Impact Stories & Blogs
Our team share their insights and perspectives on the impact our program is having on youth in East and Central Africa.
When young emerging leaders apply to the leadership program offered by YALI Regional Leadership Center East Africa, they are driven by a commitment to make a difference in their communities. My main motivation was to improve my leadership skills with the hope that my experience would enhance the work that I do with the disability community in Ethiopia.
For over seven years I have been focused on strengthening collaboration and creating a united voice among disability-based organizations in Ethiopia. Through YALI, I saw an opportunity for me to improve my influence in the work that I do.
As a visually-impaired person I have been through various experiences that motivated me to commit my time to empower persons living with disabilities, particularly women and girls. When I lost my eyesight from glaucoma at the age of eight, I lost the freedom to go outside on my own, and for some time I could not go to school. I was only able to resume school when a relative enrolled me in a boarding school.
Going through both primary and secondary school was a struggle because I didn’t have access to many learning materials. Instead, I relied on others to read out loud to me during class and when I was taking my exams. Due to this experience, I committed to working to ensure persons living with a disability have equal access and opportunities for education.
I support my commitment through my role as a general manager for the Ethiopian National Disability Action Network. I also serve as board vice-chair and a member of the general assembly which enables me to give advice, design projects, and reflect the issues of persons with disabilities at different stages. And in my spare time, I teach basic computer skills to visually-impaired persons.
In 2014, I designed a project that aimed to improve literacy levels among women living with disabilities. The reason I focused in this area is because a majority of women and girls living with a disability never have an opportunity to go to school. The majority of these women and girls not only face challenges because of their disability, but they also face gender-based violence. When the project was launched, 75 women enrolled for the program, and 54 of them completed the training successfully and are now able to support themselves and their families. One of the ladies I trained was 27 years old, and while all of her siblings were enrolled in school, she was forced to stay home because she was visually-impaired and was expected to carry out the household chores. I am proud that this individual has now completed her education and is now employed by a government school.
It is because of stories such as hers that keep me going, and I am committed to ensuring many more women and girls living with disability have a chance to live a fulfilling and independent life. When I walked into the YALI Regional Leadership Center East Africa 12 weeks ago, I came in with a drive to learn more and improve the work that I am doing. The experience has been profound. I have learned how to build a successful team with people from diverse backgrounds and who have different perspectives. Through the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, I was able to go through a self-introspection process of identifying my strengths in order to harness them, and identifying my weaknesses in order to improve them.
Another course that’s greatly impacted me at the Center has been Design Thinking. The Design Thinking methodology taught me how to reevaluate and redesign projects solely geared towards meeting the specific needs of persons with disability. Design Thinking ensures that you create tailor-made solutions using a human-centered approach, which is so appropriate in terms of customizing approaches for individuals with a disability.
My participation in the Center program has been an opportunity for me to clearly map out my future, and develop vivid goals in both my personal and professional life. From the program, I am taking away a deep understanding of how I can make a difference in the lives of persons living with disabilities. And what I would like to give back to the Center is my commitment to scaling up my efforts to empower people with disabilities in Ethiopia.
I now know my potential and I know what to do to realize it. This program is a life-changing platform which inspires young people to be self-aware, goal-oriented, and change-makers. By learning from others young people who go through this program leave with the confidence that indeed they can be the change that they want to see. As I join the alumni community of YALI Regional Leadership Center, I am proud to be one of the 1,000 graduates who have been through the program and are committed to make a difference in their lives, that of their communities and the continent.