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Kisa Shaped me into the Leader I am Today

In 2016, when I was a part-time Kisa Mentor with AfricAid, I met my mentee, Rebecca.  I connected with her again in 2017, when I started working for the organization full-time.  Like every other journey, leadership is a journey of a thousand miles.  To become a good leader, we learn, unlearn and relearn.  I am so proud that today Rebecca is a wonderful example of a seed that the Kisa Project nurtured and has grown to be tall.  She is a good storyteller and her best story is her own.


“I am Rebecca Andrew Nyeleshi, the only girl in a family of three children. I have a big brother and a younger brother, and this makes me the second born. My Dad is a retired electrical technician and my mother is an entrepreneur. I am proud and forever grateful to have had Kisa as my second family. The Kisa Project always gave me a safe space where I could learn skills, share my ideas, and unleash my potential. My confidence was built through the unique Kisa sessions and presentations that I had to make as part of my learning. Kisa was a great source of inspiration to me as a girl child, as I got to discover the part I have to play in my community and think of solutions instead of just pointing fingers.”


Rebecca as an A-Level student and Kisa Scholar. “I am excited because I have just finished my final examination paper.”

As Rebecca explained her story, I wondered how her Kisa Mentor (me!) influenced her. In 2017, Rebecca was going through a hard time emotionally because she had to repeat a year for not being able to meet the average the school required. She reached out to me and we discussed how hard that was for her.  We spent time every week to help her accept the situation and the challenge to work harder to improve her grades and advance.  Rebecca continued to explain:


“Having a mentor was a great experience since I got an opportunity to have a person (who is not my teacher) help me discover what is already in me, while playing the role of an eye opener to things I didn’t know. When I met Eliakunda, I could not ask for more. I was free to talk to her about everything. She has been a listener and a person you go to breaking and devastated… but I promise when you leave, you are smiling, empowered, and with renewed hope that life is worth it and you have another chance to make things right. I still talk to her to this day.  She keeps up with me since I graduated.”


Rebecca passed her exams well and it is so gratifying to see how she has thrived. She did not stop there. She learned to grab opportunities and applied to a university in Rwanda.


Rebecca at the gala dinner for the Mandela Centennial Scholars and their sponsors. Each student was presented with a copy of his book.

“I was told by a friend about African Leadership University (ALU) in Rwanda and the Mandela Centennial Scholarship.  It honors the legacy of Nelson Mandela and gave 100 youths throughout Africa the opportunity to join the class of 2018.  As part of the application, I had to write an essay describing something I did and how it impacted my community. I wrote about the Two Day Challenge project we completed with Kisa. My team and I advocated against early pregnancy to Kimaseki and Kimandoru Secondary Schools.  Together with the female teachers, we hosted a training program about “girls worth” to girls in Form Three and Form Four. More than 700 people applied for the scholarship and I was among the 100 chosen. I am here now in Rwanda studying for a bachelor’s degree in international business and trade and taking leadership as a course for my first year. I hope to become a great business woman.”


Rebecca represents Tanzania in the “walk of nations” on her university campus in Rwanda.

When I asked Rebecca why she thinks the chance to participate in a program like Kisa is important to her and girls in Tanzania, this is what she had to say:


“I think Kisa is important for girls in Tanzania since it’s a platform for a girl child to get leadership skills, build confidence, and maximize her potential, while understanding her worth and abilities to become a changemaker. As a university student outside of my home country at a school with students from all over Africa, where I at first knew no one, I found myself using the practical skills I learned in Kisa. I apply pro-activeness and self-leadership since I am responsible for whatever happens in my life. I have been able to cope with the diverse community.”



Rebecca ended her story by sharing her interests:


“My selfie on my first day of class at ALU!”

“I am interested in reading books, advising or counseling, and making inspirational talks. The most interesting thing that has happened to me since I joined the university is the fact that I have been able to blend myself into this community of different nationalities to the extent that some people can’t tell my real nationality unless I tell them. I am having so much fun and I am proud to say, it wouldn’t have turned out this well if I wasn’t the leader Kisa shaped me to be.”


I don’t have a picture of myself and Rebecca together.  I think we were too busy living in the moment and helping each other be better people.  However, I could not be more proud to share her story. I believe with the skills she obtained from Kisa, she is already an effective leader and she will continue using her strengths to “pay it forward.” And, remember, there are many more Rebeccas here in Tanzania (and all over the world), who would benefit by being matched with mentors so that they can become leaders and transform their communities.


Rebecca (in blue) attends a women’s retreat in Rwanda where she shared her story.


Get to know Rebecca’s Mentor, Ellie Kaaya, and read about her exciting trip to the United States in the fall of 2018.


Read about more Kisa Alumnae who have gone on to do great things!


The 2 Day Challenge is the capstone for the Kisa Project.  Learn about some of the other projects Scholars have organized in their communities.


Contributed by: Eliakunda Kaaya, Kisa Mentor and Alumna



Kisa Project is a two-year leadership course that prepares girls in their last two years of secondary school to attend university and create positive social change in their communities.

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