YALI Voices Podcast: Wuraoluwa Ayodele and Masele Msita on Speaking Up and Being Heard


Wuraoluwa Ayodele and Masele Msita are two women who saw needs in their communities and acted to meet them.

Wuraoluwa Ayodele and Masele Msita
Wuraoluwa Ayodele, left, and Masele Msita at the Presidential Precinct in Charlottesville, Virginia

Wuraoluwa is a lawyer from Nigeria who focuses on women’s rights and helps victims of gender-based violence (GBV) through her organization, the Women’s Safe House Sustenance Initiative.

Masele is a marketing strategist with a background in law. She holds workshops in her community in Tanzania to help citizens improve their legal literacy and better understand their rights under the constitution.

Wuraoluwa saw the need to help her community when she moved to northern Nigeria shortly after completing law school. She saw many homeless women on the streets who were survivors of GBV and, as a GBV survivor herself, decided to take action. She started two shelters in the state that help provide women with basic needs, health care and legal services.

Masele became motivated to help her community while going to law school. When she believed Tanzania’s democracy was threatened, Masele helped organize a peaceful protest. When no one showed up, she realized that fear and ignorance played a role.

This inspired Masele to start holding legal literacy workshops at her local church. Through these workshops, she teaches citizens how to interpret the law so that they will know their rights and can stand up for themselves.

In this YALI Voices podcast, Wuraoluwa and Masele detail how they are taking action to help solve issues they see in their communities, and how they want other young Africans to do the same. Their advice? Find an issue you are passionate about and volunteer your time to helping solve it.

“I say that everyone should start where they are. You do not need all the money in the world or all the connections in the world to be the process of change that you need to be,” Wuraoluwa says.

Listen to the full YALI Voices podcast or read the transcript below to learn more about how Wuraoluwa and Masele are encouraging youth to “get up and be the positive change that you need to be.”

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE

YALI Voices Podcast: WURAOLUWA AYODELE and MASELE MSITA

Transcript

[MUSIC PLAYING]

♪ Yes we can ♪ ♪ Sure we can ♪ ♪ Change the world ♪

WURAOLUWA AYODELE: Hello, my name is Wuraoluwa Ayodele. I am a women-rights lawyer from Nigeria, and I work on women-rights issues and support victims of gender-based violence. I’m the founder of Women Safe House Sustenance Initiative. It’s an organization that helps protect and rehabilitate women and girls from gender-based violence in Nigeria.

I also run a shelter for women where I give them temporary accommodation — feeding, clothing, health care and financial support to help them get back on their feet.

MASELE MSITA: Hi, my name is Masele Msita from Tanzania. I’m a marketing strategist with a legal background. So part of my legal background, I have used it. I am passionate about legal literacy and helping people understand the primary knowledge of law so that they can implement it and enforce it themselves.

WURAOLUWA AYODELE: Hi, Masele.

MASELE MSITA: Hi, Wura.

TOGETHER: Welcome to the YALI Voices podcast.

MASELE MSITA: So, before we get started, don’t forget to subscribe to the YALI Voices podcast and visit yali.state.gov to stay up to date on all things YALI.

[MUSIC PLAYING]

MASELE: So, Wura how was it growing up in Nigeria? I really love Lagos. I’ve heard a lot about Banana Island. I really want to know about it. But also tell me about your career path, like, why did you choose to be a lawyer? And tell me about your early influences and any important milestones in your life until now.

WURAOLUWA: I would say I grew up in different cities in Nigeria. I was born in Ibadan, Oyo State, Nigeria. And I lived there for a while, for a few years, before I moved to Rivers State, Port Harcourt. And later back to Ibadan, and then later to Lagos. More or less moved around Nigeria a lot. I experienced a lot growing up in Nigeria as a little girl. I grew up in different communities, and one thing was common to all these communities: the fact that the girl child was undermined. So I had to battle, coming up — sticking up my head to be relevant as a woman and as a girl growing up in my community.

