2017 Mandela Washington Fellowship: A Summer in Review

2017 Mandela Washington Fellowship: A Summer in Review

i Aug 12th No Comments by
For the second summer in a row, the African Studies Program at UW-Madison has had the pleasure and privilege of hosting 25 Young African Leaders as part of the U.S. State Department’s Mandela Washington Fellowship (MWF). With the institute over and planning for summer 2018 already under way, African Studies reflects on a summer of exchange, networking and fellowship through the MWF program.

Global Health talks and idea exchange

Along with hosting a talk by Dr. Alexis Nizigiyimana, the founder the Burundi chapter of the Young Professional Chronic Diseases Network and a member of the 2017 cohort of Mandela Washington Fellows, UW-Madison’s Global Health Institute shared the idea of One Health, offering new ways for health practitioners to address challenges and promote health in interdisciplinary ways. Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield, former assistant secretary of state for Africa and ambassador to Liberia, visited campus to give a talk titled “Africa Matters: A Discussion of U.S.- Africa Relations.” Along with reminding this year’s Mandela Fellows that they are “Africa’s future,” Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield also shared the significance of investing in women’s empowerment on the continent.  A visit from Lieutenant General Seretse Khama Ian Khama, president of Botswana, sparked discussion around conservation and how African nations can make the most of their rich, natural resources.

Enjoying Summer in the Midwest

Cultural exchange requires some adjusting. Amidst homesickness, MWF fellows found ways to enjoy summer Madison-style. Fellows celebrated independence and gave the opening pitch at a Mallard’s game on the 4th of July. They enjoyed BBQ and host family dinners with Americans, attended Concerts on the Square and the Farmers Market, visited a milking parlor in rural Wisconsin, spent a night in Chicago, and really enjoyed our ice cream. Fellows also had the opportunity to visit the famed Arnold House designed by architectural great and Wisconsinite Frank Lloyd Wright.


During the Mandela Washington Fellows’ visit to Englewood Grass Farm, owner Kristi Agnew (left), explains how she and her husband began tending their herd of White Park and Black Angus cattle nearly a decade ago. (Photo by Catherine Reiland / UW-Madison)



During a visit to Columbus Community Hospital, Akin Akinlade (center), a maxillofacial surgeon from Nigeria, and Niziyimana Alexis (left), a doctor from Burundi, share a meal with hospital staff. Akinlade and Alexis are participants in UW-Madison’s 2017 Mandela Washington Fellowship program. (Photo by Catherine Reiland / UW-Madison)

Community Service and Local engagement

Fellows offered the Madison community over 400 hours of volunteer service during their time in Madison, working with community partners at the River Food Pantry, Porchlight homeless shelter, Troy Gardens youth farm, and the Lussier Community Center. Over their six week stay Fellows were also able to meet with state officials, faculty members, community leaders and youth.

Redefining the African Narrative and post-MWF connections

Fellows hosted a successful conference entitled “Redefining the African Narrative,” celebrating a new vision for Africa. The conference was attended by 89 people and included dance, a fashion show, interdisciplinary panel discussions and interactive games. At the end of the institute, fellows departed bright and early for Washington, DC, where they met with 975 other Mandela Washington Fellows who were at 38 universities across the nation. The three-day summit, where this brain trust came together, offered space to tackle some of the continent’s most pressing challenges and celebrate some of its most promising successes. The fellows were selected from over 64,000 applicants across the continent. As young leaders, the MWF is only the beginning of their work and cross-cultural collaborations. A 2016 fellow from last year (Femi Adebola, Nigeria) was on campus this summer attending the Quality Improvement Institute at GHI, thanks to the connections he made on campus during the MWF. A member of ID IIP program, Carly Stingl, is in Uganda with 2016 fellow, Rachida Nakabuga, and UW-Madison student Ellie Anderson, developing an internship in Uganda’s coffee sector.

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Of Tech and Organic Food: Better will always be Better

i Jul 27th No Comments by
Webby Phiri is a participant of the 2017 YALI Mandela Washington Fellowship at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He shares some of his reflections on his time in the U.S. including answers to the ever so prevalent question, “What do you think is different between here and Africa?” 

After traveling on my longest trip, and recovering from a draining first jet lag experience, I was frying a brown colored egg which I had bought from a nearby grocer. I am not a great cook, so the egg was a celebrated accomplishment before “buzzzzzzzzz!!!!!” the fire alarm went off. I panicked in surprise and did not know what to do next!

I stayed on the 8th floor of the Statesider apartment, right in the heart of Madison, along State Street. I thought of Madison as a peaceful and wonderful place, perhaps symbolically similar to the context of my rural district which is near a bigger town, Kafue, and a little further the greater city of Lusaka. Kafue would perhaps be Milwaukee and Lusaka would be Chicago.

