Some of the 30 young Zimbabwean participants in this year's edition of the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders (YALI) say they are all set for the coveted exchange and ready for the long flight to the United States.
They are part of a 500-member team drafted from various African countries to benefit from President Barack Obama’s flagship skills building program that saw the same number of participants last year.
One of them is journalist and Herald newspaper Features editor Roselyne Sachiti, who will be interning with the University of Virginia.
Sachiti has a passion for stories that concern the girl child and women - running the gamut from health to domestic violence.
So why the interest in these specific issues?
“They matter to me because I grew up in a community where I would see women being violated against,” Sachiti told VOA Studio 7.
“You would see them being beaten up but as a child you don’t understand that this is domestic violence; you think it’s part of life.”
But as she grew up, the award-winning journalist says she started distinguishing violence as the obnoxious scourge that it is.
“The Lord does not allow women or anyone else to be violated against,” Sachiti added. “That’s what gave me the strength to write about domestic violence issues.”
The participants’ backgrounds are diverse. Some are civil society players, some entrepreneurship, and others are media personnel.
Bulawayo-based Martin Ndlovu is the founder of Skyhub, a tech company that enables disadvantaged youths an opportunity to innovate and set up their businesses.
“Since I started last year in the garage, we’ve had over 70 young entrepreneurs coming through our gates, all coming with different ideas,” said Ndlovu.
“Some of them have started working with big companies like Econet. Skyhub is a space where people come with their ideas for making apps, building websites.
“So we offer the space to them so that they come and work on whatever they have, meet other people who can help them and join their company,” Ndlovu added.
And his biggest expectation?
“… to meet people, to create networks with people,” Ndlovu said. “I’m not looking to get anything instantly. I want to build networks with people who can in future help me with business, skill development which I would then pass to the community that will be coming to the hub.”
Yvonne Jila champions the empowerment of women, especially from the countryside, through film.
She works with the International Images Film Festival for Women and the Women Filmmakers of Zimbabwe.
For her, film is an effective vehicle to drive her message because “film is a language spoken by everyone and anyone.”
“Whether it’s in Shona, English or Ndebele, when people are watching you can tell that they are following from the emotional look on their faces,” Jila said.
Just like any other YALI fellow, Jila was upbeat, saying she was looking forward to the fellowship so she could “enhance my advocacy skills and increase my knowledge on issues to do with women.”
She will be interning with the University of California.
The Mandela Washington Fellowship was established by Obama in honor of former South African president and anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela to “invest in the future of Africa.”
Fellows will undergo an intensive six weeks training in executive leadership, networking and skills building followed by a Presidential Summit in Washington, D.C.
Through the initiative, “young African leaders are gaining the skills and connections they need to accelerate their own career trajectories and contribute more robustly to strengthening democratic institutions, spurring economic growth, and enhancing peace and security in Africa.”