Right from elementary school — that’s primary school in Nigeria — up to secondary school and even up to university, I had to constantly fight for relevance. I had to constantly let people know that I could be as powerful, as vocal, as exciting as my counterparts who were boys, who were in school. I would only take subjects in school that were male-dominated, simply because I wanted to make a point.

I went through violence as a child, right from age 6 and even down up to age 12 down to when I was a teenager. This kind of mapped my concept, mapped my — the way I saw little things about growing up, about girls, about women around Nigeria.

Why I became a lawyer? I knew that for me to help women and to help girls in my community, I needed some form of authority or some form of force, and I knew I couldn’t get that without getting — enrolling in something that would help me.

I initially wanted to join the military because I thought, well, I could get some form of acceptance or some form of power. But you know how terrible it is to train in the military. And I thank God for my ever-supportive mother. She shaped my life. She put me in the right direction and on the right path, and I became a lawyer simply because I wanted to have a voice. I wanted to speak about women rights, I wanted to speak about the importance of the girl child, and I wanted people to hear me.

MASELE: I used to hear stories that you might all become doctors, but you might all have different reasons as to why you became a doctor, so thinking about your story, it’s totally different from my story, and I’m really sorry that you had to go through like gender-based violence.

My background, I think, is quite different. I’m a city girl, a proud city girl. I grew up in the biggest city in Tanzania, and I grew up with parents who were both educated, the first generation of education in Tanzania after independence.

So, coming from a family of five girls and three boys, I’m happy to say that my dad always made sure that we felt equal. There was equal education, equal opportunities, equal work share, so I never had to face what you went through. But, rather, there was a lot of competition in the family, and at that you always had to work twice more than your sister and your brother, because those equal opportunity, same schools … My early influences in life are my dad. The fact that we came from a culture where the male in the family was always being — they always were like the boys are more important than the girls. And I used to look at the name as in the boy child and the girl child are treated differently. But in our house, the girl child and the boy child are both equal. So that was one of my first influences.

And I should say that it is — my first encounter of gender-based violence is I was given a book about women in Togo —I remember I was 13 years old. I was given a book about women in Togo who were facing early child marriages and violence, gender-based violence, but I never realized that that was gender-based violence. I was just like, those are just cultural practices. But until I got to a specific age, like 23, that’s when I realized that that was gender-based violence, because I didn’t know the clear definition of gender-based violence. So at some point, I looked at it as bad cultural practices, but in reality they were gender-based violence; because of their gender, that is why they had to succumb to such bad things.

So I wanted to become a lawyer, but my dad did not understand. Why would you want to become a lawyer when you’re good at science? So what he did is to give me books of John Grisham and he told me to cram the whole story. He was like, “You want to be a lawyer? You have to cram this whole book.” And I worked really hard.

He also gave me biographies of Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi, and I saw Condoleezza Rice getting sworn into as a minister back then. And she was my first female influence. I saw a woman called Asha-Rose Migiro getting sworn in to the U.N. as the deputy to the general secretary. And she was my second female influence. And I looked at their backgrounds. Mahatma Gandhi was a lawyer. And Nelson Mandela was a lawyer. Condoleezza Rice was a lawyer. Bill Clinton was a lawyer. Asha-Rose Migiro from Tanzania was a lawyer. And I was like, “Dad, this is why I want to become a lawyer.” So those are my early influences and what’s made me to the path that I am today.

So, I need to know like, in deep, what are you doing? I understand that you’re helping women, but how did you start doing this? Did you wake up one morning, like as soon as after law school and said, “I’m going to help women”? Or was it initiated at — where did this initiative start?

WURAOLUWA: The reason why I went to law school in the first place was because I wanted to help women. And I knew I needed my voice to be heard. I needed to speak and I needed people to listen to me. And like I said earlier, I had a supportive mother who understood my passion. She could recognize how passionate I was about women. And, I put my life into this, and I didn’t know how it was going to come out, I didn’t know what direction I was going to go, but I knew this is what I want. So in school I would always take classes, you know, that were related to women rights.

