NAIROBI, KENYA— Each year the United States brings together 500 young African leaders for training at American universities. One woman wants to improve lives in a poor part of northeastern Kenya lacking in health care, development and opportunities for young people.
Fauzia Abdikadir is from a nomadic family in Garissa, which was the capital of Kenya's former Northeastern province.
Over the years, the region has lagged behind the rest of the country in terms of development. Abdikadir hopes to change that, however, through her Northern Organization for Social Empowerment.
“We are being taught how to transform societies with what we have. They say what we have is the energy, the zeal, the enthusiasm and the brains of coming up with new ideas in order to save the society from poverty, illiteracy, gender-based violence and so many social vices,” said Abdikadir.
For centuries, the people of northeastern Kenya have depended on their animals as a source of income, moving from one place to another in search of water and pasture.
The nomadic lifestyle and traditional ways of life have resulted in limited schooling for many children, especially girls.
Abdikadir said she wants to introduce agriculture as an alternative way of life in her community, with the goal of giving young people more opportunities.
“Specifically, where I come from we are not so much into agriculture yet we have very fertile land, we have good opportunities to practice agriculture. The other thing is youth empowerment, we need to empower the youth," she said. "There are two types of youths -- the rural youths and the urban youths. The urban youths, they can access the limited resources that are there, while the rural youth cannot access any of those.”
Civil leadership training
Access to healthcare and education also is a major problem in Kenya's pastoralist communities, where most people have to walk more than 10 kilometers to reach a healthcare facility or schools.
In the U.S., Abdikadir will get six weeks' training and a two-month internship on civil leadership. The program aims to shape and guide the next generation of Africa's educators, entrepreneurs, activists and leaders.
The fellowship is given to the youths between the age of 25 and 35 who have a proven record assisting their societies in areas of their expertise.
After the training, the young Africans will be given funds to support their ideas and organizations so they can undertake projects to help their communities.