3. Empowering Tomorrow’s Leaders: Rose’s Journey from AAI Graduate to Advocate for Young Girls’ Empowerment in South Africa

Empowering Tomorrow’s Leaders: Rose’s Journey from AAI Graduate to Advocate for Young Girls’ Empowerment in South Africa

AAI Graduates 2024.04.01

Meet Rose, the Ashinaga Africa Initiative (AAI) Graduate leading change to empower young girls in South Africa.
Rose completed her undergraduate degree in medical anthropology at Okayama University in Japan. She received the director’s award for showing the most outstanding academic and community engagement performance in her department.

Rose’s life changed when her mother passed away due to HIV. The loss was difficult for her, but she used her grief to fuel a passion for leading change in her community. “I lived with a parent who contracted HIV; I do not want to see another girl go through what I experienced. I have also observed how rife teenage pregnancy is in South Africa, which means these girls are also susceptible to getting HIV, so I want to pacify that as well.”

South Africa counts for one-fifth of people infected with HIV globally, with most new infections occurring amongst women. Economic instability, domestic violence, lack of access to medical services, and absence of sexual education are among the reasons that make women more vulnerable to the disease.

To solve the problem, Rose started TINA in July 2021 while still an undergraduate student, an organization that provides young girls with training in entrepreneurship, financial freedom, sexual health, and many other essential topics. “I launched a fundraising campaign on my birthday to bring my vision to life and raised 500 dollars. I secured partnerships with a clinic for HIV testing and the police department for self-defense classes.” TINA’s first project was a workshop from the 21st to the 26th of February, 2022. It offered 80 high school girls training in entrepreneurship, health, teenage pregnancy, sex education, and applying for scholarships abroad.
Rose spoke of the 27th of May 2018, the day she received the call with the offer from Ashinaga, as a turning point in her life. “On the 27th of May 2017, my mother passed away because of HIV. A year later, it became the day I received a full scholarship from Ashinaga. A day that carried so much sadness was now a day that symbolized new beginnings. I called all my family members and asked for a gathering. Everyone thought I was having a tough time because it was my mother’s passing anniversary. I shared the news, and everyone was so happy and proud. “That call from Ashinaga erased the bad memory of that day for my family and replaced it with a happy one.”

“The experience of being in Japan was a catalyst for my professional, personal, and spiritual growth. I discovered a lot about myself here. Japan has many opportunities. When I decided to put myself out there despite the language barrier, suddenly, many opportunities started gravitating towards me.”  Rose spent the four years of her undergraduate studies with a focus on her leadership development and professional growth. ‘In addition to my degree, I completed an internship with a healthcare and medical device manufacturing company in Kyoto, Japan. My responsibilities included growing brand awareness through Facebook and identifying local NGOs working on medical devices, HIV services, and other healthcare services. This internship taught me to communicate better, engage in meetings, and work well as a team member.”

Rose attended Unleash, an innovation lab for young changer makers in India, during her last year at university. “I intend to use the lifelong friendships I created during the lab. These friendships consist of various stakeholders that bring a fresh perspective and insight into the issues I am passionate about and intend to address through my Kokorozashi, my lifelong dream. I am also actively involved with the organization now as an ambassador. Part of my role is to get involved with the community through various initiatives and create youth hackathons. Through this experience, I am harnessing new skill sets and refining existing ones. ‘’
Shortly after graduation, Rose joined the Moremi Initiative, a leadership empowerment and development program in Ghana. The program awards 25 outstanding young women who have exhibited leadership potential in their community annually.

MILEAD’s mission is to equip Fellows with world-class knowledge, skills, values, and support systems they need to succeed as 21st-century leaders. Sharing about her experience as a fellow, Rose noted: “I applied for MISLEAD because I wanted to unleash my leadership potential further. The program was designed to develop leadership skills and prepare us fellows for high-level leadership roles. This included sessions on public speaking, negotiation, strategic planning, and other essential skills. Through these, I will hone effective leadership that will contribute to my professional development.” Rose added:” Participating in this program enabled me to form lasting connections with other like-minded women, which created a supportive environment where women can share their challenges and successes. Being part of a supportive community will help me feel more confident and empowered in my leadership roles.

Additionally, these connections can be valuable sources of support, advice, inspiration, and potential collaborators on future TINA programs.” Lastly, Rose touched on the Michange project, which invites all the fellows to lead impactful projects in their communities. “I will use this opportunity to build a stronger foundation for TINA in South Africa. Not only do we receive mentorship and support for this project, but visibility as well.”
Soon after, Rose joined the Ashinaga Uganda team as a Study camp intern. “I have been fortunate to walk through the journey that AAI Candidates are now embarking on. I understand the uncertainty and confusion that comes with it. For me, being able to be that big sister who provides them with reassurance and guidance is the biggest motivation behind this internship.”

Reflecting on her AAI experience, Rose shared, “The different activities in the AAI leadership program ignited something in me. They gave me a push in the right direction. I started to see what other people saw in me. I am more confident in who I am, what I stand for, my voice, and my story.”

Rose is currently back in South Africa, where she plans to grow TINA, increase its impact beyond her community, and empower women throughout the African continent to be more financially independent and lead better lives.

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