WACSI’s Training ‘Opened My Eyes’ to the Reality of Being a Youth Leader- YALI Trainee Recounts Her Experience 

WACSI’s Training ‘Opened My Eyes’ to the Reality of Being a Youth Leader- YALI Trainee Recounts Her Experience 

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“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. 


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Fiifi is a Ghanaian and currently serves as Communications and Information Officer at the West Africa Civil Society Institute. He joined the Institute in December 2020.


Nancy is a Ghanaian and currently serves as Programme Officer in the Knowledge Management unit at the West Africa Civil Society Institute. She joined the Institute in January 2021.


Agnes is a Ghanaian and currently serves as Head of the Administration unit in the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). She joined the Institute in October 2021.


Doris holds a Bachelor of Arts in Social sciences (Economics and Sociology) from the University of Cape Coast. She is passionate about impacting young lives hence co-founded Impart Foundation. A non-profit organization which seeks to empower young lives through education, technology and entrepreneurship.


Prince Akowuah is a Ghanaian and currently the Programme Assistant in the Translation Unit at the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). She joined the Institute in 2020.


Maxwell Apenteng is a Ghanaian and joined WACSI in September 2010. He provides gardening and janitorial services at the Institute.


George Adu-Mintah is a Ghanaian and currently the Protocol Assistant/Driver at the West Africa Civil Society (WACSI). He joined the Institute in October 2006.


Ibrahim Kwaku Gbadago is a Ghanaian. He joined the Institute in 2008 and provides janitorial services and assisting the institute's errands. Before joining the Institute, he worked at the Palestinian embassy in Accra, Ghana.


Ruth Yakana is from Cameroon and currently the Receptionist at the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). She joined the Institute in 2020.


Bethel is a Ghanaian. He provides technical and IT related support to the Institute. He joined the Institute in October 2006.


Whitnay Segnonna holds a Bachelor’s Degree in International Management from the University of Benin. With 2 years of experience, she has a strong knowledge of organizational and project management. Combined with her bilingualism, she is very passionate about her work. She joined WACSI as Project Assistant on Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF) for the Capacity Development Unit.


Stella Yawa Wowoui holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Translation Studies. She has a perfect grasp of both French and English, as well as an intermediate level in Spanish. She is currently working as a Project Assistant on the Techsoup Project.


Kwame is an experienced IT Consultant/Software Developer. He is skilled in Web Applications Development, Digital Security, Database Management, Digital Marketing and Brand Management. He holds a Bachelor's Degree in Information Technology and is a Microsoft Programme Alumni. He is currently serving as a Marketing and IT Officer on the Techsoup Project.


Grace Akpene Ziggah is a Togolese and currently the Logistics Officer and also assists in administration duties at the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). She joined the Institute in June 2009.


Lilian Dafeamekpor is a Ghanaian and currently the Assistant to the Executive Director at the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). She joined the Institute in 2020.


John P. Frinjuah has expertise and interests in civil society, international development, democracy and governance, conflict, crisis, and security. He has extensive experience working with civil society and international development organizations where he supported and managed research, programmes, and provided technical assistance on a variety of themes around public policy, governance, and development. He is an alumnus of the University of Ghana and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy - Tufts University in the United States, with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Master of Arts in Law and Diplomacy from two institutions respectively. John speaks English, French and several Ghanaian and regional West Africa languages.


Gervin has extensive international development experience, including 5 years of policy advocacy and capacity building of grass root organisations. He has implemented over the years a combination of agriculture value chain, livelihood, food security and governance and rights programmes.
Prior to joining WACSI, Gervin worked on two USAID projects focusing on agriculture value chain development and governance in northern Ghana
Gervin holds a master’s degree in development & Governance from the University of Duisburg-Essen, Germany as well as a Masters in Global Studies from the Universities of Vienna (Austria), Leipzig (Germany) and California (Santa Barbara), USA. He is passionate social justice and inclusion.


Leandre Banon, Beninese, joined WACSI in September 2014 as Capacity Development Programme Assistant. Since then, he has worked in various units within the Institute to support operational and institutional capacity strengthening programmes for civil society in the region. Currently serving as Capacity Development Programme Officer at WACSI, his main responsibilities involve designing, planning, implementing and monitoring capacity development programmes for civil society constituents and grouping across the West Africa. Leandre is a certified Change the Game Academy Programme Trainer. His background lies in the areas of economics and development planning.


