information.

Impact that Matters The YALI Regional Leadership Center East Africa opened its doors for the first time on July 20, 2015. More than 17 months later, 905 young African leaders have graduated from 11 Cohorts. The following snapshots provide a brief overview of how some Center participants and alumni are making a difference in their communities and thus enriching the lives of youth in the region.

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO Kakel Mbumb, Cohort 6 - Democratic Republic of Congo Was invited to participate in the “The Future of Work Dialogues for Young People in Fragile States” workshop held in Sierra Leone and organized by the International Labour Organization. Delegates were selected based upon their ranking and results as entrepreneurs within their respective fields. Kakel represented DRC’s agribusiness sector.

DJIBOUTI Yanie Ayoun, Cohort 7 - Djibouti Held the first runway show for her clothing line Alaweelo. This show is the next step in Yanie’s launch of her first line. To see photos of the show, click here. This show is the first step in Yanie’s plan to take the line first regional and then international, while at the same time providing economic opportunities for Djiboutian women.

KENYA Amani Katana, Cohort 8 Was invited to join the KUZA Project Advisory Board under the stewardship of Adam Smith International in order to address root causes of youth unemployment in Mombasa, Kenya. Additionally, Amani’s waste management business, Garb Tech, was selected as one of the top 50 Most Significant and Sustainable Ideas in Africa by the African Entrepreneurship Award.

Brian Muthuri , Cohort 5 Represented Kenya and Jomo Kenyatta University at the East African Community’s (EAC’s) University Student’s Debate Competition in Kigali, Rwanda. Brian’s team won first place and he was officially appointed as EAC Deputy Youth Ambassador to Kenya.

Amy Ochiel Ochieng , Cohort 3 The founder of Wings of Hope, an organization that provides sanitary towels and mentorship programs to girls, organized outreach events in June and September. During the visit to Star Rays High School in Kibera, Wings of Hope provided enough sanitary towels to allow the female students to stay in school for at least five to eight months, and during a visit to Kajiado Adventist School, the organization donated clothes and a made a meal for the students.

Eric Omwonda, Cohort 1 A co-founder of the Mathare Foundation, which offers free classes and organizes events in performing arts, photography, and sports, was presented with the Commonwealth Youth Worker Award for the Africa Region.

John Orimbo , Cohort 10 Organized a civically-conscious outing for fellow Cohort 10 participants while in Nairobi for the three week residential portion of program. This outreach to the Malezi Community Center located in the Majengo slum within Nairobi allowed the cohort participants to give back to the community through support to disadvantaged children. John and his cohortmates sang nursery rhymes, played children’s games, and distributed books, pens, and sharpeners. John hopes that subsequent cohorts will also participate in a civic social service project either in Majengo or another location. Photos of this outreach can be found here. Tabbey Sindani , Cohort 3 Was accepted to the African Union’s Volunteer Corps in Addis Ababa and after excelling in her duties, was given the opportunity to join the Training and Development division, in which she is the youngest team member.

KENYA & TANZANIA Carolyne Kamau, Cohort 1

Carolyne Kandusi, Cohort 1

Mohammed Salum, Cohort 10

Were invited as special guests on the radio show on DW Idhaa Ya Kiswahili radio station based in Bonn, Germany. During their 45-minute discussion with the host, they recounted their experiences at the Center and shared some of the tools that were provided to them.

RWANDA Priscilla Natukunda, Cohort 2 Was selected as one of only 10 AFRINIC (African Internet Community) fellows to attend the AFRINIC-25 meeting held in Mauritius at the end of November. The Fellowship is reserved for individuals representing small organizations, universities, and media who are actively involved in internet operations and development or information/communications technology policies in their countries.

UGANDA Carol Nandozi, Cohort 10 Helped to organize the #AARSE2016 Bi-Annual Conference in Kampala and presented a paper entitled, Uganda’s Bird Species: Case Study on the Grey Crested Crane. The paper focused on how climate change will impact Uganda’s national bird in terms of breeding, feeding, and survival.

Profile for YALI Regional Leadership Center East Africa

The Leading Edge December 2016  

Stories of impact from YALI Regional Leadership Center East Africa

The Leading Edge December 2016  

Stories of impact from YALI Regional Leadership Center East Africa