Hope Mwanake|01.09.2014|News
Hope shares her experiences of meeting President Obama as part of the Young Africa Leaders Initiative

If anyone had told me at the start of the year that I would have the opportunity to meet the President of the United States of America, Barack Obama, and his wife Michelle, I would have told them they were crazy!

My name is Hope Mwanake, Co-Founder of the TRACE Kenya Group, one of the organisations that the MTV Staying Alive Foundation supports. This year, I was selected as a Mandela Washington Fellow, as part of the Young Africa Leaders Initiative.

A few weeks ago I had the privilege of meeting Barack and Michelle Obama in Washington DC, at the 2014 Young African Leaders Initiative summit.

“Glad to meet you, hope and keep up the good  work”, the President told me. These few seconds were like a dream come true for me and an opportunity of a lifetime.

I can’t find the words to describe how it felt to meet and hug Michelle Obama. She is very passionate about female empowerment and is dedicated to raising the profile of women in developing countries to help them become global leaders.

Mandela fellow_hope

During the week-long summit I also met other high-profile people such as US National Security Advisor Susan Rice, US Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power, and Secretary of State John Kerry.

Before the summit, I spent 6 weeks at Yale University, one of the top universities in the world. I took a leadership course focussing on business and entrepreneurship. Our course was part of the prestigious Yale World Fellows programme and covered exciting subjects taught by leading professionals.

In addition to the classes at Yale, we also took part in many business workshops, networked with local and regional business leaders, and participated in community service projects where we met local residents in New Haven, CT.

They even organised a surprise party for us, which was pure fun!

My take home message from this fellowship programme is that all young people, not only from Africa but youth from around the world, are the leaders of today and not of tomorrow.

We are bubbling with innovative ideas that need to be harnessed immediately to drive change. With appropriate empowerment initiatives that improve the skills and networks of young people, they will thrive and contribute to strengthening democratic institutions, spurring economic and social development and enhancing peace and security in the world.

Image credit: Chuck Kennedy—The Official White House Photostream