Information has the power to change lives by improving the quality of the human experience and providing communities with the tools needed to overcome challenges. Though it may be difficult to underestimate the value of information in today’s fast-paced world, the reality is that many people have little to no access to important information. These are some of the reasons that drove me into initiating a project designed to increase internet accessibility for the local communities.
Originally from Zimbabwe, l am a 23 year-old lady who is currently an Honours student in International Studies at Monash South Africa. I have been involved in numerous social projects throughout my studies. As a young leader, my ambition is to raise awareness on the issues that affect not only my country, but the world as a whole and to tackle these issues through influencing public policies.
The internet is a dominant force in society and can provide opportunities for young talented people. Part of the challenge that is faced by many communities is not just the lack of internet access, but also the adequate infrastructure and training required to sustain this plan. In order to resolve this, I plan to create fully-equipped, solar-powered resource centres that will give young people the opportunity to participate in the global arena. The project is not just aimed at providing equipment and technical skills, but it will also be used as a vehicle to communicate environmental sustainability.
As a starting point, together with my team, we had to visit to several communities, schools and orphanages so as to examine and explore the real challenges limited access to technology bring to people.
From this l have been designing ways to partner up with organisations like Microsoft 4 Africa, Internet.org and Computer International so as to make this idea a reality. I also got the chance to go sell my idea with business icons and other entrepreneurs when l was selected as part of the 24 Change Makers to attend the World Merit Fellowship Program in July 2014. World Merit is an organisation that was founded to give life-changing opportunities to youth from all over the world that are making a significant change. The fellowship programme is a global network of students who work together to drive sustainable solutions.
As l travelled through Europe with the other ‘Agents of Change’, I also got the chance to meet education activists like Malala Yousafzai and Sir Ken Robinson and many other influential people. Our group also participated in open debates about climate change, gender equality, the economy, health, politics and information communication technologies (ICTs). This was all in preparation to present each of our global action plans in New York and the White House in Washington, D.C. later in 2015.
My meeting with education activist, Malala Yousafzai at the World Merit Day conference this July and a chance to sit in the British parliament in the House of the Lords with the company of Lord Hastings.
Elizabeth sharing her dreams with business icons of England
I have the vision of eradicating poverty in Africa and I believe that the best way to go about it is to provide a solution that can help people to enable themselves. Education enlightens and that is the purpose of myInternet for Allinitiative.
I do not want this project to be the end. I also have an idea to transform my project into an organisation we will name AWAKE AFRICA.
Although it is still an idea l am running around to make a reality, Awake Africa is my dream. I want it to be an organisation that aims to reach out to the African YOUTH. As a body, we want to ensure that every individual (particularly the youth) get the chance to participate on a global arena. l would like to set up an interactive platform that will enable full participation in social projects (social entrepreneurship) to a number of individuals (students/community groups) both in South Africa and Zimbabwe. Awake Africa plans on creating an enabling platform where ideas are generated, solutions provided and conflicts resolved through use of the enabling digital tools. The organisation would want every individual to be a policy maker through active participation on the social media and their major area of impact is youth development!!
We operate with the motto - "Change, innovation and engagement" which expresses the sole purpose of having a networking platform that absorb all youths in marginalized communities to ensure equal opportunities to all youths. Awake Africa will play a role of creating a platform and channel to air and represent individuals’ ideas, full participation in bringing change and to promote youth developmental programs.
Key organisation objectives
To source out funds/resources (computers) that will allow establishment of Resource Centers
To educate, motivate and inspire young people
Ensuring that youths get access to enabling platforms (internships, scholarships, fellowship programs, summits etc.)
Run awareness campaigns on issues of gender equality, climate change, education, social entrepreneurship, leadership, mental health, etc.)
Host leadership workshops/career fairs/life skills
Awake Africa Achievements so far:
We have managed to run Youth Campaigns where we were raising awareness on the importance of youth participation. A number of young people are not part of community engagement projects and some are not even aware of their roles in the society. As we interviewed students, youth leaders, club presidents and my university’s stuff members (linked to community engagement) to hear their insights on the importance of young people in the societal development we realised that a lot more need to be done so as to integrate youths in policy making processes. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cd0qzDBibSI
Awake Africa also managed to partner with an organisation called Youth Leadership and Entrepreneurship Development (YLED). YLED (which is part of ABSA/BARCLAYS CSR projects) is an award winning, innovative and inspirational youth skills and entrepreneurship development initiative that has been operating for a decade now. The organisation has managed to raise young people with a positive mind-set to impact their societies. Through its strong career and entrepreneurial skill development initiatives which are run on a 28 Saturdays period, they have managed to change the ‘blame it on society/ circumstances’ mentality most young people in the world (particularly in the needy societies) have into innovative, businesses launching and career materialising ideas that contribute to the economic revatilisation, reduction of poverty and youth unemployment.
Members of Awake Africa have been volunteering with the organisation so as to mentor and inspire the YLEDers. It also took the opportunity to spread its ‘Internet for All’ initiative by teaching the young people computer skills and exposing them to the social media dominated world. A number of them joined World Merit (our partner) and are willing to apply for its internships and fellowships so as to broaden their networks. Much of the activities have been put together in this blog post: Youth leadership and entrepreneurship development (YLED) Initiatives | QUEEN ELIZABETH ON THE MOVE!!!
In a bid to encourage youth participation, the organisation is also now working with Junior Chamber International (JCI) so far, together with Monash SA University Debate Club, we have won public speaking and debating awards at the JCI South Africa Debate Championships. There were delegates from UN, Botswana, Zimbabwe, South Korea, Nigeria and Uganda. The public speaking award was won by one of Awake Africa’s mentees Audry Joyce who is in the school of Health Sciences.