Over the past year, Mpho has demonstrated that it is never too late to change your career trajectory and follow your dreams. Her ability to trust herself wholeheartedly has inspired me to do the same. She has and will continue making waves in Lesotho by innovatively contributing to peace and security in her country.
If I could, what I would tell my 16 year old self…
Grade 11 was a real turning point. After coming back from World Open Water Swimming Championships, I realised how far I had to go before I achieved my swimming dream. With that realisation came questions about my purpose and where I see myself in the future. Once I realised that I didn’t see myself swimming for the foreseeable future, my heart was no longer in it. I denied it for a long time but in hindsight, the fire that raged inside me, keeping me motivated. slowly started to diminish.
While the uncertainty of these new thoughts and emotions took hold, other areas of my life seemed to start making a bit more sense. While I can admit that I probably didn’t take the academic side of high school as seriously as I should have, my love and understanding for History flourished. I had an inspiring teacher who challenged our class and pushed my ways of thinking beyond any boundaries I previously held.
My experience in the classroom during those history lessons gave me a deeper understanding of the necessity to have good and passionate teachers who can inspire students to follow their dreams but in doing so, respect all those you encounter on the journey of following those dreams; to be open to new opinions even those opposing their own; and to foster a love of learning, for the sake of learning.
That being said, 5 things I would love to tell my 16 year old self:
- “Take a chill pill, please. As much as we are made conditioned to believe it, life is not a race. No matter how fast you try to rush to ‘grow up’ and ‘become a success’ you will most likely not get a medal. So, please take every moment in your stride. You will get to where you are going… trust me”
- “Dreams change and that is okay. You are more than one thing and you can do more than one thing. Don’t let the pressure you put on yourself and receive from others stop you from exploring aspects of yourself and other talents that you never knew existed. By staying fixated on one thing that you know you are not passionate about anymore, you are turning away from all the other doors which have flung open.”
- “As you have already noticed, you will go through numerous highs and equally numerous lows. Love and enjoy the highs and appreciate the lows. You’ll come to realise that the lowest moments in your journey may end up being the most transformative moments of your life. Cherish them and use them as opportunities to grow.”
- “As much as your family annoys you to no end, your family really is the rock in your life. They will support you when no one else really understands you, even though their methods may be a bit unconventional. Also, despite your criticism of your parents, realise that they did the best that they knew how.Love and cherish your brother because, as hard as is may be to believe, he will become your best friend.”
- “‘Growing up’ is not a destination but rather, a never ending journey. Once again, don’t rush. Respect the process and don’t be in a hurry to be an adult because when adulthood comes knocking on the door, being a child seems a whole lot more attractive.”
What would you tell your 16 year old self?
What a week.
1: Spent time in and out of organisations in New York, connected in some way to the UN
Before this month began, I was incredibly pessimistic about the UN and its workings (or lack thereof). Now that most of our formal interactions with the UN and the various organisations are drawing to a close, I feel like my criticism of the organisation is a lot more informed. Organisations engaging with the UN play an integral role in ensuring the institution stays true to its original charter.
2: Spent time at UN Women, debating their role in the UN system, their success and offering suggestions and analyses of our own
The discussion was lively, they were able to honestly discuss the challenges they face and open to vibrant discussion and opinions. Really great interaction… to be continued this week.
3: Spent the day in Washington
While I managed to see all the important buildings Washington had to offer, wave at Obama from 2kms away, I nearly melted from the heat. Luckily, I had some great friends who were suffering through it with me.
4: Said hi to Lady Liberty 🙂
I have had the privilege of getting to know this incredible young woman who has inspired me throughout the year by broadening my understanding and perspective on so many things but also being my shoulder when I have desperately needed one. As you can probably tell, she is going places and showing young people everywhere what is possible with hard work 🙂
Only after spending 9 months in London, did I decide to explore the city like a tourist. Discovering the hidden gems gave me a new found appreciation for the perpetually grey city. Of course, sharing the day with a friend was an added bonus.
5 Top Tips:
- Never expect the weather to be on your side so dress accordingly
- Book trips and activities online to skip queues and find deals
- There is A LOT of free things to do (Parks, Bike Tours, Museums and more) so do your research to save a few quid
- Don’t rush: rather choose a few activities per day and enjoy every minute than spending your time rushing from one site to the next without soaking in the experience.