Submitted by Webby Phiri

So it felt as if I was living in a familiar world that was very different. A few days had passed since my fire alarm incident. The girls on the floor below us had an even louder alarm that called the firemen to visit. One evening while taking my shower, the alarm went off again, just when I had soap on my face! Steam alarm? “Oh God!” I protested as I reached out for the stop button that I had thankfully figured out.

“What do you think is different between here and Africa?” was definitely the most frequent question I got. I still did not fully figure out the answer until I met Kai Williams, an astoundingly smart eleven year old grandchild of Steve and Jane who had invited the Mandela Washington Fellows to a wonderful Saturday picnic at their beautiful home in a lovely neighbourhood.

“If-Then-Unless, it is the basic principle of robotics,” Kai enthusiastically explained to me. I was impressed with the young scientific and curious mind of his. The memories of gadgets I had built as a kid flooded me – automatic rulers, water purifiers and an electrolysis cell. Kai and I even discussed why I could not get my Picture Watch paper winder to create motion pictures, something about speed of gears and speed of light, probabilities and fractions of a second.

I particularly enjoyed the lunch because the food tasted ‘organic’. Well, that would be my recall of the taste of food at home. Organic food in the USA, were more costly than the other regular food. We would later visit a grass fed beef ranch, and a dairy farm that had some cows producing organic milk. Organic food back home is more common and so affordable that most diets are more organic. Many people still grow some of their food, including myself only until I moved to an area where my garden is constantly raided by monkeys.

Submitted by Webby Phiri

“Aha!” That was it, the answer to the question, what I profoundly found different between Zambia and the USA. The reliance on technology in the USA and the diet. Technology seemed to control everything. Kai’s words fired up in my mind, ‘If-Then-Unless’. (IF) The light goes green, (THEN) cross the road, (UNLESS) there is a car coming. That is why those alarms buzzed off!

So, back home, we use less technology, and have more organic food, in contrast to the US. As we wound down our chat and meal with Kai, I realised what my answer to the ‘difference question’ would be. I concluded that we are cultures more less striving towards each other! (If) we all do our best together (Then) better will always be better for both our cultures and ways of life (Unless? – Well, there is nothing to stop us).


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Celebrating Independence Across Africa: YALI Fellows Emerencia Nguarambuka, Marcio Brito, and Omari Mahiza reflect on the meaning of Independence

i Jul 10th No Comments by

Over the 4th of July holiday our 2017 Mandela Washington Fellows joined in the celebration of American independence with a bit of BBQ, baseball, and fireworks. Afterwards, three fellows took a moment to reflect on the commemorations of independence in their home countries and to explain the meaning of these celebrations.

Emerencia Nguarambuka: Celebrating freedom in Namibia on March 21st

Independence is freedom, democracy and growth. It means being able to live peacefully, and coexist in harmony, respect for fellow human beings and fighting for equal rights for all humanity, regardless of sex, creed, race, color, religion, etc. It also means having equal access to resources, closing the inequality and poverty gap.

Independence means a second chance and making use of all opportunities the right way. This is especially important to me because prior to an independent Namibia, we were not allowed education, work, free movement, and so much other social stuff. Now we have a chance to redefine our future, and let our children grow up in a better environment with greater opportunities.

Image submitted by Emerencia Nguarambuka

In Namibia, independence is celebrated on the 21st of March. Namibia gained independence from South Africa in 1990. We were colonized since the late 19th century. From 1884, Namibia was a German colony known as German South West Africa. After the First World War, South Africa was mandated to administer Namibia as a colony/territory.

To celebrate the holiday, traditional performances and artists provide music and dance throughout the day and after the main event. There are parades by the Defense Force (army), Air Force and the marines, which are inspected by the President and given honors. Previous heroes and heroines are also honored and receive special badges in honor of their role for the fight of independence.

School children also have plays and parades at the Independence Day, which adds more color to the event. At times we also have parachutes as part of the celebrations. The Government will provide small promotional materials such as paper flags and t-shirts to the public for free. Each five year independence (I.e. 5, 10, 15, 20, 25 years) is always a bigger celebration held in the capital city Windhoek and the President invites dignitaries and international friends from countries which helped Namibia attain independence.

Image submitted by Emerencia Nguarambuka

WINDHOEK, 22 March 2015 – Young Namibians celebrate the 25th Anniversary of Independence held at Independence Stadium. (Photo by: Joseph Nekaya) NAMPA

After the big event, other regions can also hold delayed independence celebrations for those people who could not travel all the way to the capital city. Food and entertainment is provided. Normally various Ministers will be assigned to these regions to deliver the President’s independence message.

Free Transport is normally provided to all who want to attend the celebrations in order to attract as many people as possible.

Prior to independence celebrations, all media normally carries news and video articles related to independence, focusing on development in the country, as well as interviewing heroes and heroines who can tell their stories of their time fighting for independence.


