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The United Nations estimates that a quarter of the world’s illiterate population lives in sub-Saharan Africa. With the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic further crippling Africa’s already fragile education systems, the challenge to develop the future of Africa remains a daunting task.
At Global Citizen, Chebet Chikumbu is leading an all-women team focused on youth development across Africa to solve this big education and literacy crisis.
CHEBET’S JOURNEY INTO YOUTH DEVELOPMENT
Chebet’s passion for seeing growth in Africa started at a very early age. When she was 10 years old, her parents whisked her away from Kenya to boarding school in South Africa where she developed an appreciation for Africa’s diversity.
While she initially wanted to become an accountant like her father, her goals shifted as she began to learn more about countries across Africa, and noticed the prevailing inequalities that were similar across the board.
With this new awareness, she found herself leaning more towards humanitarian work than accounting.
Today, Chebet works as the Regional Director for Southern and Eastern Africa at Global Citizen and identifies herself as a Pan-African woman with roots in Kenya, South Africa and Zimbabwe.
“I have really come to understand our similarities as Africans but also the nuances in a way that has given me a very profound appreciation for what it means to identify with a Nationality like a singular place.” – Chebet Chikumbu.
INSIDE CHEBET’S JOB: SOLVING A MAN-MADE CRISIS
To create sustainable and practical solutions to the problems of youth development and education, Chebet’s team identifies governments and corporations that can support priorities around the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), develop campaign strategies, and mobilize support across sectors.
With her all-star team, Chebet oversees Global Citizen’s campaigns and ensures that commitments made through the Global Citizen platform are delivered and have a real impact on the intended recipients.
“It became clearer to me that a lot of what we see is man made. And, if these are man made problems, it means that there are man made solutions. And if we collectively put our heads and our hands to work, we can come up with the necessary problem solving that is required to address the world’s most pressing problems.” – Chebet Chikumbu.
BeyGOOD: A SUCCESS STORY IN AFRICAN YOUTH DEVELOPMENT
Chikumbu has had great successes with her team at Global Citizen. Inspired by Nelson Mandela’s passion for youth development and education, as well as his legacy of empowering future generations, Chebet and her team launched the Global Citizen Fellowship Program Powered by BeyGOOD.
The Global Citizen Fellowship Program Powered by BeyGOOD is equipping young people with the skills they need to play a role in social justice, helping their communities achieve the SDGs, and amplifying causes that they believe in.
Now, the Fellowship program is kicking off for its second year — with an extraordinary class of 10 young people. Designed to empower young people with work experience, the program is not only supporting the vision of a South Africa that nurtures its youth.
Each fellow will also have the benefit from personalized mentorship from leaders in entertainment, business, government, and civil society — all aimed at enabling them to realize their potential to become global agents of change.
Chikumbu encouraged young people to apply and engage in the paid, year-long fellowship aligned to one of Global Citizen’s four pillars of activity: creative, campaigns, rewards, and marketing. The next application period would be in 2021.
ADVICE: HOW TO FIND THE RIGHT MENTOR
The mentorship program is an aspect of The Global Citizen Fellowship Program powered by BeyGOOD that Chebet is especially proud of. With a career that has spanned over 15 years, she emphasizes that an effective mentor can create an open environment for young African women to express themselves and be heard.
“I can attest to the fact that mentors have really helped me shape my career in my 20s, and especially now in my 30s because I am thinking more broadly around how do I deepen my thought leadership and how do I truly become the light that I want to be and that I want to see in the world.”- Chebet Chikumbu.
To find the right mentor, Chebet advises that you look for somebody who believes your intentions and is invested in seeing you be great without any strings attached -the key is you have to ask!
SOLVING A CRISIS DURING A GLOBAL PANDEMIC
The pandemic has not spared Chebet and her team. According to Chikumbu, prior to the pandemic, Africa had been making progress to meet the 17 goals. Now, even those targets where that had almost been hit are under threat of having decades of progress wiped out in a matter of weeks.
“Due to COVID-19, an unprecedented health, economic and social crisis is threatening lives and livelihoods …we know that people of colour are disproportionately affected and we know that on the continent it means that the majority of those people of colour will be young and under the age of 30.” – Chebet Chikumbu.
The UN says global school closures have kept over 90% of students worldwide – 1.57 billion pupils – out of access to education, and among them, 370 million children are missing out of school meals that they depend on. For those without access to internet and computers at home, remote learning is not an option, meaning almost no education for the duration of the crisis.
In short, if we thought it was real out here, COVID-19 is teaching us things can be a whole lot more real with existing inequalities and injustices.
THE FUTURE OF YOUTH DEVELOPMENT AND EDUCATION IN AFRICA
While progress might seem daunting, all hope is not lost. Chikumbu and her team are making a collective response to the pandemic, which can serve as a ‘warm-up’ for their preparedness in revamping the progress they had previously made.
“What we are now having to, I suppose, absorb as a shock but beyond that, that’s why we are gathering stakeholders around now to try and think of ways to turn that around and ways to immediately find effective solutions in the spirit of catching up,” says Chikumbu.
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