“WACSI’s training was exceptional. The modules were the best I have encountered since 2002, and the facilitators demonstrated a deep understanding of the content”, said Isatou Secka, cohort 43 member of the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI).
The Gambia, a small West African nation with a population of 2.5 million is brimming with hope and ambition. The youth make almost 60% of the country’s total population. This indicates that the country stands a higher chance of progress in socio-economic and political growth if it can empower the youth to participate in leadership, governance and politics. Unfortunately, that has not been the case.
For 22 years, the country grappled with dictatorial rule led by erstwhile Yahya Jammeh. He oversaw the adoption of a new constitution and transformed himself into a nominally democratic leader through successive electoral wins. These elections were neither free nor fair, and the Jammeh era was characterised by widespread corruption and extensive human rights abuses including torture and extrajudicial killings. Under these circumstances, youth involvement in the country’s governance and politics was very minimal. The country’s political landscape had favoured older people than the youth.
Many young Gambians like Isatou Secka believe the country’s story can change if the youth empower themselves through trainings on leadership and youth activism. It was this inspiration which motivated her to embark on a transformative journey to become an excellent leader in youth activism and advocacy.
Isatou’s unyielding commitment to becoming an exceptional leader was evident through her active participation in various leadership skills development programmes. However, it was the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) Cohort 43, facilitated by the esteemed West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI) at the YALI Regional Leadership Centre in Ghana, that truly ignited her potential and set her on an extraordinary trajectory.
YALI supports young people to drive growth and prosperity, strengthen democratic governance, and enhance peace and security across Africa. WACSI has groomed hundreds of young Africans into influential leaders through this programme.
With a desire to enhance her leadership skills ethically and bring added value to her work, Isatou saw YALI as an opportunity to connect with like-minded individuals from across West Africa. Little did she know that the training would surpass her wildest expectations. WACSI’s innovative and captivating delivery approach left her deeply impressed, considering it the pinnacle of her educational journey.
Throughout the immersive YALI experience, Isatou was guided by facilitators who possessed unparalleled understanding and mastery of the subject matter. This transformative encounter opened her eyes to the realities faced by youth leaders, civil society organisations, and advocates. Armed with newfound knowledge, Isatou engaged in introspection and conducted a comprehensive SWOT analysis, identifying untapped opportunities and areas for growth.
“The training opened my eyes to the reality of being a youth leader and taught me crucial skills for sustaining my organisation,” she said.
The training has also helped her to enhance the growth of Women and Children Aid the Gambia (WoCAG), a new organisation she has formed to promote the welfare of women and children in the country.
“Guided by what I was taught during the training, I have been able to develop a comprehensive sustainability and resource mobilisation strategy for WoCAG, aiming to catalyse the organisation’s holistic development,” she said.
Seeing the rich nature of the training content, she advocated for WACSI to share presentation slides and modules with participants, enabling them to continue their leadership journeys with guidance.
“I will be very glad if WACSI, through the YALI programme, can organise Training of Trainers (ToT) programmes for we young leaders,’’ she said, envisioning broader outreach through collaborations with regional and continental networks and civil society organisations.
Isatou’s dedication and growth have led her to occupy two prominent roles. She is the first-ever elected female Regional Chairperson on The Gambia National Youth Council Board, representing Kanifing.
Isatou’s story epitomises the unwavering commitment of young African leaders to foster positive change within their communities. Her pursuit of excellence and endorsement of WACSI’s training modules serve as a shining example of the boundless potential within every individual dedicated to creating a brighter future for their nation and beyond.
As Isatou continues to inspire and lead, her impact ripples across The Gambia and Africa, leaving a legacy of empowerment, compassion, and visionary leadership for generations to come. The world eagerly awaits the remarkable endeavours she and her team will embark upon, and the positive change they will bring to the lives of countless women, children, and youth.
With Isatou’s unwavering spirit, the future of The Gambia is destined to be a place of hope, progress, and boundless opportunities for all.