What if Africans Were Their Own Advocates?

What would it look like if Africans were their own advocates? What would it look like if young Africans believed- and truly believed- that the future of Africa was in their hands?

by Divine Muragijimana

These were the questions that I was asking myself while I was working with ONE in Washington D.C. During that time, the organization was heavily involved with schools and there were chapters all over the country all connected to the mission of the organization, and very active. It was inspiring, but then I realized that the African youth were not involved in these campaigns. I didn’t ask why, but a couple of years later while working with a group of Africans putting together celebrations for “Africa at 50”- I saw the same void. Young Africans were spoken of but not heard of.  This is when I decided that something had to be done. As a CUNY student, I saw a large number of young Africans who seemed to want to be engaged with matters relating to their communities and Africa and did not know how to do so.

It was not long after that I met my co-founder Okenfe Lebarty at an event for students at City University of New York.  I spoke of my desire to create a platform where young people could engage with each other, get resources for their career and academic advancement and mostly importantly contribute to the ongoing development in Africa. Three hours later, we had decided that we needed to plan an event that would kick off this platform and with the blessing of CUNY’s Vice Chancellor for Student Relations Dr. Frank Sanchez, the CUNY Young African Leadership Symposium (YALS) was born.  As one would say the rest is history…

Except we just began. At the core of CYAL’s vision, mission and objective was the truth that any engagement with the youths of Africa had to involve both the youth in the Diaspora and those in the continent. If two heads are better than one, then surely, thousands of united young African voices were better than fragmented voices across continents. Thus CYAL became committed to make its way to Africa. We were convinced and still are convinced that our skills are our best assets. We would therefore use these resources to partner with youths in Africa in capacities that would involve exchange of skills for greater human capital development.

So here we are. After three years of programming in the US, we are finally making a dream come true for us. We are headed to Africa. The trip to Cameroon is monumental for us. With near misses, and a lot of work into finding the right partners, we are finally moving beyond that fear of failure, and aiming for success. This trip is really about partnering with young people to move Africa forward. If we have to do it block by block, we are rolling our sleeves up and dedicating our time to make sure this becomes a reality. In the coming years, the program that we are implementing in Cameroon will be adopted across the continent. We hope to bring more people into the program to participate in the exchange- in the nearby future.

I am particularly excited for the third day of the conference where it will be all about sharing ideas. Even though I will be involved in most of the training sessions, it will be exciting to hear about the ideas of the participants. CYAL will be able to work with individuals to help them formulate their idea, and one lucky person will get some $$ to help them realize their dream. To see that what Okenfe and I envisioned is becoming a reality is a blessing

I have always believed that anyone brave enough to be in a leadership position is crazy. Thankfully, I am in good company! I have been there since the beginning and have seen the organization grow.  I am really proud of the CYAL team, and particularly honored to be working with young people who believe in our vision, and are dedicated to carrying out our organizations mission.

We invite you to join us for our journey to Cameroon: http://www.gofundme.com/8hs62o

CYAL Team - Cover-3



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