My mother is — has a Ph.D. in art history, so she was very encouraging about getting me books to read, anything related to the history of women rights, how women have evolved and all of that, and it was helpful.

I joined a few groups online, I’ve taken a few online courses about violence, about women, about knowing who abusers are, but I still didn’t know what direction.

Shortly after I finished law school, I moved to the north in Nigeria, Taraba State to be precise, and I started to work there. And while I was there, I met several women who were on the street. I discovered that culture and religion play a large role, a big role in violence against women in Nigeria, and it was a problem for me. I couldn’t stand seeing girls on the street. I couldn’t stand seeing them homeless. A lot of them had run away from their villages and they come to the city and they had no one or nowhere to go to. A lot of them were not in school.

So what did I do? I wanted to create a support system for them, so I started bringing them together. I started speaking to them, I started encouraging them, I housed a few of them. I would give them food, I would talk to them, get tutors to teach them. We had to start teaching some of them from scratch, teaching them alphabets, because a lot of them didn’t know ABCs. It was that bad. And I thought of, what can I do to get these girls with me, spend more time with me? And that’s where the idea of the shelter came up because I discovered, oh, they didn’t have any support system, no one was supporting them. There were several days that the girls would — I didn’t know where they were going to, and I didn’t have any contact. They didn’t have phones, I couldn’t reach them. But we had a meeting place. And every time we were to meet, they would appear. I didn’t know how. There were days that they came in the rain, drenched in the rain. And I always have to make myself available because I know, if I’m not there, those girls will come and they’ll wait for me and they’ll say, “Auntie, we didn’t see you today.” That touched my heart, and that’s how Women’s Safe House started.

It wasn’t a house initially. It wasn’t a shelter. It was just a platform, a place where you could come and share your thoughts and share your pain and share whatever trauma it is you were going through, and no one would judge you about it. All the things that came about later came about because I discovered there was a need that needed to be met. I discovered a lot of women will come with bruises; they’ve probably been beaten or they’ve been raped, and they need immediate medical attention. That’s how we decided to give them health care. A lot of them will come and they will need legal services, and they could not afford a lawyer. So we started Safe House Legal, where we give them, offer pro bono legal services to them.

MASELE: Congratulations, Wura, for the good things that you’re doing inside. I’m going to quote Nelson Mandela on this. “May your choices reflect your hopes and not your fears.” And I feel like you’re already doing that. And also to add Mahatma Gandhi on that, “You must be the change you want to see in the world.” And I feel like you are practicing that now.

So what are the obstacles that you have faced doing your work, especially operating in an African context, where you do not only have to change the system, but you have to change the culture, you have to change the behavior of people, you have to change the mindset of people.

So what are some of the obstacles that you have faced as a social entrepreneur, as an advocate? Nowadays I know that advocates are not supposed to call themselves activists ’cause people feel like you’re coming from a very radical place. So most people are usually advised to call themselves advocates. So you can tell me a bit about that, if you’ve experienced that in any way, and what obstacles have you faced?

WURAOLUWA: For you to achieve positive change, you must have acceptance of your community. You must get people to listen to you. Otherwise you’re just going round and round in circles. I discovered when I say “activism,” what people heard was, Oh, she’s anti-marriage, she doesn’t want people to get married,” “Oh, she doesn’t want women to have children,” Oh, she’s saying women shouldn’t cook, women shouldn’t be domestic.” And that was not the message I was passing. I was simply saying, “Respect the girl child. Respect womanhood. Don’t hit a woman because she’s a woman and you think she cannot fight back.” So one of the challenges I would say is getting acceptance from my community has been a big obstacle.

We have a lot of cultural practices that say that the woman becomes the first child of a family after she gets married. That is a problem because that means her husband can slap her, and it’s fine because he’s actually teaching her the same way he’s teaching his first child. It means that in-laws can come in and take a cane and flog her, and it’s OK, because, “h, they’re training her to conform to the practices of the family.” Now, that’s — getting people to understand that this practice is evil. If a practice is not beneficial to the people in the community, there is no reason why we should continue to do that. People have misinterpreted my intention to mean that “Oh, she’s anti-family.” So getting people on board has actually been a challenge. Even women have been in a way against the whole idea of “Oh, women rights, activism.” I will say this: Activism and feminism are terms that are not favorable to the community in Africa. When you say you’re a feminist, they say, “What are you saying? You’re saying you don’t want to get married?”

