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#Africa4Her Generates Support for Women and Girls: Mercedes Leburu, South Africa
September 11, 2015

Woman stands smiling.
Poet Mercedes Leburu has pledged to help women become more confident. A portion of her poem titled Africa4Her is below:

We asked some of the many YALI Network members who in March made an #Africa4Her pledge to invest in women and girls in their community how they have fulfilled that pledge. Here is Mercedes Leburu’s story.

I pledged to empower young women in South Africa to become confident and lead a liberated lifestyle through writing poetry that will boost their self-esteem; to  challenge young girls to showcase their unique abilities, thus moving from being a MIS-FIT in society to being their BEST-FIT; and to  groom youth to invest in what they believe in — their ideals, principles and standards that not only benefit them but can impact others.

Young people generally want acceptance, to be part of a tribe or movement, as they are insecure and find comfort in being a part of something bigger. Insecurity is a challenge faced by many young women. We tend to care what other people think, and strive to please others, which robs the continent of individuality.

This gap in my community and generation of young, confident, empowered and liberated women urgently needs to be filled. Our need for acceptance and human validation as young women has diminished our creative thought and thus we tend to be so busy trying to fit in that we have lost our uniqueness.

The growing need to groom youth to invest in what they believe in — ideals, principles, and standards that not only benefit them but impact others around them through their natural God-given talents — was imperative.

I was fortunate enough to grow up having a mentor. I wanted to reach out to those around me and aid them to showcase their unique abilities, thus moving from being a MIS-FIT in society to being their BEST-FIT.

Service is one of the core features of being a strong leader. Serving one another is critical to building a sustainable Africa, because “no man is an island.” We need to be hungry to serve as youth, as we are the future leaders.

Service is not like an extra credit on a test; it is the whole test, and either you pass it or you fail it.

The experience [with Africa4Her] as a whole has shaped my character and has taught me to forge on despite the odds, which is a leadership trait that I can use in the future.

I have learnt to be patient and that little by little I can reach the end goal.

The best thing that one can do in this world is discover who they are and be the best of that person consistently — to express yourself through poetry.

When you focus on improving other people’s lives it also improves your life and ultimately contributes to a sustainable Africa, even if it is in a small way.

When God places something in your heart, pursue it relentlessly, be authentic, and be your best fit! At the end of the day, it boils down to how many people you can really influence, how many of those people will influence others, and how many people’s lives will change through changing thinking and perception.

I always have an action plan for the things I want to achieve. I act by putting my vision into action. And I delegate responsibility to recently established team members, because attempting to do everything on my own was a recipe for disaster.

As further follow-up to my pledge, on  September 5–6, 2015, I will hold a poetry camp.

More than 1,000 YALI Network members made an #Africa4Her pledge. They represent 47 countries, and 54 percent of them are men. If you made an #Africa4Her pledge and would like to share your story, please email us at YALINetwork@state.gov and use the subject line “#Africa4Her.”

“Africa4Her” – a poem by Mercedes Leburu

So what …

If they look at me with their piercing eyes

Scrutinizing my face, body, and thighs

So what …

If they emit prolonged chuckles when they see me

Endlessly commenting on who I ought to be

I don’t break down and fall apart,

Instead I chose to set myself apart

For I know, Earthly eyes can never tell the contents of my heart

So I gear up, ignore it and restart.