REFLECTIONS FROM OKUHLE QASANA

Young People + A Passion for Africa = Magic

Okuhle Qasana shares her reflections on the AL for Governance Gathering 2021

Published: 22 October 2021

Firstly, I would like to highlight how much of a privilege it was for me to be able to share a
space with such extraordinary minds. As a young person who is only still applying to
university, I found it very insightful to be in a space filled with young experts in the public
sector. I have learnt so much. I am inspired to aspire to a career in the public sector and
thus serve my people and make a difference in my community. Below, I share some key
lessons that I have taken away from the Gathering.

Young people, we need to take up space. Our ideas, energy and passion are much needed.
It is important for there to be young people who are willing to step forward and show that
they are ready and qualified for service in the public sector. This is an integral part of the
fight for more youth representation. Another important thing that was also highlighted is
that we need to be clear and decisive about what we want. That way we are able to focus
our energy and the power that we carry, rather than having it dispersed in many different
and sometimes unclear directions. Moreover, there definitely are biases that exist. We
tend to be more inclined towards choosing older, more experienced people over young
people who are in many ways qualified for the job. We did an interesting scenario activity
where different profiles of people were presented and we had to choose a leader. At first
just the qualifications were revealed and we voted. Afterwards, ages were revealed and
we were asked if we would change our vote. The person who had received the majority
vote in the previous round was the youngest at twenty-two years old. To my surprise, even
young people(including myself) were reluctant to keep their vote for the younger person.
This sparked some reflection. There are indeed many things for us to learn and unlearn.

Challenges for youngsters and women continue to be there. Women are often judged on
their beauty rather than on their intellectual capability. They are accused of “sleeping their
way to the top” as well as being tokens in leadership positions, rather than qualified and
active contributors. Young people are met with skepticism when we introduce new ideas
because we are disturbing “the way that things have always been done.” The public sector
is definitely a difficult space for young people to infiltrate. Despite this, opportunities do
still exist. It is important for us to build healthy relationships with the people that we work
with, wherever we are. We should aim to build fruitful and lasting relationships that can
foster collaboration and mutual growth.

This brings me to the last and for me, most important lesson that I have learnt. Shine!
Wherever you are, always strive for excellence and bring your best. You never know who is
watching. Your excellence wherever you are currently at, might just unlock your next
opportunity. You are capable of any and everything. The world is ours.

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