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Sharing My Experience: Mandela Washington Fellow Setshswano Ngope
September 29, 2014

“Come prepared to offer solutions to the problems.”

Setshswano Ngope heard U.S. first lady Michelle Obama say that when she was a youngster, her parents continually told her that she was smart and could do anything she Setshwano Ngopewanted to do.

“That resonated with me,” Ngope recalled. “A lot of people don’t have that support and then end up making the wrong decisions. They don’t believe in themselves.” Ngope said, in particular, lack of confidence results in people making poor decisions about their finances.

The 31-year-old from Botswana said she had an upbringing similar to Mrs. Obama’s. If she got good grades in school, her father advised, she would have a “passport to be anything” she wanted to be. That encouragement inspired her to go into business and to help others.

A professional financial planner, Ngope teaches women and youth how to manage their money. While studying at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, during her Fellowship in July 2014, she learned how to cope with an expanding workload. “I started to rethink my approach to my business,” she said. “Now I know how I can reach more people” (with her financial literacy classes).

“Already, I am facilitating collaboration with my government, my company and U.S. organizations around this cause of financial literacy and financial inclusion.”

In what she describes as a “priceless” Fellowship experience, Ngope also learned about managing a business. “There is a big difference in the way you manage a startup as opposed to the way you manage a company that has existed for a long time,” said the active YALI Network member, who interned at Standard Chartered Bank in New York as part of the Fellowship.

Ngope is able to share what she learned during her time as a Mandela Washington Fellow with her community in Botswana:

“I am telling my co-workers that this has been a valuable experience that will have benefits years into the future. I share with them all the books we have read during the Fellowship, and the [names of] various organizations that are doing impact investing and development work across the globe.”

To YALI Network members who are interested in applying for the 2015 Mandela Washington Fellowship, she said: “I would encourage the 2015 applicants to be very thorough in articulating their community engagements. They must also apply well on time, as the questions can be quite engaging.”

“The interviews are very rigorous, so they must come prepared to offer solutions to the problems they see in their communities. Lastly, if selected, they must come to the U.S. with an open mind and be ready to learn all they can about how to uplift their communities post-Fellowship.”