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15 Basotho youths leave for the US



Rose Moremoholo


THE US Ambassador to Lesotho Matthews Harrington yesterday bid farewell to 15 young Basotho who will undergo leadership training in America.

The youths are part of the 330 who had applied for the President Barack Obama’s Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI), which was launched in 2010 to empower young people through academic coursework, leadership training and networking.

The programme includes a fellowship component in the United States known as the Mandela Washington Fellowship.

This is the third batch that is leaving for the programme and at least 39 finalists were interviewed with only 15 getting the final cut to represent some of the brightest, most talented young minds in the country.

Mookho Maqhali is among the lucky few.

Moqhali is a senior legal officer in the Ministry of Health who has proven to multitudes that passion can never stop you from being professional.

Besides having worked as the ministry’s legal officer for nine years, Moqhali has become famous for her God given talent of singing and being a motivational speaker.

“Music is my passion, being a lawyer is my profession and I love them both,” she says.

“I am a very shy person and it is through singing that some of my shyness is not publicly displayed,” Moqhali says.

Maqhali was involved in the litigation of both criminal and civil cases against and for people who cannot afford legal fees.

She has had a substantial contribution in the legislative and regulatory interventions made in the Ministry of Health to influence public health laws and policies.

She is also the founder of Alliance Against Tobacco Use (AATU) and its objectives include building capacity in Lesotho for effective tobacco control implementation and eradication of non-communicable diseases.

She has also won the 2015 Ultimate Music award of the best Jazz Musician and Album in Lesotho.

In his farewell speech, Harrington said those that were chosen will each participate in a six-week academic residency at a US university where the programme will offer leadership seminars, mentorship and networking sessions, community service opportunities and have a cultural outing to learn the American culture.

team to USA“While this time in the United States is an important element of the programme, this Fellowship is not just about going to the US but the fellows are chosen because they are poised to make a real difference back home,” Harrington said.

Harrington further said that upon return, the participants will be provided with the support they need to make a difference, “this includes internships, professional mentorship, travel grants to speak at high level conferences, and funding assistance for project ideas”.

“We are proud of the 2016 Mandela Washington Fellows and of their 11 compatriots who participated in the first two years of the programme. Members of the latter group are already making a difference here in Lesotho,” Harrignton said.

Harrington said there is already a positive change for those who participated in the last events, citing the example of four former Washington Fellows who secured funding to conduct an upcoming weeklong bootcamp for 30 Basotho entrepreneurs while another Fellow established an income-generating native plant nursery at a primary school while the other alumnus of the programme has built his NGO into a powerful voice for the LGBTI community in Lesotho.

Harrington says experts say by 2050 Africa’s population will double to two billion people with the majority of them being under 18 years.

“This is why we want to ensure that African youths are invested in their future and why YALI is so important now and for the generation to come”.

“Our hope is that when these YALI Fellows have gone on to be ministers in the government, or leaders in business or pioneers of social change that they will still be connecting with each other.”

Thirteen Fellows will return home after six weeks while two will stay behind for a six week professional internship. The fellows will be leaving tomorrow.


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