Chidzani Catherine Mbenge

2019 Fellowship Alumna, Botswana

YALI10 Competition, First Place: The Shy Girl Who Refuses to Die Shy

In celebration of the tenth anniversary of the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI), the U.S. Department of State, in partnership with the Wilson Center, opened a competition under the theme “YALI at 10: My Life, My Community, and My World.” Selected submissions were showcased at the YALI tenth anniversary virtual summit in May 2021, where a decade of YALI change-makers and their achievements were celebrated.  Submissions included a variety of media, including videos, short essays, poems, songs, spoken word, and sketches.

We’re proud that several Fellowship Alumni were among the finalists and semi-finalists in the contest, including the entries selected for first and third prize. The first-place prize went to Chidzani Catherine Mbenge, 2019 Fellowship Alumna from Botswana who studied Leadership in Public Management at Georgia State University. Learn more about what YALI means to her in this poem.

Despite the butterflies in my stomach, I lead … I am a Young African Leader.

Chizani Mbenge, 2019 Fellowship Alumna, Botswana

Please note that competition entries reflect the thoughts and opinions of Fellowship Alumni and may not reflect views of the U.S. Government.

The Shy Girl Who Refuses to Die Shy

A woman in full personal protective equipment, including a mask, goggles, gloves, and a surgical gown
Chidzani conducts field work during the pandemic.

Despite the palpitations, the stomach knots
I brace through leadership, For I am a YALI Alumni,
That discovered that I am a leader in my own right,
I do not have to pretend to be someone else
I can be the best version of myself

Shy and reserved I was born,
But we cannot judge a fish for its flying capabilities,
When its strength is swimming
– Harmony, Responsibility, Analytical, Consistency, Developer
Are the Gallup CliftonStrengths that I capitalize in
– Empathy, Equality, Health, Integrity, Humility
Are the core values that I live by

I am a Public Health Specialist in the making
I speak health system strengthening and management
I speak evidenced-based policies and interventions
Best Practices from YALI Leadership in Public Management
Best Practices from Atlanta – home of the biggest Public Health Institute
The inspiring and mesmerizing visit to CDC Atlanta
I dream of the birth of Botswana Public Health Institute, of “CDC Botswana.”

COVID-19 Pandemic,
What a blessing in disguise – Putting Public Health Theory into Practice
Responding to a Crisis – the practical module!
Overseeing contact tracing across the country – Leadership!
Guidelines formation, trainings, field work, community engagement
Teamwork, partnerships, networking –
Cutting down chains of transmission of COVID-19 in Botswana
Altruistic Servant Leadership in the face of the Pandemic
The Martin Luther King, Jr. type of selflessness

It takes a village to raise a child in Africa
Mathangwane village raised me and it is my turn to give back
I lead Mathangwane Train Organization
Advocating for community developments
Party with a Purpose in Atlanta, raising funds for a Non Profit
Emulated by Family fun days in Mathangwane – fundraising through entertainment
The power of collaborations –
Collaborating with DARE to Dream Organization
Eight Mathangwane village students flew in an aeroplane for the first time
On a FLY for STEAME experience – inspiring STEM careers.

Despite the butterflies in my stomach, I lead
Despite the anxiety, I knock on doors
I am ‘The shy girl who refuses to die shy!’
I am a Young African Leader.

Learn more about the other YALI 10 Competition winners.

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