Mandela Fellow: Anike Lawal
The Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders is the flagship program of the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) which brought 1000 YALI Fellows from all 49 countries in sub-Saharan Africa to the U.S. for a six-week learning experience at leading universities this summer, and seven fellows to Philadelphia for an additional six-week professional placement with local organizations.
The Fellows placed at local host organizations represent diverse experiences, backgrounds and countries of origin. They each share a strong history of educational and professional achievement and have been selected for this prestigious professional development experience to learn from and share with the City of Philadelphia.
FunTimes interviewed Anike Lawal, a recent recipient of a Mandela Fellow. Anike worked with Health Partners Foundation and was present at the July/August release party honoring HBCU Alumni Influencer Health Partners Foundation president Staci Scott. Here are her responses.
Tell us about yourself: I’m a young Nigerian entrepreneur who is passionate about making a difference in the world. I quit my job as a management consultant to start Mamalette after I became a mother for the first time. I am also an alumnus of the London School of Economics and Trinity College in Dublin.
When I was pregnant with my first child, I looked for a community of other women in the same situation. Unable to find such a group, she decided to create one: Mamalette. Today Mamalette is a thriving community that connects pregnant women and new mothers to valuable, often life-saving information.
Last year, I took my community to the next level and created the Mamalette Champions program. This involved training and equipping mothers as ‘health champions’ to provide support and information to pregnant women and young mothers and to help them find the right health services.
How did you become a Mandela Fellow? I applied online like 11,000+ other Nigerians. 300 of us were selected for an interview and 60 of us were chosen. I am also fortunate to be one of 5 Nigerians chosen from among the fellows to spend an extra 6 weeks in the US for a professional development experience.
What have you gained from your fellowship so far?I have learned a lot about business and entrepreneurship. I have also significantly grown my network, both in the U.S. and on the African continent.
What is the most important thing you wish to take back to Africa?What I love about the U.S. is the freedom that exists here and the belief that you can be anything you want. The Americans I have been in contact with have also demonstrated respect for life, liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
How do you wish to use your experience from the Fellowship?I am a daughter of Africa and I am resolute in my belief that my calling is back home. This fellowship has empowered me and has given me the skills I need to take the work I do back home to the next level.
What did you enjoy the most in the U.S.?I enjoyed the diversity of people and experiences. During this trip, I have been fortunate to live and visit different parts of the U.S.: Des Moines, Omaha, Washington DC, and Philadelphia.
What does this Fellowship mean to you?This fellowship validates the work I have done and am doing in Nigeria. It also helps attract people and resources that can help further the work that I am doing.
What do you say to other young Africans who wish to become Mandela Fellows? The Mandela Washington Fellowship is an experience of a lifetime. Apply and if you don’t get in once, keep trying. I applied three times and I got selected on my third try.
What expectations do you have upon your return to Nigeria?I expect to continue running and improving on my business.