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I have always been a good student so I have always enjoyed school. My academic record has been consistently excellent and many people- myself included- believed that, that was all it took to make it. I came into the Youth Leaders Fellowship Programme as a novice to the beneficiary-oriented development world. After graduating from the University of Ghana, I had applied for graduate studies in international affairs and development, hoping to build a career there. Fortunately, I did not get into any of those programmes. I say ‘fortunately’ because I would have otherwise missed the opportunity to be a YoLe Fellow.

Being in UNFPA has built my capacity in myriad ways, both tangibly and intangibly. I participated in leadership trainings that helped me to understand that being a leader is a very multi-faceted portfolio that is not easily mastered. Prior to being a YoLe Fellow, I believed myself to be a leader. However, I soon realized that I lacked understanding of the highs and lows of leadership. Now, I appreciate that there are different styles of leadership like transformative leadership and situational leadership, and that the key to being an effective leader is understanding what works where and when. Through interactions with staff and colleague Fellows, I have practiced these theories of leadership and grew in my capacity to step effectively into leadership portfolios.

Under the leadership of the Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health Unit, I developed diverse skills: I drafted concept notes, resource mobilization plans and comprehensive reports. These notwithstanding, I became a de-facto member of the Communications Unit because I was a member of the YoLe Media Team. Consequently, I wrote a number of speeches, articles and feature stories, thus honing my writing skills. Altogether, I developed abilities in research, interpersonal communication, conceptualization and implementation of programmes and interventions, teamwork and networking skills among many others. These are invaluable skills for future academic and professional prospects.

I have greatly benefited from capacity building workshops, learning about the UN system- specifically the operations of UNFPA- and the practical applications of the Sustainable Development Goals and other development instruments. My comprehension of development work and the need to put the individual- especially the young person- at the centre of development programming has greatly improved. I believe that I am in better position to pursue graduate study and subsequently a career in this field.

Most importantly, the YoLe Fellowship Programme has given me great friends who are smart, empowered and poised to make meaningful impact. I am highly expectant of the amazing social change that we are going to make.

My name is Abigail Ashun-Sarpy, an alumnus of the Youth Leaders Fellowship Programme. I like learning, but how does one learn without good teachers? The staff and management of UNFPA Ghana have been exceptional teachers. I can say without a shadow of doubt and no intent for clichés, that I am eternally grateful!