Impact Stories & Blogs
Our team share their insights and perspectives on the impact our program is having on youth in East and Central Africa.
Yanie Ayoun had always had a dream to be a fashion designer, but didn’t have the resources or confidence to pursue her passion. Everything changed when she was accepted to the YALI Regional Leadership Center in Cohort 7. The first week, her passion was ignited and through courses such as Franklin Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and Design Thinking, she began to gain the confidence necessary to pursue her dream. Her confidence continued to grow throughout the three-week residential session, and upon returning to Djibouti, she had new resolve.
“I had the confidence and the support network I had never had before,” she said. “I was determined to make my fashion line happen. I wasn’t going to stop until it happened.”
What happened exceeded even her expectations. She started her clothing line, Hidoweelo, by creating some modern fashions and accessories that have a local flair, but that are fashionable for any occasion anywhere in the world. Her work was soon noticed, and in June 2016, just before returning to the Center for graduation, she was honored with a national award in Djibouti as fashion designer of the year! This has provided her with a national profile in Djibouti and opportunities to expand her line throughout the Horn of Africa and beyond.
“My participation in the YALI Regional Leadership Center East Africa raised me up. It gave me the confidence and drive to do what I have always wanted to do. It literally changed my life.”
Other opportunities are coming Yanie’s way as well, as she was asked to represent Djibouti at the African Union Conference, which will held in Kigali, Rwanda. In addition, she will represent her country at the African Young Government Conference in Johannesburg, South Africa in August.
“I am going to use every resource I have to be a changemaker in my country,” Yanie says. “I want to be an example for other youth who are pursuing their dreams, and in doing so, I will help all I can gain the language skills and leadership passion to become a participant in the Center. That’s where change happens.” To view a short video on Yanie’s company, click here.
Yanie is using her talent to design a new future for Djiboutian youth.
 The company’s name is significant. “Hido” means tradition in Yanie’s mother language (Somali) and “Weelo” is the initial name of the legendary Somali queen “Araweelo” who was strong and passionate about standing up for women, as well as an icon of style.