My YALI RLC EA Cohort 27 Commencement Speech

One of my highlights of 2018, was being voted as the woman to give the commencement speech at the YALI RLC EA Cohort 27 graduation. It was an incredible honour. I must admit, I doubted in my ability to be voted as the one to give the commencement speech, however, when I did it, I did feel like I had delivered. I am continuously grateful for the belief and trust in me to carry out this task. Please view my speech below:

Dear fellow participants of cohort 27, the YALI Regional Leadership Centre East Africa team and all other distinguished guests.

It’s a great honour for me to be one of two class representatives chosen to speak on behalf of the cohort today, elected through popular vote.

When I told my mother the news, she said that this is the start of my political journey. And though I laughed about it, I remembered that this is exactly what YALI RLC EA is about; Building and shaping leaders, by catalysing their personal and professional transformation.

It’s been an incredible four weeks, with ups and downs, and challenges that forced us to re-examine the beliefs we held about another country or culture, or bad habits that we needed to abandon in order to become more effective leaders in our own personal and professional lives.

We are an incredibly diverse group of young leaders, inundated with talent, filled with different life experiences, bursting with knowledge and aspirations. We come from all walks of life. Some of us had it easy, like myself, but some of us did not. Some of us are urbanites from East Africa and some of us are from the very rural corners of our countries. Some of us want to bring water to the people and some of us want to make women realise their full earning potential. But one thing that is certain is that we are all leaders in our respective communities and we all desire to make a considerable impact at home.

The first week was our arrival on a new journey, where we encountered new faces that we had never seen, or names that we had never heard of before. The two day retreat became the opportunity to turn this around. Some of us conquered our fear of heights, and some of us saw it as another adrenaline filled challenge to tick off our bucket list. The first week really showed us, just how important it was for us to trust one another, in order to complete a task successfully.

The second week was a holistic approach in how we view Africa, the better habits we should adopt and how to design an innovative solution to a problem affecting our society. We were challenged to learn about other countries, and confront some of the bad habits we possess. We unlocked our creative side, and some of us, like myself, did not know we had the capacity to be creative.

In the third week we recapped all we learned, to answer a real life question of our track specific design challenge. We prototyped, prototyped and prototyped. We worked well in our teams for a moment, but then wanted to work independently for the rest of the week. Some of us even had our set solutions, but by the start of the 4th week, we had new solutions. Yesterday, we showcased our masterpieces, that one week ago, we could not have imagined.

Five years ago I reconnected with home, armed with a Great British bachelors degree, but realising that was not necessarily what was needed back home in my native South Sudan. What was needed is what I tried to develop over the years. YALI RLC EA helps contribute to what my country and what our continent needs; transformed young leaders.

Africa is rising, and that is what this great initiative is supporting. 4 years on, over 2500 alumni and 27 cohorts in, there is no shortage of change makers in Africa. We are breaking barriers, we are innovators. We are the Sunrise generation.

I want us all to remember that being here was a privilege we all earned through our commitment to our communities, and making it here today was a promise we all kept. The communities we come from are owed the lessons we have learned and the skills we have gained and sharpened during our time as cohort 27.

I would like to thank all of you amazing fellow participants for your commitment to the program and to the continent. I would like to thank YALI RLC EA partners USAID, MasterCard, Deloitte and Kenyatta University. Last but not least, I would like to express my sincerest gratitude to the YALI RLC EA team for equipping us with lessons and knowledge, to help us create the Africa we want.

Let’s make Africa great again.

Thank you.

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