In our first Interview for the Mandela Washington Fellow Series, Youthhubafrica’s editorial team Rotimi Olawale, Sola Fagorusi and Ruth Aine interviews Sharleen Moyo, a fellow from Zimbabwe. Sharleen Mabisa Moyo has over eight years of experience in youth development in Africa. She currently works with UNICEF Zimbabwe and serves as the Project Manager for a Technology for Development (T4D) initiative called UReport, an SMS based platform that encourages youth participation. She previously worked for Youth Alliance for Leadership and Development in Africa (YALDA) as a Regional Associate and currently sits on the international executive committee. Sharleen is also the founder of The Brand Group, a company that provides brand management, business development, and technical assistance for startups. She graduated with an honors degree in English and Communication from Midlands State University where she focused on strategic communication for business, market research, and media studies. After the Washington Fellowship, Sharleen will venture into taking technology to grassroots communities through IndigeCode, which teaches coding as a second language. She also plans on expanding the Brand Group’s operations in southern Africa.
A: I was born and raised in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe and I am the second born of five children. I completed my honours degree in English and Communication in 2006 and worked at Youth Alliance for Leadership and Development for Africa for 5 years as a volunteer and as a Regional Associate in Southern Africa. I am also the founder of The Brand Group that gives business development and brand management. I am currently working as a consultant at UNICEF on Technology for Development (T4D) initiatives.
Q: What do you think made your application a strong one and how much time and commitment did you put into it?
A: I believe that when applying for YALI it helps to both have a passion for your work and also have a deep involvement in the community you live in. I showed that even though I may have a day job I also do volunteer work through YALDA and I also managed to start a business. The work that you do should have impact and you should be able to tell a story with the milestones you have achieved. I worked hard on my application as it had many sections and it asked a lot of introspective questions on what you want to do and your vision for the future. I had to articulate myself in a concise and honest manner. I actually handed in my application the day before the closing date after reviewing my answers and after being sure that the application was a true representation of who I am.
Q: How were you informed that you were selected and what was your reaction on hearing the news?
A: I was in the middle of a site visit for work and my friends who had applied kept telling me to check my email. I only got back to the office late and I opened my email and saw the word CONGRATULATIONS! My first reaction was to give thanks to God because all good things come from Him. I then did my happy dance and called my mother who is my prayer partner to tell her the exciting news.
Q: How has the six-week fellowship changed you/your life?
A: I believe that after the fellowship I learnt so much from the institution (University of Notre Dame) I was attached to for six weeks. It was a privilege to learn in the best Business School in the world and it showed me that learning is a continuous process. I also learnt the beauty of diversity while learning with 24 other fellows from 17 African countries. We became a family during the fellowship.
I will always remember my interaction with First Lady Michelle Obama and her wise words ‘Keep doing what you do, that is what it’s all about’. Those words resonated with me in that there is always someone out there who is dependent on the contribution you make in society even though you may not know it or see it and we should never tire from doing good. It has inspired me to keep to my vision of uplifting young people and equipping them with the skills to be change makers.
Q: Do you have any plans to share some of the things you have learn during the fellowship with your contemporaries back at home in some structured form and what does the fellowship expect of you as well?
A: We in Zimbabwe will have a YALI Alumni and we will be taking part actively in seminars and workshops to transfer the skills we have learnt. I will also be a mentor to young people helping them to achieve their dreams.
Q: What are your next steps?
A: I am in the process of working on a program called IndigeCode where I will be equipping young women in rural communities with technology and life skills. This program will be worked on in collaboration with fellows from other African countries. I will also continue with the work that I do with T4D initiatives. Follow this link for more information about the program through University of Notre Dame –
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