During a recent town hall meeting with 500 young African leaders, President Obama announced the expansion of his Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) and the renaming of the Washington Fellowship Programme after the late South African president, Nelson Mandela. Through YALI, the United States is investing in the next generation of African leaders, and has committed significant resources to enhance leadership skills, bolster entrepreneurship, and connect young African leaders with one another, the United States, and the American people.
Below is the speech given by President Obama at the meeting:
“Now, I’m not here to give a big speech. The whole idea of a town hall is for me to be able to hear from you. But first, I want to speak briefly about why I believe so strongly in all of you being here today.
Next week, I’ll host a truly historic event -- the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit, where nearly 50 Presidents and Prime Ministers attend from just about all of your countries. It will be the largest gathering any American President has ever hosted with African heads of state and government. And the summit reflects a principle that has guided my approach to Africa ever since I became President -- that the security and prosperity and justice that we seek in the world cannot be achieved without a strong and prosperous and self-reliant Africa.
And even as we deal with crises and challenges in other parts of the world that often dominate our headlines, even as we acknowledge the real hardships that so many Africans face every day, we have to make sure that we’re seizing the extraordinary potential of today’s Africa, which is the youngest and fastest-growing of the continents.
So next week’s summit will focus on how we can continue to build a new model of partnership between America and Africa -- a partnership of equals that focuses on your capacity to expand opportunity and strengthen democracy and promote security and peace. But this can’t be achieved by government alone. It demands the active engagement of citizens, especially young people.
And so that’s why, four years ago, I launched the Young African Leaders Initiative to make sure that we’re tapping into the incredible talent and creativity of young Africans like you. (Applause.) Since then, we’ve partnered with thousands of young people across the continent -- empowering them with the skills and the training and technology they need to start new businesses, to spark change in their communities, to promote education and health care and good governance.
And last year in South Africa, at a town hall like this in Soweto -- some of you were there -— I announced the next step, which was the Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders. The objective was to give young Africans the opportunity to come to the United States and develop their skills as the next generation of leaders in civil society and business and government.
And the response was overwhelming. Across the continent, young men and women set out on a journey. In remote villages with no phones and Internet, they navigated the back roads, and they traveled by bus and train to reach larger towns and cities
-— just to get an online application for the programme. One young woman from rural Zimbabwe took a five-hour bus ride, then another six-hour bus ride, then another seven-hour bus ride -- a two-day journey -— just to get her interview.
And ultimately, some 50,000 extraordinary young Africans applied. And today they’re at the heart of what we’re calling our YALI Network, the online community across Africa that’s sharing their ideas and forging new collaborations to realize the change that they seek. And I want everybody out there in the YALI Network to know that you’re the foundation of our partnership with Africa’s youth.
So today, we’re thrilled to welcome you, our Washington Fellows, to an exchange programme unlike any other that America has ever had with Africa. And among your ranks is that young woman from Zimbabwe who endured all those bus rides. So we want to welcome Abbigal Muleya. (Applause.) Where’s Abbigal? Where’s Abbigal? Where is she? There’s Abbigal. (Applause.) That's a lot of bus rides. (Laughter.)
Now, I do have a first item of business. As I said, I launched this fellowship in Soweto, not far from the original home of Nelson Mandela. And the spirit of this programme reflects Madiba’s optimism, his idealism, his belief in what he called “the endless heroism of youth.” And so today, with the blessing of the Mandela family, to whom we’re so grateful, we are proud to announce that the new name of this programme is the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders. (Applause.) So you’re the first class of Mandela Washington Fellows. (Applause.)
Now, I know all of you have been busy -- all of you have been busy at some of America’s top colleges and universities. You’ve been learning how to build a grassroots organization, and how to run a business, and how to manage an institution. As one of you said, “My brain has been bubbling with all sorts of ideas.” And I know you’ve also been developing your own ideas for meeting the challenges that we’ll address at next week’s summit. And I wanted you to know I’ve read some of the recommendations that were produced at each university and college, and I thought they were outstanding pieces of work. And that’s what I want you to hear today -— your ideas, your vision for Africa.
