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13 Jul 2019 at 11:38hrs | Views
Thembelihle Terry-Lynne Zulu is the founder of Girl Grandeur Zimbabwe which is a social club for women. She is one of the 42 fellows selected to represent Zimbabwe at this year's Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders (YALI) in the Civic Leadership track at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. In the United States of America.

Over 42 000 applications were received this year for 700 spots in this prestigious programme. Young African Leaders from across the continent have been placed in American universities for the next 6 weeks.

The reporter caught up with Thembi and she shared her experiences in the program so far.

Why did you apply for YALI?

Ever since I was 19 I instinctively knew that I wanted to be in the civic society. I was very active in the community, volunteering here, there everywhere. From there I started my own things and I realised that ideas don't work on their own. You need skills and expertise. That's why I applied for the YALI program, so that I could learn how to upscale my initiatives and make them viable.

How does one apply for the Mandela Washington Fellowship?

Applications open round about the last quarter of the year so from September keep your eyes open. It's an online application form with essay questions about your work, experiences and expectations. You can't develop these things overnight. So start looking for opportunities in your community that you can be involved in. Think about what problems you can solve for the people around you? Get the work done. You can apply for the business or civic leadership track.

What advice would you give to a YALI applicant?

So I got rejected the first time I applied. I always thought since I'm a writer, I'm a good one. Apparently not. My first application I did by myself and the second one I had my mentor look it over. The project was the same. I was the same but having someone else read my essay responses made all the difference. You know your vision, but will someone who doesn't know it be able to understand it the way you do? Each country has a way of communicating, if Zimbabweans are reading your Zimbabwean application, they'd get it but the markers come from all over the globe. There's probably nothing wrong with your work, you're just not bringing it out enough to stand out from thousands of applications.

What have you learnt so far from the YALI program?

It's so hard to pick one. When you apply they tell you that it's an intensive program. So it's all this information packed into 6 weeks. Everyday you're learning something new. But I enjoyed the Clifton Strengths test. This is a personality test that ranks your strengths. This is relevant because humans have different strengths and knowing your strengths, will help you utilise them better. Which makes you more productive and more fulfilled.

What's it like being with other young African leaders?

It's exciting! You have no idea how riveting it is being in a class with bright minds. They will definitely challenge you. I love how heated debates get during class. It's fun to watch. LOL. On a more serious note, I love how we've come together with different backgrounds and ideas to share our experiences and expertise. What you'll notice is that each country is doing things differently and there is so much to learn from that diversity. For example, Lilian is from Kenya and in Kenya the blogging industry has the Bloggers Association of Kenya which governs content creators. I've been discussing with Lilian to see how Zimbabwe's budding content creation industry can learn from the Kenya model. This is just one of the many ideas that have been learnt from my fellow Fellows.

Who is your favourite Mandela Fellow and why?

This is an unfair question. How do I pick just one? They are all my favourite at different things but work wise Thembiso Magajana is my favourite to work with. This is because our interests are aligned. She is the founder of Social Coding which teaches young high school girls how to code. I pale in comparison because I'm just teaching them how to blog. Ultimately, our goal is the same, giving young girls digital skills and perhaps some day both Zimbabwean and South African girls can be coding bloggers. Or they code our bloggers' sites, I don't know, haven't worked out all the kinks yet. There's definitely opportunities to collaborate with all the fellows. One thing I've learnt is I have something to offer even if that isn't my line of work.

What's been the highlight of your YALI experience so far?

I've always watched American university movies and seen how being valedictorian is such a competitive role. So, I wanted to be valedictorian but hey it's never happened. Then I was asked to address the room during the formal welcome reception for Mandela Fellows to Nebraska leadership. I thought boy oh boy, here's my chance! Augustine from Nigeria went first, got the crowd riled up and I followed through and finished strong! I can cross that off my bucket list.

After YALI, what will you do when you get home?

When I get home I'll probably encourage other people to apply for this fellowship, it's really worth it. In terms of my work, I've already started implementing some of the things that we have learnt and putting them into practice before I forget because everyday we are learning so much. I believe you must strike while the iron is hot and that's exactly what I'm doing.

Source - Byo24News
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