Then getting community leaders to listen to me. Sometimes I want to talk about my views on women, I want to talk about my views on how inclusion of women can be in society. And I can’t air my views. I have to speak to a man who will now relay my message to the community leader. Why? Because the community leader doesn’t recognize me as a person that should speak to him. I say “him” because we do not have women leaders in most of our communities. We can have a woman who is the head of the women, but not a woman who is the head of the whole community. That is common in almost every community. In a lot of communities this is a taboo for a woman to be the head of the community. So that’s another challenge I’ve faced, having to relay my thoughts to someone who now then relays those thoughts to someone else. In the mix, a message definitely will be lost.

I’ve had other challenges — getting women together, getting them to trust you, the problem of even security agencies being on board with what you’re doing. Sometimes a crime is — I say a crime, because domestic violence is not a private matter. It is not domestic. It’s not a matter that should be settled with marriage or with counseling. I believe it’s a crime that should be treated. And sometimes even security agencies do not listen to you. You go and report a matter of domestic violence in the police station, and the policeman is looking at you and he’s not seeing what you’re seeing. He’s saying, “Oh, so what’s the problem?” “He beat her.” “Oh, tell her sorry. You people go back home and work on your matter at home.”

MASELE: If I could add on to that, I think gender-based violence is a wicked problem. It’s a problem that not only Africa is facing but also globally, because we also see that in America. Women are still fighting for their rights. Women are still fighting against the violence that is happening to them. So I think it’s a problem that — we need to change the culture, we need to change the mindset, because I also think that saying that, empowering women alone is not enough. Saying women are supposed to be out there is not enough. We need to remove the patriarchal system. We need to educate the boy child. Because while you’re busy saying “women empowerment, women empowerment, women should not be hit,” the boy child is still growing up in the same patriarchal system. While you are busy empowering women, you should also [be] thinking of educating the boy child and educating the men that, as a father, as a future father, as a brother, as a husband, you should think of educating your boy. Because while we are busy doing women empowerment, how are you helping us? We need to educate the boy child and remove the patriarchal system.

[MUSICAL INTERLUDE]

WURAOLUWA: So, Masele, I’d like you to tell me the work that you do in Tanzania as a social entrepreneur.

MASELE: So I think this will have to — I’ll have to tell you about my background as to how I got into legal literacy and being a marketing strategist. So I was selected to join the University of Dar es Salaam as a law student. But as a first-year student, I faced some financial constraints back home. So I had to get a job fast. And the only jobs that I could find were sales and promotional jobs, marketing jobs, modeling jobs. I know my listeners cannot see me, but I’m very tall and slim (laughs). So, yeah. So, I had to become a model, I had to work in the sales and marketing and marketing agencies because they were the easiest jobs that I could find back then.

As I was growing into the land of the marketing, of the marketing industry, that’s how I became a marketing strategist. I went from being a model to being in client service to being in customer care to being a digital strategist to being a general marketing strategist. So I went out, last year June I started my own marketing agency with a team of people who — we had worked together. So I’m a cofounder of a marketing agency called the Creative Agency. And this is also part of social entrepreneurship, because basically people think social entrepreneurship is a nonprofit organization. But when I came to learn what social entrepreneurship meant, is working to positively impact the civic life of our communities. Now, if you’re solving the poverty issue in your country, if you’re solving unemployment in your country, if you’re solving anything that has to do with gender, any wicked problem in your country, you are basically a social entrepreneur.

How did I come into getting into legal literacy? Last year our president had banned anything that had to do with freedom of expression. In fact he got to a point where he publicly declared that he’s ready to sacrifice the progress that Tanzania had made in democracy to make sure that his objectives have been met by 2025.