Samuel Appiah is a Ghanaian and currently the Programme Officer in the Finance and Administrative Unit at the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). He joined the Institute in May, 2016.


Jimm Chick Fomunjong, Cameroonian, joined WACSI in May 2018 as the Head of the Knowledge Management and Communication Units of the Institute. He has over ten years’ experience as a journalist and a development communications expert. He has a vast experience in supporting African organisations to strengthen their internal and external communications, building and sustaining relationships with the media and, leveraging on the power of social media to promote their mission. He is also excellent at supporting organisations to set up and operationalise functional communications and knowledge management systems. He has a deep passion and expertise in supporting Africans and African civil society organisations to document their praxis, share and learn from experiences documented from the African civil society sector.


Franck Sombo is a development practitioner with the drive to lead self and others to influence productivity and efficiency. His work involves supporting organisations to develop strategic plans, design monitoring and evaluation systems, develop and use relevant performance measurement tools to track progress, assess organizational growth and institutionalise learning. Franck has eight years of experience working with WACSI where he currently serves as the Head, Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning. His academic qualifications include Masters in Organisations’ and Projects’ Management, and in Business Sciences and a High National Diploma in Finance and Accounting.

Franck is a Fellow of the International Program for Development Evaluation Training (IPDET) and a graduate of the Graduate Training Institute (GTI) - Ghana with specialization in Strategic Management and Corporate Leadership. He has a rich experience in Project Management, Capacity Development, Strategic planning, Data Analytics, Monitoring and Evaluation, Training and Facilitation, Mentoring and Coaching among others.


Omolara is a development practitioner and advocacy strategist with over 15 years of progressive experience in development programming targeted at strengthening civil society in West Africa.

She joined WACSI in November 2009 as a Regional Advocacy Consultant and later became the first Policy Advocacy Officer of the Institute in 2010.

She was promoted to Head of the Policy Influencing and Advocacy (PIA) Unit in 2015. As the Head of the PIA unit, Omolara offers strategic direction to the Institutes’ ambitions to connect and convene groups of organised and organic civil society actors; and influence regional and global discourses on crosscutting policy issues including—civil society regulations, sustainable development goals, civic space and enabling environment, aid effectiveness, gender equality, and civil society accountability.

Previously, Omolara served as a Programmes Associate with the Women in Peace and Security Network-Africa (WIPSEN-Africa), where she worked with her team to design and implement pan-African programmes on—multidimensional peace support operations and gender mainstreaming in security sector reform in Ghana, Sierra Leone, and Liberia.

She also served as a Service Development Marshal at TVQ Consulting Group, a customer service firm focused on designing strategic customer relationship and business growth plans for private and public financial institutions in Nigeria.

Omolara is a social justice advocate, a network weaver, and a convener. She has a postgraduate degree in Peace and Conflict Studies; a degree in International Relations and History, from the University of Ibadan and Obafemi Awolowo University in Nigeria respectively.

She also holds executive certificates in Behavioral Science in Public Policy from Harvard University Executive Education in Cambridge and in Citizen Advocacy from the Coady International Institute, St Francis Xavier University in Canada.


Kwabena Kroduah is a Ghanaian and currently heads the Finance Unit at the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). He joined the Institute in January 2008.


Charles currently serves as the Head of the Capacity Development Unit at the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). Charles has over 10 years of experience working in international development and social justice issues in Africa. Charles has expertise in strengthening civil society and public agencies including the design and implementation of governance and leadership programmes, development of knowledge pieces and policy advice. Charles was the founding Board Chair of Innovation for Change (i4C)-Hub Afrique, as well as the founding member of the International Consortium on Closing Civic Space (iCon), an initiative of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington DC. Charles currently serves as the Member of the Governing Board (Coordination Collective) of Africans Rising. He is a Member of the Development Studies Association, United Kingdom. Charles is a 2017 Stanford University Fellow for Nonprofit Leaders and a certified Change the Game Resource Mobilisation Trainer.


Nana Afadzinu is a Ghanaian and currently serves as the Executive Director of the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). She joined the Institute in October 2010.