What do we look like as an African YMCA movement? And how are we building a sustainable base so that we can be mission-driven to empower our young people for the Renaissance of our beloved Africa? These two questions will be answered at our upcoming 10th Ordinary General Meeting to be held in Senegal in October, through two innovations: The Sustainability Awards and the Marketplace.
The Sustainability Awards celebrate initiatives for sustainability and create a best practice base for innovate resource mobilisation through a competition that is currently being run in the African YMCA National Movements. The prize is a trip for two from the winning National Movement to attend the prestigious NAYDO conference in April 2015 in Atlanta, Georgia. There, they will present their resource mobilisation innovations, within the context of the African YMCA Economic Model. NAYDO is an international conference to exchange learning and build relationships for resource mobilisation and organisation sustainability with YMCAs around the World. NAYDO is attended by YMCAs in USA, Mexico Canada, Latin America, and Asia-Pacific.
The Marketplace provides an exhibition space to share and learn more about one another and also involves running an onsite membership campaign competition – with professional design work as prizes attached to each element.
Barely a day goes by without reading or hearing a story of violence amongst relationships within Zimbabwe. Most of these stories end in tragedy. Young people have been subjected to violence which happens within their homes and surroundings. Violence prevention programmes such as the Transformative Masculinity programme are helping to shape our society and indeed young people to desist from violent behaviours of any kind.
The socio-cultural construction of masculinity is central to the problem of men's violence against women, as well as the basis of potential sources of prevention. It is the role of society to support programmes that will help reduce men's violence against women by challenging and reconstructing predominant male norms and notions over women. It is also the role of society to promote and help cultivate healthier attitudes and behaviours amongst young people, especially the young men. This role is however, being neglected by society as concentration is now on bread and butter issues.
In the first half of 2014, the two implementing branches of the Zimbabwe YMCA (Bulawayo and Kadoma) held a programme orientation with key stakeholders to update and discuss the way-forward for the programme. The two events were well attended with stakeholders pledging support to the program. One of the key events that was lined up for the day were the intergenerational forums where young people held discussions with elders on how changes in culture have contributed in shaping the way young people behave. Another discussion also centred on the ‘Gender issues in young people in the context of HIV and AIDS’. This led to a heated debate on ‘Date Rape’ with some young men arguing that it doesn’t exist while women saying there have been many victims of ‘Date Rape’.
It is only through programmes such as Transformative Masculinity which re-define, re-order and re-orient youth masculinity that we will help to ensure a generation that treats each other, men and women, with respect.
By Sehlile Maphosa, Zimbabwe YMCA
The Act2Live Youth Health Initiative in Liberia continues to implement activities aimed at responding to the health needs of vulnerable groups of young people in response to the A2L youth led survey findings published in 2012. High on the list of concern was Fistula, which affects 55% of young women who suffered pregnancy complications and 31% of HIV/AIDs cases among young women.
In order to strengthen project synergy with partners, the Liberia YMCA A2L Initiative conducted a one day stakeholder meeting, which brought together 15 health actors from the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare and other key partners. A prime focus of the agenda was the review of the Advocacy Strategy and necessary amendments made for effective and result based engagements.
Similarly, a three day peer education training support was provided to 30 old and new project volunteers from 12 communities in Bong, Lofa and Montserrado counties. This training provided specific skills in implementing community health interventions among the key project target: motorcyclists, teenage mothers and petty traders.
Moreover, the project recently embarked on the fight against Ebola, the deadly disease which has killed over 640 people in West Africa since the outbreak in March of this year. The A2L team organised a training and awareness session for staff and volunteers of the YMCA. As Ebola remains a public health emergency, plans are underway to reach the larger community through similar interventions and community awareness on the prevention of the further spread of Ebola.
Source: Liberia YMCA
As we continue to follow the news about the conflict situation in the Middle East, I keep communicating with some of our young people in Gaza to get updates and share solidarity.
Ramy Al-Jelda, another of our Change Agents wrote to me about how things are related to this conflict and how it is affecting his daily life.
Even after being denied permission to cross the border to join us in the USA for the World Council, he kept his motivation for service while watching the deterioration of the circumstances in Gaza in the past days.