Marcio Brito: An independent Cape Verde honors Amilcar Cabral on July 5

Cape Verde received its independence from Portugal on the 5th of July in 1975. On the 4th of July, young people host parties in anticipation of the July 5th holiday, people meet up with family and share meals. There’s also a festival and military parade where the president gives medals to officers. Independence celebrations in Cape Verde are about commemorating the birth of a liberated country. They’re also about celebrating the father of Cape Verde – Amilcar Cabral.

Wall painting honoring Amilcar Cabral

Cabral was born on the 12th of September (another national holiday) in Bafata, Guinea-Bissau and was assassinated in 1973, two years before Cape Verde gained independence. His efforts, along with members of the African Party of Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (P.A.I.G.C.) helped instill dignity in a population who recognized the evident discrimination against them by Portugal, despite the country’s claims that its colonies could “never be separate.”

After the 1974 death of the Portuguese president and dictator and a military coup, the years 1974-1976 marked the independence of the former Portuguese colonies, with Guinea-Bissau being the first nation to receive its independence.

Since its independence, Cape Verde has grown from having a population where 80% of its citizens were unschooled to its current place as a nation with an educated population of 95% gaining access to a basic right that had been denied by the imperial Portuguese powers.

UN Mission in the Cape Verde Islands

Omari Mahiza: From two countries to one independent Tanzania on December 9th

I am from Tanzania. My independence day is on the 9th of December. Before Independence day – before Tanzania – there were two different counties. One is an island, that is Zanzibar and the other one is the mainland, that was called Tanganyika. So these two places came together and together (in 1964) they formed the country now that is known as Tanzania. So, that day these two countries came together – that’s called Union Day. It’s usually on the 26th of April. But, there is another date that is known as Revolution Day, which is celebrated in Zanzibar. They went through a revolution before their independence. This is known as Revolution Day which is on the 12th of January.

Cloth commemorating the life of Tanzanian President Julius Nyerere. African Studies Collection.

Starting with Independence day, usually there’s a big parade, usually there is an announcement of where the year’s celebration is going to take place so we all know where we need to gather. Usually, it takes place in the National Stadium in Dar el Salaam. Recently it’s been moved around so it can be anywhere, really. People go dressed in flags. You find that all the armed forces are there – the police, army, the navy – everyone will be there. There’ll be a parade, where all those forces pass in front of the president. They salute the president and put on a show for everyone. It’s free, so everyone can attend.

There’s a speech from the president who might wait a whole year to say something specifically for Independence day with regards to workers rights or something which is big. Usually it’s just a celebration of where we’ve been, so we remind ourselves where we were – we got our independence in 1961 from the British. So usually we remind ourselves where we were, where we are right now, and where we want to go.

Fifty-something years after independence I think we’re still struggling with the same things that we were struggling with like fifty years ago. Some of the issues have actually become worse than they were fifty years ago, if you can imagine that. So, what independence means to me, is at least, more freedom of expression these days. I think mostly it means the freedom of expression – people can say I am this – and most of the time not being persecuted. It’s still a challenge, there are certain issues where we are not there yet, but you can see that we are trying. Freedom of speech, freedom of expression is what independence should be.

4th of July Mallards game. Photo by Meagan Doll

Emerencia Nguarambuka (Namibia) is an Executive Assistant to the Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of ICT and does her own charity work in her community by assisting poor, young vulnerable women and children through donations of basic items.

Márcio Brito (Cabo Verde) works in the ‘Rádio e Tecnologias Educativas ‘ RTE’ where he produces and presents a daily program from 8 to 11 o’clock in the morning from Monday to Friday.

Omari Mahiza (Tanzania) is a doctor employed by the government to work at Amana Hospital in the pediatrics department.

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African professionals, activists among 2017 Mandela Washington Fellows at UW-Madison

i Jun 8th No Comments by
In mid-June, the University of Wisconsin-Madison will welcome 25 young African leaders to campus, representing 20 countries and diverse professional fields including healthcare, law, journalism, social services, human rights and public administration.

The African Studies Program has released the names and biographies of the 25 young leaders who will spend six weeks on the UW-Madison campus as part of the Mandela Washington Fellowship.

The fellowship, sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, brings 1,000 leaders between the ages of 25 and 35 from across Africa to complete a six-week academic and experiential learning institute at U.S. institutions. UW-Madison will host 25 fellows, 15 women and 10 men. They will arrive on June 16.

“We anticipated a high-caliber group after hosting the fellowship for the first time in summer 2016,” African Studies Program Associate Director Aleia McCord said. “Once again, we are pleased to welcome a cohort of inspirational young leaders and change makers to Wisconsin.”