Now, our president, our current president, does not believe in fundamental freedom. He doesn’t believe in multi-party system. He doesn’t believe in democracy. And last year he was trying to amend the constitution to make him govern for an extra 10 years. We organized a peaceful protest online. The night before the peaceful protest, the chief police officer, who has been appointed by the president himself, came onto the national TV — this is the night before the peaceful protest — and publicly said this on national TV: “If anybody is going to be seen on the street tomorrow with placards, with T-shirts, with anything that has to do with the peaceful protest, you’re going to be beaten down like dogs.” It is unconstitutional.

So, people panicked at that point, people panicked in groups, in WhatsApp groups, in Facebook groups. And, like, people calm down. It is our constitutional right to have a peaceful protest. And we hoped that people learned this, but the morning of the peaceful protest, nobody showed up. It was sad. I felt betrayed. But when, a day after, when I sat down and looked a step back is that these people know the law, these people know the law, but these people do not understand how to use the law. Now, education is a very important tool. Everybody says I support it. But it is only important if the people know how to use education as a tool to protect themselves.

So this is when I came into an idea of having legal literacy instead of legal aid, because we have legal aid, but if the government is shutting the people who are doing legal aid down, is it enough? So I am advocating for legal literacy against legal aid, because in countries like ours where we do not have a voice and even the people who can do legal aid do not have a voice, we need to understand the law ourselves and be able to implement it ourselves.

We need to reach to a point where a 15-year-old girl who’s trying to be married away can stand and say that it is my constitutional right to go to school and not get married away. We need to reach a point where people can stand against political injustice, people can stand against all of these wicked problems, against unemployment.

In my country, when a minister builds a road, people go out in the streets and they celebrate and they congratulate him and sing for him. No. It’s a constitutional right to get good infrastructure. So people need to understand the constitution. And just not what is written in the constitution, but be able to understand what is written in the constitution. These are your privileges. You’re privileged to all of this. This is how I came into doing legal literacy, and I used my marketing principle to do legal literacy.

[MUSICAL INTERLUDE]

MASELE: So, I’m sure that people out there will be asking like, OK, where do you get the funding, who supports you, who mentors you? So, where do I get my funding? From my agency. That’s where I get my funding. I own 40% shares, so half of what I get, that’s how I do my legal clinics and that’s how I got to do my legal clinic in church.

I am a Roman Catholic, and the saint that governs our church — not specifically the saint — the father who founded our church was a lawyer. So that’s how I got into convincing my church to get space. But the rest of it, I’m self-funding myself.

I’m sad to say that I’m my own mentor because whenever I’m doing these legal clinics, my family up to date do not support me because they know that, according to the current government, it is basically you’re saying that we are against you. So my parents do not support me in any way. I am my own mentor because nobody has ever come. I have approached people to try and help me, but they have all refused according to the current political situation in my country. So I am my own mentor. I self-fund myself. But if you’re going to be a YALI member from Tanzania or from Africa and you are going to need a mentor, I am ready to be your mentor. I am ready to be your mentor for legal literacy. So, tell me, Wura.

WURAOLUWA: Let me start talking about, ’cause we’re addressing grassroots and we’re addressing funding, but let me touch on a little of what you’ve said.

I believe strongly that women do not support women. That’s my belief because I’ve experienced it. You know, when a woman, a young woman has a vision to do something exciting, something that touches her heart, something that helps the people in her community, and she approaches another woman, well, chances are that that older women will say, “Oh, no, you’re too young. Go sit down. Come back in a few years when you’re older.” That has been my experience. When I started my work, I reached out to several older women around me who I thought, OK, this older woman does this, she probably could be my mentor. Unfortunately I didn’t get any calls back. There were several of them that I followed up from more than one year, and they didn’t respond to me. I believe that the problem, the reason why we have the problem of marginalization of women and exclusion, the issue of violence against women is because a lot of women who have risen to the point where they could help other women refuse to do so.