- Markets, Markets, Markets
Despite its frequent use, the meaning of leadership is rarely unpacked, especially when the term is applied to contexts outside that of business. Specifying the meaning of the term ‘leadership’ is even more important as there are almost as many definitions of the term as there have been people who have tried to define it. When looking at the relationship between leadership and peacebuilding it is important to recognise the importance of leaders and to acknowledge that leadership is a process which involves more than one individual. Leadership transcends institutions and should not be seen as merely building and strengthening institutions. Peacebuilding is a process of building a durable peace within society. It aims to address the root causes of conflict in an attempt to prevent recurrence. In an era where peacebuilding has captured the attention of development organisations and international organisations, such as the United Nations (UN), it is important to consider the importance of leadership rather than solely looking at institution building. While it is important to recognise the importance of institution building, institutions are influenced by the actions of human beings. In a dynamic context where individuals and groups have the power to dismantle or weaken institutions, it is important to interrogate the role of leadership in trying to explain institutional inefficiency and the problem of looking solely at institutions.
To better understand the leadership phenomenon, it is important to explain its meaning. According to Keith Grint, leadership can be understood as a person (who the person is), position (the title of or position held by an individual), results (what the person does/achieves) or process (how results are achieved). Echoing Grint, Pierce and Newstrom describe leadership as a process. It involves a leader, followers operating within a particular context. This involves a process of both leading and following and therefore producing outcomes. By understanding leadership in this way, we can recognise the importance of context specificity and the significance of followers in the leadership dynamic. During this process, leaders affect change by influencing the attitudes and behaviours of followers within a particular context. If a leader is unable to do this, according to this definition, she/he is not a leader. Therefore, this is a huge departure from the way leadership has been conceptualised especially within a vertical hierarchy. This is because individuals who top a vertical hierarchy are not necessarily leaders but may be managers or just figureheads.
Understanding this leadership process within peacebuilding is integral. This is because we have to recognise the individuals who are able to influence followers’ behaviours and attitudes to either build peace or derail attempts to achieve peace. By looking at leadership, organisations and institutions would better be able to incorporate more diverse groups of individuals into formal peacebuilding structure to help build and consolidate peacebuilding work. This view of leadership will also help us better understand that as contexts change and outcomes are reached, leaders either have to adapt to continue to influence followers or new leaders need to be identified or recognised as credible by the formal system. By recognising the fluidity of the leadership process, both the national and international community may better be able to respond to the dynamic nature of peacebuilding in Africa and therefore better serve communities which are in the process of building more peaceful societies. This approach might also better tackle the perpetual institutional weakening undertaken by governments and international organisations to ensure exploitation remains possible in many natural resource rich environments.
Leadership is a complex and multifaceted phenomenon and it needs to be unpacked clearly before its meaning can have any impact. It is essential to rethink how peacebuilding is being done in various contexts in an era where conflict relapse is so common. A leadership analysis is an important addition to current peacebuilding framework and might help the sustainability of peace across the globe.
Photo Credit: See http://voiceseducation.org/node/7683
The second week in New York has been both eventful and informative. I spent the week in and out of the United Nations, each day at a different department. Before spending time at the international institution, like most people, I was extremely critical. My criticism spanned many spheres but broadly included the persistent problem of sexual exploitation and abuse by UN peacekeepers, humanitarian disasters/failures (South Sudan being just one), stories of impossibly tedious bureaucracy and their inability to balance the interests of member states and actually ensuring peace across the globe.
While the time spent ‘on the inside’ did confirm a lot of my skepticism, I came out understanding, more clearly, the challenges the UN faces in trying to live up to its original charter, its numerous Security Council Resolutions and the Sustainable Development Goals. In addition, I came out better understanding the difficulties of trying to manage the interests of member states and meeting its global responsibility.
While the inefficiencies of the UN can’t be ignored and many of my reservations about the organisation remain firmly in place, it was good to hear their side of the story
The next person on my interview list is my colleague and one of the closest friends I have made this year. His knowledge and expertise on Africa in general but Kenya more specifically is astounding and I have enjoyed and greatly appreciated learning from everything he has graciously shared 🙂
Returning to Rome was an experience. My head was filled with rose-tinted memories of the incredible city. While those parts did exist, it was so refreshing to see the less fantastic side, the side, not shown on postcards or travel documentaries. I think that perceptions people have of Africa is either its incredible natural beauty or dire poverty but the continent, in all its diversity, is so much more than that. Maybe we need Roman marketing agents to market our major cities because, despite its architectural wonders, there are many cities in Africa I have visited which look and function similarly, if not, better than the Italian Capital.