His plan was to also attend a Youth Conference in India in August, a travel that, once more, won’t be possible in the light of the ongoing humanitarian catastrophe in the region.
He also says he’s “safe” during our Facebook exchanges and I wonder myself how safe is it while at the same time I am watching television and hearing that there is no such place. It is just too many people for a relatively small geographic area.
Does he feel safe?
“To be honest I feel insecure and unsafe at home!. Nothing to do except praying, tracking news, eating and a little bit of sleeping hours, being afraid of the airstrikes and loud bombardment that may hit my home at any time.” He says.
Reflecting on it, I think “safe” can be easily translated to “alive”.
He shares about his “unbearable stress” caused by the “horrifying noises of the explosions coming from all sides, day and night.” It’s hard to establish any routine to keep the mind busy but, under all of that, it is clear to me that the flame of hope is there and very alive. He talks about the inspiration he got from the work as Change Agent in the past months and his memories from Prague festival.
As I heard and saw that some young leaders of the YMCA are involved in relief activities, I asked about his involvement and he says: “YMCA GAZA haven't allowed us to go to schools for psychological support as they are afraid of us being in danger because schools can be a target as it happened with the UNRWA school… so Hani and Rami and some other youth went to schools on their own”
“I have a dream to live in peace, move and travel freely and participate easily with youth empowerment plans similar to all young people in the Y movement around the globe”
As I look at the picture above from Ramy, looking to the horizon, I see a young man full of visions and dreams. He’s a digital artist, a very well educated youngster, and a kind person who is respected by his fellows in the community yet, a young person feeling the deep injustices of the world in his skin and heart.
As we continue to pray and communicate, we hope that those eyes of hope and confidence looking to the horizon can lead us to a different reality.
By Romulo Dantas
Source: World Alliance of YMCAs
With preparations underway for the United Nations to take over from an African Union-led peacekeeping mission in the Central African Republic (CAR), the Security Council today requested Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to review what was done and how it could be done better in future transitions.
The request was made during the Council's open debate on regional partnership and its evolution in UN peacekeeping, which focused on the Organization's relevant cooperation with African regional groups, as well as with entities under the auspices of the European Union (EU).
The Council expressed its determination "to take effective steps to further enhance the relationship between the United Nations and regional and subregional organizations, in particular the African Union," according to a resolution adopted by the body's 15 members.
The meeting, the second held this year on this topic, comes about one year after the African Union-led International Support Mission in Mali (AFISMA) was transitioned to the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA).
In the resolution, the Council highlighted the need to develop regional and subregional organizations' abilities to deploy peacekeeping forces rapidly to support UN 'blue helmets'. In this context, Council members asked the UN chief to initiate, in cooperation with the AU, a lessons learned exercise and to produce specific recommendations by 31 December.
The Council also called for the development of a list of needed capacities and recommendations that would help the AU develop its military, police, technical, logistical and administrative capacities.
Addressing the Council, Mr. Ban said the UN is "in a race against time for the re-hatting" of the African-led International Support Mission in the Central African Republic, known as MISCA, to create the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission, known as MINUSCA.
The new UN Mission will initially comprise up to 10,000 military personnel, including 240 military observers and 200 staff officers, as well as 1,800 police personnel. The CAR has been embroiled in fighting currently fuelled by inter-communal retaliatory attacks between anti-balaka and Séléka rebels, after the latter were ousted from power in January 2014. An estimated 2.2 million people are in need of humanitarian aid as a result.
Given the great need and the slower than expected support for the Mission, Mr. Ban underscored that "we - the UN, the AU and the EU, together with other key partners - need to do better."
He stressed that the international community must use existing mechanisms and capacity more effectively and predictably, and to stop looking at different tools in isolation and only through the lens of the relevant organizations.
"Instead, we should see how we can bring them together in a way that will finally allow the international community to respond much more quickly," Mr. Ban added.
Source: All Africa
In a guest column for AllAfrica, E. Gyimah Boadi of Ghana's Center for Democratic Development says the vast majority of Africans who prefer democracy over authoritarian regimes deserve to be heard at the forthcoming U.S.-Africa Summit convened by President Barack Obama.