Now, let me talk about the issue of the grassroots. Now we organize campaigns, we talk to women about their rights, we educate them about the provisions of the violence against women law. We tell them, “Oh, you are protected by law, you know; no one can abuse you. When you’re abused, this is what you should do.” But is that enough? The truth is it’s not enough because they hear these things, but culture and religion is so overwhelming that you cannot overcome this. You know, a lot of people still believe that, “Oh, culture is supreme.” And I don’t have any problem with culture. The problem I have is if a culture is against humanity, should we hold on to that part of culture? Should we continue to hold onto religious beliefs that exclude women, that cause pain and trauma from violence?

So what we do is this, at the grassroots. We go and we educate women about their rights, we talk to them. We give them money, because we still have thousands of women in Africa who are living in abject poverty. We still have a lot of them who do not have access to basic amenities like water, like electricity.

So when you come and you’re talking about violence, violence seems so small. They feel, “Oh, if he slaps me once a day, well, I can cope with that. I mean, my basic need is food. My basic need is water. My basic need, I don’t have money to go from point A to point B.” So we try to engage them, we try to tell them, “OK, fine, the reason why you’re facing all of these other problems is because in a way violence is central.”

Now, what we are doing is we’re raising a movement of women who believe that they shouldn’t be susceptible to violence. Of women who are ready to speak up. Of women who are ready to take the reins and say, “No, enough is enough.” Of women who are not afraid to stand out in their communities. The truth is a lot of women would have come out of violence, but they’re afraid. They’re afraid of isolation, they’re afraid that their families will no longer speak to them, they’re afraid that their community members will exclude them. And that is the truth.

In Africa, you’re married, you’re facing violence, you can’t go back home or your father will tell you, “You have to stay there. That is marriage, you know. Just live through it.” Your mother will tell you, “Oh, that’s the same thing I experienced when I married your father.” There have been so many cases I have handled where the mother of the abuser tells the victim, “Oh, that’s what his father used to do to me as a younger woman.”

I have a case where the mother of the abuser had a husband still beating her. So I mean, how do you explain to that woman that you have lived 50 years of your life in violence, and it was not OK. She doesn’t even understand what you’re saying. She says, “Oh, you’re young. When you get older, you will understand.” So it has been tough, but we’re trying to engage the community.

Now, on the issue of funding, I started by self-funding. Why? Because I didn’t have the acceptance of the community I was in. So I would use my personal money to buy things for the girls to buy a lot of things, take them to the hospital. I met a lot of those girls who were HIV-positive then who were not receiving medical attention. So we had to take them to hospitals, get them enrolled, get them medication and all of that.

So self-funding was very difficult. Later on when I started Safe House Legal, which is the firm, I began to use the money from there to attend to the issues that came up in the shelter, and right now that’s what we do. And then later we discovered, oh, we can have partners. We don’t necessarily need people to give us money all the time. We could get people to give us medication, drugs, basic over-the-counter drugs that you could use as first aid. We could get people to give us clothes. We could get people to give us shoes and give us food, and give us toiletries for the women. So we started to do that.

So right now, where are we? We are in the process. It’s still not easy because it is never enough. We have people who donate food monthly, who donate clothes when they can, who donate shoes, who donate even clothes and shoes and food for babies because a lot of women come to the shelter with their children and we cannot turn them away. We have to accept them and we need to cater for them. And the truth is even though we have a timeframe for them to stay, some of them stay far beyond the time they’re supposed to stay, and you cannot tell them to leave until they have a place to go to.

So basically, that’s what we’ve been doing so far. That’s how far we’ve gotten to. It’s not been a rosy road, I must confess. It’s been tough, but we’re doing it. Why? Because we want to see a positive change. We’re not sure if we’re going to get this in our lifetime, but we believe that we can stop it ourselves, and from here we’ll get to where we need to get to.

[MUSICAL INTERLUDE]

MASELE: So I feel like we owe it to the next generation, because if we do not do it, who else is going to do it? If you want your kids to live in a better society, you are supposed to change that society. If you want your kid to grow up in a democratic country, where she or he can vote, where she’s not going to face gender-based violence or any inequality, where there’s going to be good health care, good employment institutions and everything, we are supposed to change that. Because if we do not change that, the future generation is still going to face the same thing.