For example, Emmanuella Langsi, a 2017 Fellow from Cameroon, currently serves as a child protection officer in the United Nations peacekeeping mission to the Central African Republic. In this position, Langsi advocates for policies that protect the rights of children and negotiates with armed groups for the release of child soldiers. Over the last year and a half, she estimates she has influenced the lives of more than 400 vulnerable children.


Sierra Leonean Fellow Abdulai Conteh has a background in mental health and psychosocial support programs. Following the 2014 Ebola crisis, which killed more than 11,000 across Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, Conteh provides self-care sessions to hotline operators, burial team members and orphaned children who experienced traumatic realities on the frontlines of the outbreak. Conteh hopes to return home after the fellowship with public administration knowledge applicable to mental health delivery systems in Sierra Leone.


Diénéba Dème, a science journalist from Mali, has ambitious goals of her own. After working as a radio journalist, Dème is now engaged in the recruiting and training of science journalists, hoping to raise Mali’s profile as an international model for science journalism. “Malian science journalists will be among the best in the world,” she said.

The African Studies Program has partnered with campus entities like the Global Health Institute, the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies, the La Follette School of Public Affairs, the Office of Quality Improvement, the Law School and the School of Education to develop academic curriculum.

When not in the classroom, learning continues through experiential site visits and community service. This year, the fellows will work with Lussier Community Education Center, River Food Pantry, Porchlight, Community GroundWorks, Badger Rock Middle School and more.

“As soon as our 2016 Mandela Fellows left, we began receiving questions about whether we would host the fellowship again,” McCord said. “We are fortunate to have a community as excited about the Fellows’ arrival as the Fellows themselves.”

Indeed, there is no shortage of excitement for the Fellows.

Dumsani Mamba will come to Madison from Swaziland and already seems to understand the value of a Madison summer. He says he is most excited about “meeting new people, being in a place I never knew existed in the United States… acquiring information and knowledge from one of the best leadership institutions and enjoying the summer in the lake.”

For a full listing of biographies, visit the African Studies Program website here: http://africa.wisc.edu/?page_id=13436

The Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders is the flagship program of the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) and is made possible by the support of the American people through the U.S. Department of State and administered by IREX. For more information, please visit MandelaWashingtonFellowship.state.gov.

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UW-Madison again to host young African leaders in summer 2017

i Feb 20th No Comments by

Mandela Fellows Apolmida Tsammani and Abigail Nedziwe pose for a photo by the American flag after receiving certificates of completion of the 2016 Mandela Washington Fellowship at a Farewell Luncheon, organized by the UW-Madison African Studies Program. (Photo by Meagan Doll / African Studies Program)

The University of Wisconsin-Madison will again host 25 of Africa’s emerging leaders in in June for a six-week public management academic and leadership institute, a program sponsored by the U.S. Department of State.

UW–Madison is among 38 universities selected to host the 2017 Mandela Washington Fellowship, the flagship program of the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI). For the second time, UW-Madison’s African Studies Program will organize the institute, aimed at empowering young African leaders through academic coursework, leadership training, and networking to promote peace and prosperity on the African continent.

Of over 64,000 applications, the Mandela Washington Fellows at UW–Madison are among 1,000 fellows coming to institutions across the United States. At the end of their program, all of the fellows will gather in Washington, D.C., for a closing summit.

“Hosting a group of fellows last summer was a fantastic experience; it was a pleasure to engage with such a dynamic group of entrepreneurial global leaders,” Aleia McCord, associate director of the African Studies Program, said. “We look forward to welcoming another cohort of Africa’s best and brightest to Wisconsin.”

Working closely with the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational Affairs and its implementing partner, IREX, UW–Madison has designed a 2017 institute with programming to both challenge and empower the young African leaders. Fellows will not only participate in academic sessions hosted by university faculty experts, but will also volunteer with local nonprofit organizations, meet with federal and state officials, and explore the meaning of public management and local governance in communities around Wisconsin.

2016 Mandela Washington Fellowship at UW-Madison from African Studies at UW-Madison on Vimeo.

The 2016 fellows forged lasting relationships with the Wisconsinites they met, leading to several sustained collaborations, McCord said, pointing specifically to several ongoing initiatives.

Rashida Nakabuga, a 2016 fellow from Uganda, worked with UW-Madison’s International Internship Program (IIP) to cultivate a Uganda-based production and marketing internship for UW undergraduate students. Nakabuga helped establish the internship with National Union of Coffee Agribusinesses and Farm Enterprises Limited (NUCAFE), and the first UW student will participate this summer.

“The Mandela fellows are ambitious, successful and very well-connected in their home countries,” IIP advisor and Program Coordinator Carly Stingl said. “Rashida is very interested in continuing the cultural collaboration she began in Madison. We are also very excited about this opportunity and hope to keep working together to potentially develop more.”

