The AfYWL Fellowship: rocket fuel for professional growth

In part four of the #AfricanWomenLead series, fellows from the second cohort of the African Young Women Leaders (AfYWL) Fellowship Programme reflect on their experience in the workplace.

April 4, 2023


A chance encounter at a large international organization instilled a big dream in 10-year-old Gloria Kpinsoton. She remembers, “My dad and I stopped to greet his friend who was working at an international institution in Cotonou, Benin. I can’t describe the joy I felt sitting at the reception desk.” On their way back to the car, she told her father that one day, she would work at such an organization. 

Gloria’s words became true when she was appointed as one of 38 fellows who make up the second cohort of the African Young Women Leaders (AfYWL) Fellowship Programme. “Not having forgotten my dream, I was overjoyed when I saw the email announcing my selection into the programme.” Deployed to UNDP Gabon, Gloria says the experience has strengthened her teamwork, communication and organizational skills.

“The trainings, workshops and daily experiences have allowed me to acquire project management and leadership skills. These skills will serve as a springboard in my professional career.”
Gloria Kpinsoton


Professional success requires a clear plan and a strong sense of purpose. Yet the workplace is often filled with challenges and obstacles that make it difficult to stay focused, motivated, and committed.

For Rowan Ahmed, the tumultuous socio-political context in Burkina Faso added to the difficulties of transitioning to a new position and a new environment. “When I arrived, there had just been a coup d’état. During my time there, another occurred, and I got blocked outside the country attending a conference in Abuja. The instability added to the stress of being in a new environment, away from my husband and kids. I found it very challenging, but I learned a lot! It has been a life-changing experience, and I consider myself lucky.”

Posted to UNDP Niger, Nisrine Mbarki describes how an initial obstacle became an opportunity to drive positive change. “Some of my colleagues did not feel concerned about gender issues. I worked with the gender team at UNDP Niger to organize several capacity-building activities for the staff, explaining what gender was, and that it concerns us all. Eventually, their perspective on the subject changed completely.” Nisrine cites verbal communication as a key skill that she’s been able to refine. “I am constantly trying to learn how to communicate better, in a benevolent way; while knowing how to set boundaries, listen and take into consideration people's feelings.” 

Viviane Nobre is particularly proud of her role in helping to spearhead the first ever organization-wide film event at UNDP, in collaboration with the African Film Festival in New York. “This raised awareness about African and African diasporas’ histories, cultures and contributions to different civilizations.” She emphasizes the value of being exposed to different learning opportunities during her deployment at UNDP HQ. “One indicator of how much I have grown is that I am now able to work independently and with minimum supervision. I can see that my management trust both me and my competences.”

Also deployed to UNDP HQ, Abigail Ceesay sums up her professional journey as an AfYWL fellow as “exciting, empowering and deserved”. Her advice to future cohorts is to “prioritize your work and give it your all”. She adds, “Be professional, punctual, eager to learn and always offer a helping hand. However, do not forget how important it is to make personal connections with people. Oftentimes it’s easier to learn from people than books or the Internet.”

Every little task was an achievement for me.
Ntami Eborty

Originally from Nigeria, Ntami Eborty says she feels proud of all the work she has been able to accomplish as part of the UNDP Governance and Peacebuilding team in Addis Ababa. “Every little task was an achievement for me.” She offers the following advice for the next cohort: “Never shy away from any task. Take it as an opportunity to learn and stretch. Be intentional about making the most of your fellowship experience ­— 12 months really does fly. Lastly, find your own people within the fellowship and at work. There will be hard days and you will need your people.”

About the African Young Women Leaders (AfYWL) Fellowship Programme

The AfYWL Fellowship Programme, a flagship initiative of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the African Union Commission (AUC), focuses on building leadership skills and professional experience over the duration of the 1-year fellowship. The Fellowship cultivates a new generation of young African women leaders to drive change towards attaining the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Agenda 2063. The second cohort of AfYWL fellows come from 22 African countries and have been deployed to UNDP duty stations in 26 locations in Africa, Asia, Europe and the USA.

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