If there is anything that could keep the youth occupied, skilled, empowered with opportunities, and profitably engaged, these are fellowships.
A fellowship is a programme that is about short term opportunities, trainings, and research about something new, developing an initiative, and advanced studies.
Josephine Nkurunziza is one of the few who attended the Mandela Washington Fellowship (MWF) for Young African Leaders Initiative –YALI in USA last year and her area of interest was civil leadership since she wanted to impact lives of women and adolescent girls by empowering them.
She was connected to the centre of global women leadership that leads different women in one of the Universities, and she spoke to a number of women advocates’ about gender and women empowerment; here she got more skills that she brought back home.
“I believe that, if the girls are taught how to behave especially during their adolescent stage, for example, how to dress, how to be patient in life to prevent unwanted and early pregnancies, to focus on their studies and to live their dream, they would be responsible people in society,” she explains.
Why are fellowships beneficial?
“Fellowships increase openness and creativity of students, they are great opportunities to share academic insights on specific topics,” says Celestin Hategekimana, a lecturer and an expert in Development Studies at University of Kibungo.
Hategekimana adds that fellowships are imperative as they help students share knowledge and experiences both from international and local universities through the study tours, and as for the university, involving students in fellowships increases opportunities to detect talents for possible empowerment.
According to Frank Rubaduka, a campus coordinator of Africa Youth Leadership Forum at Independent University of Kigali, the purpose of this fellowship is to gather young leaders with external leaders to discuss issues about leadership, share testimonies, strength, weaknesses and encouraging themselves about how they can be better leaders of tomorrow.
Rubaduka says, “The fellowship opens doors for young leaders to network and access opportunities since they meet many business people and leaders in and outside Rwanda. This also offers the possibility of getting internship placements and employment.”
He adds that fellowships are a source of sponsorship for degrees, masters and further studies as he gives an example of the connections he got from fellowships that enabled him get sponsorship for his Bachelor’s Degree in Development Studies.
For Vanessa Rukundo, a member of Rwanda Toastmasters club, this fellowship aims at boosting confidence, public speaking and leadership skills for the youth.
She adds that, just like the club’s mission states, “to provide a mutually supportive and positive learning environment in which every individual member has the opportunity to develop oral communication and leadership skills,” this fosters self-confidence and personal growth.
Rukundo and her colleagues have been able to mentor, learn the art of public speaking and leadership as they help each other grow and improve, she says that one does not need to be fluent, accurate, or eloquent but rather what matters is whether you can share what you have learnt with others.
Cheez Bienvenue Murangwa, the executive director of Root fellowship, notes that this fellowship grooms University students, local and international young volunteers who are contributing to finding social solutions in Rwandan communities.
“Today, we help 170 children and youths pursue their studies, understand their potentials and also started a centre for them in Kigali to develop their talents,” Murangwa states.
Who is entitled to join fellowship programmes?
Those who are 18 years and above and would like to learn or improve on their confidence through communication and public speaking or even wish to learn leadership skills to be of great importance to society, this is the time you should join fellowships, Rukundo says.
Hategekimana enlightens that within the fellowship process, different people intervene at different levels with different capacities for example universities, lecturers, students, research institutions, Non Government Organisations, among others.
He states that you don’t need money to join fellowships; however, there are minimum requirements for one to join, that is to say, you must be a good academic performer, knowledgeable in a specific field and well disciplined.
When do fellowship members meet?
For Root fellowship, entrance is free and members meet every last Wednesday of the month at Goethe-institute and some of the topics they discuss include intercultural friendship, youth unemployment, among others.
MWF selects youths every year and those that happen to pass the interview get a chance to go to the USA to train according to their fields of interest with all expenses paid for by the USA government, (this how to apply, http://yali.state.gov/)
Members of Africa Youth Leadership fellowship meet every once in a month to network with people of the same mind (fellow leaders from different universities), and to also discuss important issues to keep them on track of their dreams and visions.
Rwanda Toastmasters club members meet every Wednesday from 7pm to 8:30pm at Hilltop Hotel in Remera.
Esther Uwibambe, entrepreneur
I attended the Young African Leadership Initiative in Nairobi from February 11 to March 9 where I was part of the Civic Leadership track. Through the design thinking classes, we exercised our problem solving skills and learnt how to design solutions that are needed for our communities. I was transformed and empowered through the training and got the zeal to use the knowledge to help develop Rwanda.
Angel Kayitesi, student
I am glad I was among the lucky few that took part in the Entrepreneurship Leadership Boot-Camp under ‘Hope for the Youth’ which aims at teaching entrepreneurial skills to the youth. We formed a group of 15 to prepare a project that would create job opportunities. This is a competition among different youths in Kigali. We will present our project soon and, if we win, we will get support from RGB.
Henry Mugwiza, student
Through academic fellowship under the theme “Academic excellence in our Native Country,” I was equipped with business ideas which are a result of passion of what you want to do and always doing it to the best of your ability.
Christine Murekatete, student
I was part of the Maxwell Leadership trainings for three years where I was equipped with skills on how a leader can use some of the dominating styles to communicate to those they lead. Communication is vital in our daily life. However, I also have another fellowship that I attend every last Saturday of the month where we discuss savings and encourage each other to save and to innovate