This piece was contributed by Leonah Miniyothabo Ndlovu, an Africa Matters ShE is Empowered Leader from South Africa, as part of her engagement with the Personal Development module. This module focuses on self-esteem building, finding your why, and understanding your purpose.
My name is Leonah Miniyothabo Ndlovu and I am fifteen years old. I am a youth leader. I was born in the dusty streets of Bulawayo, Zimbabwe only to later move to South Africa due to increasing economic turmoil in my home country. My story of leadership is a rather unique one. I have never thought of myself going into leadership, definitely not at such a young age. From leading playgroups to being selected as a class monitor for the first time in grade 2, my leadership traits were apparent as I was growing up.
Last year, in 2020, my life took a turn for the worst. I lost my father. My dad was my everything, so it is safe to say that I was and will always be a 'daddy’s girl'. When my dad died, I lost a part of me. The arrival of the pandemic on African shores worsened things, as school, the only thing that kept me busy, was taken away from me. I had to adapt so that I would not continue to dwell on my loss. That is how I got into leadership. Oftentimes, I ask myself, “If my dad was still alive, would I have gone into leadership?” Certainly not! I was comfortable. The presence of a father shielded me from the cruel world I lived in.
When that shield had been removed, I began to notice others around me, but most importantly the leader within me. I started with a small campaign focused on gender-based violence, then became a 2020 South African Web Ranger. This was not enough. I wanted more. I remember scrolling through social media one day when I saw that Africa Matters was looking for ShE Leaders! I saw myself as a ShE Leader, so I applied!
I was so thrilled when I got selected for the interviews, however at the same time I was nervous as it was the first interview, but co-founder Reanne gave me positive and constructive feedback, which I used for subsequent interviews!
I was accepted, and as they say, the rest is history!
Fast forward to today, I am not only a ShE Leader at Africa Matters but I am a young black woman oozing with knowledge. Knowledge that this program has given me. I know not only of myself as a young female leader in Africa, but I know of 19 others from across the African continent. I am not only a ShE Leader today, but I am a broad river, skills flowing through that river. Africa Matters has made me the leader that I am today! I do not only boast the spectacular opportunity of being a ShE leader but they have opened other opportunities for me.
I have a mentor, who has been nothing but an absolute joy to work with. I’m a 2021 Kukaya Foundation Youth Development Initiative Fellow, only because of that feedback Reanne gave me during our interview. I understand the concept of being an African Feminist in this day and age, only because of Farai! I cannot single out each and every amazing facilitator I’ve had, but I can confidently say I know how to write a proposal, how to budget, how to plan all because of Africa Matters!
The organization has contributed a great deal to how I view leadership. Today I am the proud founder of Project Jabula. Africa Matters made me believe in myself again, that a world without my father existed, and that I could continue making him proud through my leadership.
As much as my generation is the one we have been waiting for, Africa Matters is that one organization with the power to challenge norms and change things around the continent. Indeed, Africa Matters is the one we have been waiting for!