2016 Mandela Fellow Obinna Ebirim (right) discusses constitution building during a simulation directed by UW-Madison’s Heinz Klug, Evjue-Bascom Professor of Law at UW-Madison. (Photo by Meagan Doll / African Studies Program)

2016 Nigerian fellow and medical doctor Obinna Ebirim met Brad Paul, an associate scientist at the Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems, at a community reception during the Mandela Washington Fellowship. Today, they are working to implement a program evaluation approach in Nigeria’s primary health sector. The approach, first implemented by Paul during agriculture research Mozambique, is called “Field Diaries” and features the daily journals as a tool to measure needs and development impact.

Ebirim recommended this type of mutual collaboration as an especially rewarding part of the larger Mandela Washington Fellowship, advising future fellows to “pick a project you’re trying to implement and take advantage of the opportunities around you.”

More recently, Sicily Mburu, a 2016 fellow from Kenya, partnered with UW Hospital nurse clinician Susan Gold to secure a Mandela Washington Fellowship Reciprocal Exchange Award. The award grants up to $5,000 in funding to support projects between fellows and American professionals they met during the fellowship. In the coming year, Mburu and Gold will together provide training through a developed curriculum on HIV/AIDS to nearly 60 young people in Kenya.

These lasting connections illustrate the value of the Mandela Washington Fellowship by facilitating local-global understanding, McCord said.

“The Mandela Washington Fellowship is really an opportunity to invest in international cooperation,” McCord said. “And we are excited to be a part of that venture a second time.”

The African Studies Program is seeking volunteers to engage with fellows, as well as local organizations interesting in offering tours or other collaborative ventures. To learn more or get involved, contact Meagan Doll at yali@africa.wisc.edu.


“UW-Madison selected to host young African leaders in summer 2017,” UW-Madison International Division, 02/17/2017.

“Top U.S. colleges and universities to host young African leaders,” International Research & Exchanges Board, 02/02/2017.

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New Eyes and Renewed Hope: A Mandela Washington Fellowship Reflection

i Dec 5th No Comments by
Cooper Chibomba participated in the 2016 YALI Mandela Washington Fellowship at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Nearly six months since arriving in Madison, Chibomba shares his personal and professional reflections from the six week institute. Chibomba has over nine years of experience in the fields of spatial planning, fundraising, and community engagement. Currently, Cooper is the president for Zambia Institute of Planners, a professional institute.

The year 2016 has been an exciting year because I made more friends in a single year than at any one point in my 34 years. What I found very interesting is that my newly found friendships were committed to overcoming a challenge in their community. The 25 Mandela Washington Fellows at UW-Madison taught me how to win – I don’t know if they even know that about themselves. My attitude after the U.S. experience is that it is possible to stay optimistic and you don’t have to apologize to anyone for that.


Photo courtesy of Cooper Chibomba.

Today makes it 119 days, to be precise 3 months 27 days since my U.S. Fellowship ended. Everyday has presented itself with opportunities and more opportunities, and I really don’t know what happened to the challenges. What I miss the most about my time at UW-Madison are the Tuesdays with the Leadership Institute – Jorge, Raymond, Emilie, Emily and Seema. Those sessions were simply transformative, not because you facilitated but because we simply came to dialogue.  The Fridays were always awesome at the Union Terrace.  Most of my evenings were spent at the Monona Terrace. I may forget everything about the U.S. and about Madison city but not the great people I met. Each one of you, Deane Anderson and Susan with your girls, thank you for hosting us. You are simply remarkable.

So, I am back in Zambia, Southern Africa and life goes on. My wife Ethel and the kids are so excited to have me back home. They say America made me more handsome!!! I want to share you a bit about the people that have influenced my work in the recent months since returning from the US. To Jason Valerius, Daniel Rolf, David and Bruce Wilson, thank you for the coffee in Colectivo at the State Capitol, the conversations we had have turned into projects. I am pleased to tell you that I found ways to change the world not just through my eyes but through the lens of children, women, and people that feel like the current design of our cities excluded the view from their eyes. What does it really mean to bring these eyes on board, the voices of people that are feeling left out in our cities? Is it even possible to design such a city? Yes, just listen, listen, and listen! Eileen Kelley, that exclusive tour of Middleton was life changing and your advice I treasure always. From you, I learned that places become great when we do only what we would want on the front page of the papers. I am reminded all the time on the importance of talking with everyone, even those we don’t agree with.

So, why am telling you about these people? It’s because I wouldn’t have experienced life in the U.S. all by myself. It’s not even possible to immense myself in every aspect of the American life, but they spent time talking with me. So, here is what I have been up to since I returned: Firstly, I had to get back my deep Zambia accent (Tonga) which I somehow lost because Meagan and Anita had difficulties getting my words clearly – Anita and Meagan, you are amazing! Secondly, I went on to develop two new city plans in the Copper Rich mining region of Zambia where I work that will be the most bicycle friendly cities in Zambia. I must confess here that the towns are a small Madison with an African way of life. Just last week on Nov. 23, 2016, I organized my first planning conference with over 240 professional planners drawn from every sector of the country. My meeting in Washington, DC with Jeff Stoule, Director of International Outreach at American Planning Association, was very helpful in providing direction on how this planning conference could look like.  Through the annual planning conference, I was able to share my experiences from the fellowship, especially my time at UW-Madison.