The child kidnappings by Boko Haram have done a great deal for Africa's critics and its strongmen. Legitimate concerns about security in some areas - Nigeria's northern villages, South Sudan and the Central African Republic - can lead to the assertion that Africa is not ready for democracy.
The notion that strong authoritarian governments create the best protection against perceived African instability, both political and economic, will likely be expressed once again at the United States-Africa Summit, to be convened on August 5 and 6.
But that is not what African people say. Majorities endorse freedom, not authoritarian governments - and those majorities deserve to be heard as their leaders and the President Obama shape America's evolving African engagement.
Seven out of ten Africans prefer democracy to other political regimes, and the proportion of deeply committed democrats - those who also reject authoritarian alternatives - has risen steadily over the past decade, according to Afrobarometer, a network of researchers who have surveyed African opinion since 1999.
Of course, the state of democracy shows great variety across Africa. Fewer than half of all adults profess to prefer democracy in Madagascar (38 percent) and Swaziland (46 percent), where open elections have been repeatedly disputed, postponed, or never held at all. By contrast, almost everyone expresses support for democracy in Senegal (88 percent) and Zambia (90 percent), where recent elections have led to peaceful turnovers of national leaders.
In countries like Ghana, Senegal, Zambia and Mauritius, citizens' endorsements of democracy as the best kind of government are matched by high levels of satisfaction with their own governments' performances. These consolidated democracies deserve high levels of American aid, trade and investment.
The United States should also encourage such countries to continue improving the accountability of leaders to their people, in order to sustain people's beliefs that they can influence their own development by voting in fair elections and campaigning for the services and rights they need.
Several other countries, including Cote d'Ivoire, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Uganda, Togo, and Cameroon show severe "democratic deficits". People in these countries share democratic aspirations with their more liberal neighbors, but their judgment of the state of governance is far lower: they demand more democracy than they are getting.
This makes it likely that ruling elites in these countries will continue to face popular pressures for improved democratic governance. Failure to meet these popular demands can produce social discontent that more radical forces can exploit, as we have seen most recently in Mali and Nigeria.
The implications for Western policies towards Africa are clear. Helping to strengthen democratic institutions is consistent with popular aspirations, and d emocracy is an essential part of African aspirations and the continent's future development.
Capitulating to the continent's dictators and strongmen - whether justified as a needed concession to security, or a pragmatic emphasis on "development first" - may create the deep dissatisfaction with governments experienced in Mali and in North African countries such as Egypt and Tunisia during the Arab Spring.
The accountability of leaders in such countries would be further undermined if strategic U.S. interventions are too narrowly focused on short-term geo-political and economic considerations, and ultimately supportive of autocratic regimes. Such moves would be contrary to the popular desire for democratic governance.
The forthcoming summit offers a unique opportunity for dialogue, engagement, and consensus on Africa's development and relations with the U.S. While economic and strategic issues are certainly important, this is not a moment when democratic change should be relegated to a lesser status. The opinions of average Africans sharply emphasize the importance of governments accountable to the people on the continent.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry recently said: "This is a moment of great opportunity for Africans. It is also a moment of decision." Let U.S. policy support governments and aid spending that increase citizens' participation in the most important decisions of their future.
E. Gyimah-Boadi is the executive director of Center for Democratic Development (CDD-Ghana), in Accra, Ghana, and of Afrobarometer, a survey project tracking public opinion on democratic and economic reforms in 34 African countries. He is also a professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Ghana, Legon. He received his PhD from the University of California, Davis.
Source: All Africa
In a show of solidarity for those affected by the ongoing conflict in the Middle East, YMCAs throughout the world have released statements and sent letters to leaders calling for intervention, justice and peace in the region.
Both the Africa Alliance of YMCAs and the World Alliance of YMCAs released a statement last week condemning the violence against civilians, and most especially youth, in the Gaza region. Expressing deep concern for the state of freedom in Gaza, Carlos Sanvee, the General Secretary of the Africa Alliance of YMCAs stated that "peace in the region can not come without justice. The attacks on Gaza are disproportionate and the greatest victims of this conflict are innocent youth and children."
