Saturday, March 10, 2012

Step-up for African leaders

As a graduate student of Eastern’s International Development Program I have studied alongside classmates and under professors representing Madagascar, Kenya, Uganda, and Rwanda. Their personal and professional life experience has significantly sharpened my understandings of international development. Last year I moved to Uganda to complete my studies and get some "dirt under my fingernails” experience. My first few months here were spent interning with a women’s organization started and run by Ugandans themselves. The experience gave me the opportunity to interview leaders of various Ugandan-run organizations and sit in meetings with high level decision makers in government. Often I was the only foreigner in the room feeling like a spy on what seems to be a dual line of development. It was amazing to hear community leaders testify of change in areas of Gender Based Violence, improved economic yield in terms of agriculture, higher levels of education for girls, and stronger communities that result from regular meetings facilitated by local nonprofits.

There are many positions of influence within African countries and societies that foreigners cannot and will not effectively reach. A leader who intimately understands the way people of their culture think, who has experienced the struggle of their counterparts, but still incessantly pushes for a better future, holds authority. Long term, deeply rooted development comes from those who lead their own communities.

Last year a speaker at Eastern quoted Desmond Tutu as saying, “Africans do not ask, ‘does God exist?’ Africans ask, ‘why is Africa so poor?’” This statement has ringed in my ears over the last year as I have struggled to gain insight to the question. No matter how many circles of thought I run around, I always come back to the need for strong leadership that flows from the citizens of Africa themselves.

 Building capacity of local leaders is one of the most sustainable forms of giving. As a self-funded climber, I am pleased to hike up Mt. Kilimanjaro in support of raising African leaders. All of the money donated to Eastern University’s SLD program will go toward scholarships for African students. To be clear, for the purposes of this fundraiser, African leaders indicates leaders who are pursuing a graduate degree through Eastern’s International Development program or Organizational Leadership program and are natural citizens of a country in Africa.

If you are interested in learning more about the climb and how to give click here.

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