I ask this question though: Who can be a leader? I ask this as voiced by others as well because they do not understand what exactly a leader is. There is a thinking that African leaders are thought to be from rich families or are only businessmen. This may give a negative perspective of leadership in Africa. As young people, our perception has been that to be a leader means having money and the power wealth brings. Yet, there is so much more to leadership. It is about thinking and acting on ways to improve the well-being of people. Think of it as a lifelong gift. One that we can continuously learn from over time. Yes, there are the innate leaders but acquired leaders do exist. That means people can be developed to be leaders.
What are the character traits of a leader? These characteristics assist in identifying the types of leaders and help us to understand the duties of leaders in our community or government. The first principle that a good leader should have is self-leadership. This means being self-disciplined and responsible. Someone who has a vision; someone flexible in every situation and who upholds and protects dignity and value. A good leader is a person who can be a model for others and inspire his fellow people. One who dares to face challenges and seek solutions.
But why African leaders? As an African citizen, only African young people can change our continent and make it better. We as young leaders have to take action for a better generation and if we don’t…who will? We understand our families, we know our problems, we know our strengths and we understand what challenges our people face in their quotidian lives. Accordingly, we need young leaders to bring change and inspire others so that we can take action together. We have the potential to change the negative perspective of leadership and relate it to our culture which is important for Africa.
When and where can we as youth show leadership? The moment we decide to take action, we show leadership. Recognising and using opportunities and platforms to do so shows youth being both responsive as responsible citizens. The moment we encourage someone and effect change in their lives, we can say we are demonstrating leadership. To help us spread the message of change, we use different tools like social media that the world can see that youth are doing something. That we are making impact. Through our work we can inspire others as well.
Africa is one even with different cultures and people. We need to focus on common objectives for our countries as our problems and situations, though on one continent, are not the same. I believe that we have young leaders who think about these challenges and want to do something about it. I hope there are people thinking right now: What can I do to change my community?
Being a Youth Advocate for Change has changed my life and my view of the Africa I see. Before, I only saw the negative characteristics of being African. I forgot that we can also focus on the positive of our country. Spending time with young people and understanding the communities and the challenges they face were part of the program. Trying to do something according to their problems was not easy but as leaders, we need to give our maximum effort till we find solutions and never give up on it. We have been trained to be leaders and it is our time to help grow other young people like us so that the concept of leadership continues from generation to generation.
The YAC program for me is just a beginning because I believe we can continue being an advocate for change anytime, anywhere without stopping.
Natana Jaona Rabenjaminarimanana
Young Advocate for Change