Mariatu Esther Kabba is a Sierra Leonean Journalism Mentor working for BBC Media Action Sierra Leone, a Writer and Activist for girls’ empowerment and peacebuilding. She is the Co-Founder and Executive Director of Strong Women, Strong Girls Sierra Leone.
Read her journey to the Mandela Washington Fellowship
“My Mandela Washington Fellowship/Yali-Rlc Application Journey
The Mandela Washington Fellowship is the U.S. Government’s Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) flagship program, bringing African civic, business, and community leaders for academic coursework, leadership training, and networking at U.S. colleges and universities, while the YALI RLC Africa Emerging Leaders Program aims at same but works at regional level within Africa.
I got rejected for the YALI RLC three times! The last thing said to me by an interviewer on my third application interview in 2018 was “Mariatu, the YALI RLC is not for you, we’re looking for emerging young leaders trying to initiate positive ideas to solve problems within their communities”
The above statement made me confused and felt frustrated but guess what happened thereafter? I mentored four of my team members within Strong Women Strong Girls Sierra Leone for this same YALI RLC leadership opportunity and three got selected!! Wasn’t this ironical?? What even made me had the gut to mentor someone for an opportunity I never had to be successful on?? Sometimes, the tiniest strength we could find in our toughest moments could work magic!
So, I cultivated this same courage with motivation from Eastina Boimadi Estobaby, Milton Dumbuya, Abdul Rahman Kowa Edward Kargbo and James Metzger, few of my good people to apply for the BIG Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders and boom! My first application was a bang! Yes I got selected for the 2019 Mandela Washington Fellowship at age 25!! Little did I know I was too good for YALI-RLC .
The Sierra Leone application process saw about over two thousand applicants but only eight candidates were selected. I’m proud to be among those chosen few.
What made me stood out?? Grace, selfless service, impactful track record, good mentorship and a convincing application. You could be among the next cohort if you’re determined and meet the criteria of the Mandela Washington Fellowship 2022 Application opening.
I got the best of my six-week fellowship engagement at Rutgers University—New Brunswick between July and early August though C-19 was a big distraction. Yet I’m proud to be a member of the #PandemicCohort. I’m ready to share my Mandela Washington Fellowship experience with potential applicants today at our 2022 application roll out session. Please join us if you can! And yes, I’m open to give further application guidance to a selected number of applicants.
Watch out for a piece on my MWF-Rutgers experience soon to be shared here”