This week, Eduardo Ibichian, President of Argentina YMCA, and Norberto Rodriguez, Secretary General of Argentina YMCA, sent a letter to Argentinean Ambassadors from Israel and Palestine. The letter states (translated from Spanish):
"The [global] community is in state of shock before the events that are happening in the Middle East, with its epicentre in the Gaza Strip and the State of Israel. Nothing justifies the death, and less [the death of] children and innocent civilians. It is observed, with great concern, a disproportionate reaction which has its correlate in the horrifying escalation of victims in the Gaza Strip... Violence, paraphrasing the Holy Father Francis, is not resolved with more violence."
In a similar move, the YMCA of Japan, "sent a letter to the former Senior Vice Minister of Foreign Affair, who has been a member of YMCA" to take any possible action to halt violence in the region.
In explaining their actions, Shigeru Shimada, General Secretary of the National Council of YMCAs of Japan, stated that the "Gaza Strip is separated by tall walls and people cannot move out freely. It is like a bird cage and concentrated asylum. To attack people in the cage is another holocaust. At this moment many children and citizens are killed by [the] absurd attack and violence. We, [as a] YMCA, should stand up for peace and justice and change the way of solution by violence to solution by dialog. This is the very moment to take action for peace. The National Council of YMCAs of Japan appeals to all Japan YMCAs to commence the international cooperation fund for the relief work of the Gaza YMCA."
The YMCAs of Europe have joined the show of support for the region. Juan Simoes Iglesias, Secretary General of YMCA Europe said, "The daily news coming from the region shows how dramatic the situation is with open war and an escalation of victims. The whole international community is shocked while a solution that brings peace and justice to the communities seems to be far away. We keep our hope alive, praying for the immediate end of any sort of violence and the peaceful coexistence of peoples. This wish is strongly connected with our deep YMCA values and the way we understand human dignity in all nations."
By Africa Alliance of YMCAs
Source: YMCAs of Argentina, Europe and Japan.
When my eldest son, Firas, was born on 14 November 2008, I told my wife that I wish his future to be safer than the one we had during the first and the second Intifada, when we were young. It wasn't a safe childhood.
On 27 December 2008 at 11:30am the first war on Gaza began; 70 F16 Israeli Air craft attacked different targeted places in the Gaza strip and that war continued for 22 days. During that war a team of youth from YMCA Gaza helped people who had fled from their houses to schools in order to be safe. They led psychosocial activities for children and youth, and I was worried about my little son who was less than 2 months old. With each attack he would just open his eyes and let our sharp cries.
Then on 14 November 2012, it was a special day, it was Firas' 4th birthday. The strange thing was that during the day, while his friends in his Kindergarten class sang "happy birthday" he began to cry and asked them to stop singing. During the evening we also tried to sing to him but he continued to cry. That night, while we slept, at exactly 4:30am a huge and powerful attack began next to my house. Even now, I don't know how in one second I could be fast asleep and the next, find myself standing up, reassuring my wife that everything would be ok and not to worry, and then moving our 11 month old twins, Amir and Carol, from their beds. Their beds were full of glass from the broken windows above them. We moved to a safer place and Firas started to help by cleaning the ground of glass. That war continued for 8 days.
During the 18th World Council meeting in Colorado - East's Park; the situation became hard and Israel started to attack Gaza on Monday 7 July 2014; my body was in the USA but all of my thoughts were in Gaza. When I arrived on Friday, 11 July, I was surprised with Firas’ questions. During the war in 2012 his questions were “what is this sound?”; “Why is it happening during the day and the night?”... now though he was asking, “Why is Israeli attacking us?”, “What do they want?”, “Why do they kill children?”.
These little words can tell you a lot about my children.
Firas is now six years old and he has been through three wars. Amir and Carol are three years old and they have been through two. Is this the future I was dreaming of for my family and children? Can I do anything different for them?
Day and night I do psychosocial activities with them, like when the F16s attack they clap their hands and say “bye-bye aircraft”, but what about other Palestinian children and youth?
I will never lose my hope for better future but I wish this situation will end soon and the Palestinian people could live with the same sense of safety most of the world feels. We are all human, let us have the right to live in a safe environment.
By Hani Farah, YMCA Gaza