The Africa Matter Ambassador Program (AMAP) is a 1-year blended-learning African leadership development program which provides successful applicants with online training, skills development, cross-continental network building, mentorship from industry leaders across Africa.
For the last 6 months the inaugural Ambassadors have been hard at work. They have completed their training modules (Soft Skills, African Leadership, African Feminisms, and Social Entrepreneurship), and are have recently begun the practical element of the program.
Their community impact projects are intertwined with Africa Matter’s YLDP and SLDP workshops. Ambassadors are to identify issues that affect their communities and establish tangible and sustainable solutions to rectify them. They are to collaborate and train youth in their communities who do not form part of the Africa Matters community to achieve tangible youth empowerment across communities.
Ambassadors will then work toward establishing Africa Matters hubs in their countries.
Africa Matters recently spoke to Ghanaian Ambassador Mawuli Kwami about his experience with Ambassador Programme thus far.
You have been part of the Africa Matters Ambassador Programme since June 2019 and you’re coming to the end of your training. Which module was your favourite and why?
My experience with Africa Matters has been great. It’s opened my mind up to new developments, to new and different horizons of thinking about African issues.
My favourite module has been the African leadership Module. We’ve been bereft of proper leadership in Africa, so it’s a defining moment for us. When we want to make a change, we look at the inner and outer circle, and you first must tackle the inner circle before you look at the broader one.
The module has really prepared my mind thinking of going into leadership positions.
There are a few other things I’ve learnt, particularly from the leadership module, such as organising my community so that we can begin quarterly general cleaning in the community. We’re all going to come together and do that.
So these modules have actually really helped me. It’s been great, I wish I could be an Ambassador forever!
Moving forward to the practical component of your Ambassadorship, how has the preparation for that been? What are your hopes for this stage of your Ambassadorship?
I’m at the stage where I am about to start distributing letters to the schools I've identified.
Reanne (an Africa Matters founder) has been very supportive. She’s helped me with letters for permission to hold the SLDP’s at the various schools. I have selected four schools so that I can host an SLDP at the schools that respond positively.
I have been unwell for some time but I’m better now, so I’m getting back into my preperation. I have already organized t-shirts and banners which I'll be arranging tomorrow, as well as preparing for my webinar.
That’s how my preparation has been so far.
What are you hoping to achieve through your Ghanaian SLDP's?
Looking at this as a starting point, I want to address the perception among young Africans of contraceptive use and their usage, as well as that of sexually transmitted infections.
So I conducted a few questionnaires recently and I realized that it’s a common belief that contraceptives also serve as a preventive measures for STI’s, which is not correct.
So I hope to use this SLDP to help young Ghanaians understand that these are two different things altogether. I have included some midwives into the the project, and in the future I hope to recreate these sessions in a second cycle of schools and get some sponsorship for it.
So I’m looking forward to furthering that knowledge in Africa.
What would be the ideal outcome for you of your work as an Ambassador? How would you measure the success of your time with Africa Matters?
First of all, it would be the impact.
I saw this problem where parents would bring their children to get contraceptives. The parents would be trying to prevent their kids from getting pregnant while in school, and the main notion around these contraceptives is that the kids are protected from pregnancy as well as sexually transmitted infections. Meanwhile, when you get contraceptives it doesn't mean that you are fully protected from STI's.
So the main impact is to get that education out there so they understand this. There are also some dangers to contraceptive use, so we have to teach them about all of this.
Parents and teenagers are our targets. We are hoping to achieve a 50% reduction in this kind of thinking in the first year in the contexts these SLDP's will be conducted. I am using this Ambassador position to begin that kind of work and will continue with it in subsequent years.
So the aim for the first year is a 50% reduction in this kind of thinking, and then a 75% reduction in the second year, and as we spread into other schools and communities, we want to ensure an 80% where ever we go.
Based on the experience you have in sexual and reproductive health, what advice would you give to other young Africans trying to rewrite the narrative in ways similar to how you are?
If you want to affect a change, you need to have the willpower. You need to have the mentality that "I want to do this."
Aristotle said that we are what we repeatedly do, that excellence then is a habit. What I've seen in my experience is that people who want change typically want that change instantly. Meanwhile, they haven't been able to even change anything around them.
We used to go to market with our own baskets. Why is it that nowadays we don't do that? Because when you go, there are take-away bags and they will bag everything for you.
If we want to address plastic pollution, we have to go back to bringing our own baskets that we used to take to markets. I started doing this, and when I got to market everyone laughed. I spoke about my reasoning to a few people, and after some time I've now seen a number of my neighbors following my lead.
That is how it has to happen, change cannot happen instantly.
In my experience as a health worker, I see some patients who come to the hospital who want to be healed that moment but they don't even know the degree of the disease they have. So psychologically you need to understand that yes, it's going to take time, but you have to do it.
You're going to meet people as you are climbing, and they are going to advise you. First you start something, then you might become an intern with an organisation and then boom, maybe Africa Matters shows up! That's something I've learnt.
If you want to affect change, you must start, but you must also not get weary. It's about patience, its about endurance and at the end of the day a lot of people will see that light, and they will join you to make it. That's what changes things. Your idea has to linger in other people's minds so that they feel that they are part of this change, that they were part of making change happen.
So it's not always about material stuff, sometimes only the little that you have to offer. You look for people who can really help you achieve what you want, like friends who can help you paint banners, someone who can give you access to a scanner. That's what I do, I go borrowing things to make it happen.
So for me, really, selflessness, determination and will power are very important. That's what's going to help you affect a great degree of change.