Photo courtesy of Cooper Chibomba.

Lastly, since returning from the U.S., I have been able to increase the visibility of my community project that is transforming poverty and injustice into opportunity and freedom for children living in difficult conditions such as HIV or have been sexually abused or are involved in hazardous labor. Global giving was able to profile my project which was shared on their website and a number of people in Madison shared this on their social media pages. Thanks Lori Di Prete, Meagan, Anita and all others that helped me with this cause. Even though I did not reach the target, I have become confident in the possibility of online fundraising and I know that Madison has amazing people. Daniel Bornstein, your friendship throughout the fellowship was incredible. I believe in a collective future, a future which will be better than our past, and that’s the faith I have in being an honorary alum of UW-Madison. My dreams are greater and scare me, that’s what the Mandela Washington Fellowship has taught me.

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The Imperialism of Feminism

i Aug 15th No Comments by
Nafissatou Tine has worked as a lawyer for almost five years, during which she created a website designed to act as a reference guide for Senegalese law practitioners and service providers. She has also been involved in the activities of the Women Association Lingeer, which she co-founded and which promotes African women through arts and culture.


Nafissatou Tine. (Photo by Meagan Doll)

In the Western history, women were expected to stay at home, where they were taught how to be good wives and good mothers, and of course how to stay pretty and silent. They felt dominated and oppressed economically, politically, and in their own bodies. They decided to speak up and fight for equality.

They got released from home and went to school. They now occupy positions their grandmothers and mothers never dared dream about. They boast economic independence, now able to afford everything a consumer society creates to anticipate their wildest desires. They contribute to the full functioning of the capitalist machine, just like the other half of humanity, with the exception of certain wives of well-to-do men.

They are involved in political activities – some of them even leading countries – and one is about to lead the most powerful country if she manages not to get knocked out by the glass ceiling.

They claim to be in control of their own bodies, while the pharmaceutical industry feeds them hormones that convert male fish into female, and the beauty industry (mainly controlled by men) defines how their bodies should look with the goal of selling more yogurt and cars.

They are still expected to be good wives, mothers, and of course, pretty. They also have to be as competent as men at work, while making less money. The pressure to perform well, both at home and at work, is silently crushing them while their unrestrained pursuit of the perfect body leaves deep wounds but no visible scars.

And now they want to free all the ‘oppressed women’ around the world. As always, they have started by setting up universal rights for complex and plural women.

In African history, women’s conditions have always been diverse, depending on their background as rural or urban women, whether their society is patriarchal or matriarchal, the ethnic group they belong to, the country or region they are from, and their personalities. Consequently, their need for equality differs dramatically depending on their social class, cultural background, beliefs, values, and the way they were socialized to be women in non-individualistic societies. They too used to be discriminated against because of their gender, notably in terms of access to lands and high-income activities. They too used to deal with arranged marriage, polygamy, female genital mutilation, rape, and domestic violence. Within the same Africa, women never stopped being the drivers of economic activities (in agriculture and trading). They never stopped influencing policy or familial decisions through their men (husbands and sons), who personify authority within their social group. They never stopped exercising spiritual power as priestesses. They never stopped organizing and fighting for their rights.

Being freed from the domination and oppression perpetrated by the other half of humanity is the least of their concerns. Revolutions and evolutions have to be driven by and within the oppressed people themselves. The contingencies of a given society impose changes naturally, but when the changes are dictated from the outside, it is called imperialism.

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Lessons from the E.R.: A Taste of the UW Hospital

i Jul 26th No Comments by
Mwanja Mwale is a passionate social worker with eight years of experience in her practice. She currently works with the Department of Social Welfare, where she runs Zambia’s only residential rehabilitation center for female juvenile offenders as well as other children in need of care.

There I was in the emergency room hooked to a monitor and responding to a set of questions from eight different medical practitioners. I had the feeling of nostalgia as two of my friends waited for me. I kept asking myself whether I was really sick or this was standard procedure. At that point, I would have given almost anything to be home, with my family. I was extremely anxious and I was beginning to regret going to the Emergency Room. Was this really worth it?


Mwanja Mwale. (Photo by Meagan Doll)

Three hours before visiting the ER, a sharp pain in my chest had jolted me out of bed and I gasped for air for some good two or three minutes. The pain was short-lived but its impact still lingered on my mind. I got back into bed and after an hour, the same pain woke me up again. This time, I knew I had to act. I called a Fellow who is a medical practitioner in his home country but by the time he came to check on me I was pain free. He checked my vitals and everything seemed to be okay.

