Young leaders excited over Obama programme

Kabelo Chabalala at the Obama Foundation Leaders programme in Johannesbrug.
Kabelo Chabalala at the Obama Foundation Leaders programme in Johannesbrug.
Image: Supplied

Kabelo Chabalala is one of 200 celebrated young Africans that are still in disbelief that they are attending the Obama Foundation Leaders: Programme in Johannesburg that commenced on Saturday.

"My excitement is something that has not sunk in yet," said Chabalala, the founder of the Young Men Movement (YMM) at his home village of Pankop, Mpumalanga.

The 27-year-old's movement was established in 2016 to help raise a generation of men that are socialised to be loving and responsible in a society where gender-based violence is rife.

The leadership programme, which has been running over the past five days at a secret location in Johannesburg, provides a year-long course
on leadership development and civic engagement programmes aimed at training and connecting young African leaders.

To celebrate Mandela's centenary year, today the young leaders will present their group service projects to illustrate Mandela's relationship between leadership and service.

The 200 leaders who were chosen out of 10000 applicants hail from 44 African countries and have been making positive impacts in their various fields.

Chabalala said the group of innovators, entrepreneurs, activists and academics had been exposed to different panel discussions and workshops that have imparted knowledge that will help them with their leadership skills.

"I've really enjoyed gathering with fellow Africans and exchanging ideas.

"I have realised by listening to the likes of Khanyi Dhlomo speak about their journeys that our dreams are valid," he said.

Oluwaseun Osowobi, 27, is a Nigerian advocate and activist who has changed the lives of 350 victims of rape in her home country through her Stand To End Rape Initiative based in Lagos, Abuja and Port Harcourt.

"I am a survivor of sexual violence myself and I wanted to change the aftercare experience for others," she said.

Osowobi's initiative provides medical care, legal aid and psychological empowerment to survivors of rape.

The young advocate said the leadership programme has taught her that making mistakes and failure are an important part of growth.

"The lessons I have learned from great leaders such as Mandela and Obama have been to remember that I am a product of my community. I can't be a boss that sits at the top and forgets the people at the bottom," she said.

Meanwhile, Lindiwe Tsope, 24, the first Oprah Winfrey Academy alumni to enrol towards a PhD degree, is part of the group. Her focus is on HIV/Aids policies.

"I loved attending the Leadership in Adversity programme that had Graca Machel, Thuli Madonsela and Bogolo Kenewendo who is the youngest minister in Botswana. The girl power that was on stage was amazing to see because I believe in women empowerment," she said.

Tsope said she had made many connections in the leadership programme that would help with her work in future.

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