N'zani Kassim Zani

2019 Fellowship Alumna, Kenya

YALI10 Competition, Semi-Finalist: N’zani Kassim Zani

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 2019 Fellowship Alumna N’zani Kassim Zani of Kenya, who studied Leadership in Civic Engagement at Indiana University. Learn more about her work in her competition entry below.

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

Essay: About N’zani Kassim Zani

N’zani Kassim Zani holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism (Public Relations and Marketing) from the United States International University – Africa in Nairobi: Class of 2019. She is also the holder of a Diploma in Broadcast Journalism from the Kenya Institute of Mass Communication Class of 2015. She chose to study Communication and Journalism to utilize the power of communication and information to create a transformative social change. N’zani is also a 2019 Mandela Washington Fellowship Alumna, a YALI fellow, and an Acumen Fellow 2020.  

She is a champion for Gender Equality, Human Rights, and Social Justice. She is the Founder of the Hijabi Mentorship Program (THMP) – a registered Community Based Organization formed in 2018 that champions Development by addressing Gender-Based Violence (GBV), Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR), Peace and Conflict Resolution, and promotes Economic empowerment amongst vulnerable young people in Kwale County with a specific focus on women.

Recently, THMP was part of a cohort of 10 youth-led Organizations (grantees) selected globally to receive $50,000 from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to support their work and mission towards advancing Gender Equality as part of the Generation Equality Forum. This opportunity will take their organization to the next level and put it firmly on track to achieving its mission and vision of empowering women and girls in underserved communities.  

N’zani was also recently appointed as the Kwale County Coordinator to the UN Youth Association of Kenya. This opportunity provides her with a platform to influence external action and international partnerships. This will contribute to making the UN Youth action more participatory, relevant, and effective for young people in her community.  

She also serves as the Communication Assistant for WWF- Kenya Coastal Program where she uses the power of communication to champion Conservation and creating a world where humans and nature live in harmony. 

N’zani has volunteered with different local and national projects towards creating transformative social change. In 2019, she was selected for the Ms. President competition on KTN Kenya, which served to highlight the depth of female leadership in Kenya. She represented her county Kwale and gained influence and visibility which earned her the title Ms. President Kwale. In 2020, she was nominated for the Zuri Awards: a platform celebrating outstanding women who are changing the lives of Kenyan communities.  Her vision for Africa is to have an empowered society that upholds the fundamental rights and freedoms of young people and women and provides them with equal access to resources and opportunities for self-development. 

N’zani carries great passion and enthusiasm towards matters of social development in her community and this is an excellent opportunity for her to build on her mobilization and influencing skills, a capacity that shall be crucial to the success of her work in her community. As the founder of THMP, an organization solely run by a group of volunteers from the community, she has demonstrated her grassroots mobilization and organization capacity. This also speaks to her enthusiasm towards the welfare of the local communities.

Learn more about the other YALI 10 Competition winners.

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