A few minutes later, I decided to have myself checked just in case there was something seriously wrong with me. So, that is how my friends and I went to the University of Wisconsin Hospital’s emergency room. The series of events that followed after our arrival at the reception shall forever be engraved on my mind.

I could have sworn that I was attended to in less than a minute! Yes, that is how long I waited, if that qualifies as a wait. Just at the reception, someone was checking my vitals while another was taking my personal information. Before I could take a seat, the doctor had come out and called my name. I was moved from one room to the next for different types of examinations. From one machine to the next I was moved and blood samples were collected in between. Within an hour, I had come in contact with eight different medical practitioners who each asked me the same questions but each in a unique way. It dawned on me that they were simply trying to rule out any inaccuracy in their attempt to make a diagnosis. In total, seventeen lab tests were done and after two hours I was discharged!

It was only after the whole ordeal that I got to appreciate what I had gone through. The thoroughness of the service provision was well-coordinated. I am not a health practitioner but I was very impressed with the whole process and I was able to draw some lessons from the experience.  From the waiting time to the courtesy of the personnel (to my friends too!), to the comfort given, to the treatment and finally to the flow of information, I was in awe.

The take-home lesson for me as a Mandela Washington Fellow in the Public Management track will be serving people in the most efficient and effective manner.  I have performed really well over the last few years in terms of ensuring quality service provision in my field, but the ER experience inspired me to be even more diligent and endeavor to act in the best interest of the clients.

As leaders, we should be able to exhibit good leadership qualities that entail giving our work the best we can and increasing our performance standard. We should be able to advance institutions that will operate with personnel that work towards a common goal: to serve humanity.

The University of Wisconsin Chancellor Rebecca Blank’s profound address to all the Mandela Washington Fellows still resounds in my mind. She stated that as leaders, it was paramount that we surround ourselves with individuals who share a common mission. She further stated that managers or leaders should be able to identify the strengths and weaknesses of those that surround them so that people are better placed in areas that will help them deliver their best. Additionally, systems in place should ensure that personnel are supported so that the best output is realized. These nuggets of wisdom were not entirely new to me but their message was so well packaged that they struck a nerve.

The above-mentioned sums up the lessons or values I have had the privilege of learning, revisiting, analyzing and embracing for the past five Tuesdays at the Leadership Institute at UW-Madison. Values such as self reflection, being visionary, serving humanity, promoting supportive structures, being consistent, being strategic and upholding collectivism were thoroughly discussed proved to be beneficial. I learned a lot from all academic staff, peer collaborators as well as all the Fellows. I am well-vested in issues in health, politics, education, law, communications, agriculture and climate change all because of this wonderful team. As I return home, I am taking with me a wealth of knowledge and skills which I have accumulated and I am looking forward to increasing the impact of my work on the different categories of people I work with.

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A Lifetime Experience

i Jul 25th No Comments by
Patricia Ndagano has more than five years’ experience in NGOs working in conflict and post-conflict zones in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. She currently works as the senior program assistant at Management Sciences for Health, a USAID implementing partner.

For as long as I can remember, I have always had a passion for what is conventionally known as “changing the world to make it a better place.” My younger self was caught up in the grandeur of this notion – growing up in a conflict armed context , I wanted to do something positive in my community and my country and dedicated my efforts to making other people’s lives better.


Patricia Ndagano. (Photo by Meagan Doll)

When I heard about the Mandela Washington Fellowship, I realized that this could be a great opportunity for me to meet with other young persons who have the same vision as mine. I was excited by the idea of meeting great minds from around Africa and learning from their experience!

Now that I had that opportunity, I can say that my time at the University of Wisconsin – Madison has shown me how people’s power is a force worth reckoning with, and that there are a number of strong, like-minded individuals who are dedicated to changing the world—my fellow friends, who are incredible future leaders of Africa, are the first I think of!

Thinking back to when I packed my bags to travel more than 7100 miles away to my destination, I had a never-ending list of things to do in my mind. Bursting with passion and zeal as I landed at the Chicago International Airport, I realized that I will cherish these weeks for a lifetime.

Upon my arrival, Madison and the U.S. were a culture shock for me; it was not like the everyday life I was used to. Like a flip of a switch, I was expected to be fluent in English instead of French, my everyday language. To my surprise, the people were so friendly and made me feel welcome and confident in my English expressions. This made me adapt so easily and I was able to express myself in this language that I was speaking for the first time for a whole day.

The orientation program during Welcome Weekend and the first week got me excited about the days to come, and I knew that it was going to be a Fellowship full of magnificent experiences. And as I entered into the third week, things just kept getting better – both academically and personally.

It has been an incredible experience full of new insight about global health, education, environment, etc. and leadership as well as learning about new cultures from nineteen African countries and exploring an amazing country. It has been what we call a lifetime experience!