So unless you want your grandsons or your kids to face the same problem, you have to be that change. You have to start that change, because if you don’t do it, I don’t know who else is going to do it. If we do not do it, who else is going to do it? We have to look. When you’re looking at change, when you’re looking at Africa’s wicked problems, you shouldn’t look away because your kid is going to grow up in this wicked problem, your grandkid is going to be in this wicked problem.

That is when you’re going to think that, “I have to fight against gender-based violence.” Think of yourself having a kid and having to face unemployment. That is when you know that I have to be the change, I have to be a social entrepreneur, I have to start my own company, I have to start at least a movement. You don’t have to be vocal or you don’t have to be as radical, but start somewhere, and somebody’s going to see it and support it. I’ve had students who support me — as young as they are, they are supporting me. So I believe that where I’m going to leave off, they’re going to start.

WURAOLUWA: That’s really amazing. I would say this. Start where you are. We have millions of youth in Africa who would not do anything for their communities without monetary reward. And that is a problem.

We need to know that we can do things to support our communities because we see a problem and we have the passion to change that problem. We as youth in Africa need to stop sitting down, expecting, “Oh, the government is going to do everything for us. I see a need, I see a problem, but I don’t want to address it because, oh, someone else is going to do it.” We need to take responsibility for our lives and for our communities. And to see the results that we want to see.

I often say that if every youth, if everyone fixes one problem, we’ll have no problems anymore in Africa. If one person is working on poverty alleviation, another person is working on health care and another person is working on women inclusion and so many other things, the problems that we see now would, in the not distant future, be no more. I understand that some of these things are going to take time. They’re going to take years. Like I say, it may not happen in our lifetime. I’m not sure gender-based violence is going to end in my lifetime, but I don’t care, because I know I can start where I am, and I am doing the little I can.

And as much as possible, I’m calling people. I’m calling women, I’m calling men, I’m calling boys and girls, everyone that has ears to hear to join in this fight to protect women.

I say that everyone should start where they are. You do not need all the money in the world or all the connections in the world to be the process of change that you need to be. You do not need to start an organization. You do not need to be the founder of something. We have so many organizations working on all of these issues. Look for one close to you and be a positive change. Join a movement, join an organization, and throw all your strength and all you can behind that person to ensure that you achieve that change that you need.

MASELE: So I feel like as a leader, you need to equip yourself with the right tools. There’s a lot of free learning platforms online, especially on YALI, especially if you want to become a young African leader. Go on the YALI Network. There’s a lot — a lot of free courses that you could learn as a young African leader. YALI Learns. Just go on there. You could learn good governance, you could learn on human rights, you could learn on how to serve, you could learn on public speaking too. I was really bad at public speaking, but I think I’m going to take a course on public speaking because I just heard that YALI Learns has a public speaking course. So I feel like as a young leader, you need to equip yourself. What you have is not enough. You have to constantly keep on learning, because as a leader, people look up to you. You’re supposed to inspire people, so you need to equip yourself with the right tools. And in the current age of technology, there’s a lot of free courses online that you can learn, especially on YALI Learns.

WURAOLUWA: So, thank you, Masele. This was really enlightening. It was a really wonderful conversation.

MASELE: Thank you so much, Wura. It’s really insightful, it’s really enlightening. I think I want to go back and open a women’s shelter back in Tanzania because I feel like I haven’t been focusing a lot on women in legal literacy, so I feel like I want to go back home and do that now. Thank you so much.

[MUSIC PLAYING]

WURAOLUWA: Be sure to come back for more inspiring stories from young African leaders on the YALI Voices podcast. Join the YALI Network at yali.state.gov and be a part of something bigger.

MASELE: Our theme music is “E Go Happen” by Grace Jerry and produced by the Presidential Precinct.

The YALI Voices podcast is brought to you by the U.S. Department of State and is part of the Young African Leaders Initiative, which is funded by the U.S. government.



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