The first thing that struck me the most is the open environment in which I found myself. People were so open-minded and wiling to serve and help others. Creativity, innovation, motivation, and dedication cannot be forced. These are intangible elements that are fostered by inspiration from open environments where people interact freely (encouraging individuals to achieve personal breakthroughs through exchanging ideas and challenging one another).

In my view, Mandela Washington Fellowship at Madison is a great example of this because I believe it is a hub of inspiration, excellence, and growth – comprised of both academic and social aspects in equal measure. The program generates a friendly space to discuss and exchange ideas. It gave me the opportunity to know wonderful people, share knowledge and improve my skills of communication and collaboration.

Furthermore, I observed and comprehended many of the problems that each of us was facing in our countries, and it was very nice to see how everybody helped each other to better understand the challenges.

On top of everything I made new friends from around Africa and the world – friendships that will last a lifetime, for sure. I will also be endlessly grateful to the amazing peer collaborators with whom I have shared great moments and interesting discussions.

And in most people I have met, there is another level of pride and confidence; something that is necessary when it comes to changing things and moving forward; I have to say that all the persons I met inspired me to keep going on. These friendships, connections, discussions, and cultural diversity made me a better human, introducing me to individuals with ambitious desires to change Africa.

It may sound like a cliché, but relationships are everything and can truly facilitate your life and whatever missions you have in it. That is something I experienced once more. As my mother always say back home: “ Mutu ni Batu na Umoja ni Nguvu.” These Swahili words mean “one person is defined by the relationships he has and unity is strength.”And President Obama knew this before developing a well-thought program that creates a strong network that will result in moving Africa forward.

Now that I have come to my last week of the program, I realize that my objective of gaining more experience was accomplished and my leadership skills improved upon each week. The whole experience leaves me with a great feeling about the future and even if I feel sad to see my Fellowship come to an end, I’m very excited to take my experiences with me and share it with the youth communities in Democratic Republic of Congo.

Finally, I cannot finish without mentioning the great time I spent biking along Lake Mendota with such a beautiful sunset. Yes, my love of Madison, an amazing place to live, is unconditional and biking was one of the great times I had. As someone passionate about it, I took advantage of the many miles of bikes paths and went for a ride almost every evening. I really enjoyed doing this!

I will be forever grateful to President Obama and the United State for taking the step in creating this program. And, I will be forever grateful to the African Studies Program at UW-Madison for the transformation that began in my heart within that brick building.

Special thanks to the best coordination team ever: Meagan, Anita, Daniel, Tess, Kyra and Aleia.

We can change the world if each one of us is involved in his own expertise, as long as we remember that we are not alone.

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The Rise of Africa’s Great Leaders

i Jul 25th No Comments by
Rashida Nakabuga is a social scientist by training. She previously worked for NUCAFE, a coffee-farmer organization, and currently assumes the role of country representative for UTZ. Her main role is to develop initiatives and programs to tackle issues affecting farmers, such as boosting their market access.  


Rashida Nakabuga. (Photo by Meagan Doll)

The treasure we have in mother Africa of young energetic enthusiastic leaders is so astonishing! The capability of young minds creates innovations to uplift the impoverished and underprivileged communities all over the world. My passion is transforming societies. As leaders, we must work through this riddle and use the available tools to explore chances to solve multiple problems that have continued to impact our developmental potential.

Over 500 cups of coffee are consumed globally. In Uganda coffee contributes about 20% of the foreign exchange, contributing to over one million livelihoods. Therefore, there is need to put into context the works of small holder farmers who tirelessly contribute to produce coffee beans. Strolling down the villages of coffee growing communities in Uganda welcomes you to the green shades of the coffee bushes. The portraiture depicts hope during the coffee season that families will be able to earn a living. However small holder farmers continue to earn meager wages while other actors in the chain reap big rewards because they are able to occupy a position of competitiveness. With the opportunities I have had in life, my continued contribution to uplift communities to earn smart from their coffee farms is astounding to me.

My recent visit to a coffee roaster in the U.S. begins another journey to uplift communities. I was able to learn and see the different coffee brands developed by other countries – not a single one from Uganda or Tanzania! Uganda is the second-largest coffee producer in Africa and produces the best aromatic cup of Robusta or Arabica coffee, a brand with a traceable story from small holder farmers. The sustainability of Africa’s treasures lies with us leaders, and now working with UTZ for better farming, better future, I realize and build my capabilities to develop strategic partnerships that will support Ugandan coffee brands. For example in overseas cafes, I will live to see growth of innovations in my country Uganda.

YALI is such an inspiring opportunity that I will cherish. I will always look to this network to make Africa shine and innovate, innovate until we start reading dependency as part of ancient history. Long live the innovators of this program, “you are the light souls that have ignited the souls of young African leaders.’’

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