The YESS Girls’ Movement has a thriving alumni community of 211 young women from 15 countries across the Africa and Asia Pacific Regions of WAGGGS.
About the YESS Alumnae
These are young women who had the opportunity to go on an international exchange for six months and were given a platform to exercise their leadership potential. Once home they continue to engage with both their ‘home’ Association and their former ‘host’ Association in a variety of brilliant ways. For many, their ‘home’ Associations are the cradle of their Girl Guiding and Girl Scouting journeys and their participation in the YESS Girls’ Movement was the beginning of their leadership journey. They were empowered as agents of change not only at a local level, in their communities, but also at a national and international level.
In this section we bring you experiences of our YESS Girls Alumnae, where they will tell you their stories in their own words.
After the exchange, I found purpose.
‘The purpose of life is not to be happy but to be useful, honorable and compassionate.’
My name is Sonde Iyanuoluwa, I’m from Nigeria and I went to Madagascar as a YESS participant in 2020. While in Madagascar I met Joviale who told me how girls use cow dung in her village as menstrual material during their periods. I didn’t believe it till I read about another girl called Limpo from Zambia who also uses cow dung; and Munyes from Uganda who digs a hole in the ground and sits there for days when she is having her period.
Growing up, I listened to many scholars speak about finding purpose for existence. I particularly held on to a quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson that “the purpose of life is not to be happy but to be useful, honourable and compassionate; to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well”.
Being a Girl Guide and a lady myself, I understand what young women like Joviale and Munye go through. From their stories, I got a conviction to take action. As a participant, the YESS Girls Movement had trained me on the WAGGGS Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) curriculum 'Rosie's World' and its delivery, as well as how to make reusable pads.
Upon my return to Nigeria, with this knowledge, I started an initiative named IRPEP (Iyanu Reusable Pad Empowerment Project) which focuses on distributing reusable pads to girls and young women in the rural community for free. I became an advocate for menstrual hygiene on all media platforms including major television stations in Nigeria. So far I have distributed over 600 reusable pads to people in Nigeria.
My passion for menstrual hygiene also helped me secure the position of the MHM Africa Coordinator for WAGGGS and motivated me to get a masters degree in Health Education with a focus on Women’s Health.
The YESS Girls Movement did not just help me find purpose but equipped me with necessary skills to function professionally and effectively in my chosen field. Indeed, it is a journey of a life time !!
Huge responsibility to represent my country Senegal !
I’m Fatima Fonceka from the Senegal Girl Guides and I went to Uganda as a YESS Participant in 2019.
Participating in the YESS Girls programme is one of the most beautiful experiences of my life.
I remember that before I left, I was a little apprehensive because of the language. In Senegal we speak French and Uganda is an English speaking country. Besides the language challenge, I had the responsibility of representing my country Senegal.
In the first two weeks, we were oriented and trained by WAGGGS on the responsibilities and duties we were to do while in our host countries.
We were four people from four different countries. We called ourselves Team Uganda 2019 or Rubies sisters . It was not easy for us because we were all so different! But we ended up accepting our differences and moving forward together.
Working with the Uganda Girl Guides Association (our host Association) was also very informative for me. I learned to be professional and some useful practices for my home Association.
On returning home to my country, I was no longer the same.
Because of my exchange experience, my commitment and love for Guiding has increased. I had grown up physically, socially, emotionally and professionally. The only thing I wanted was to share all the good practices I had gained with others back home.
Since my partner Anne Fatima and I were the first YESS Girls programme participants in Senegal, we had a big responsibility to ensure that the programme was known in our country. We participated in several activities under the supervision of our National association (like camps, sensitizations and trainings); and supported the preparation of the YESS Girls Senegal 2020 team.
Since my return from the exchange, I have also been given much more responsibility in my home association.
"Many doors opened for me after the exchange."
I’m Mbali Mngomezulu, a pioneer of the YESS Girls' Alumnae from South Africa. I was one of 11 YESS Girls' participants from 4 countries in 2015; and I went to Uganda for my exchange.
While on exchange I learnt a lot and shared my knowledge with others too. By the time I returned home my life had changed so much. I was privileged to get Guiding positions as a Regional Secretary and also a Regional Ranger Adviser. In these roles, I did many trainings with girls and young women from WAGGGS' Free Being Me programme and also it's Stop the Violence campaign as well as many other national and regional trainings. I was also awarded the Peer Education qualification.
In 2018 I was invited to the National Council as an observer and as a member of procedural committee. This year (2021) I was also part of WAGGGS' Together We Rise campaign against gender-based violence in which I was working as assistant manager. I was then nominated as the Youth Board Member - taking on an important governance role within GGSA , and I was awarded the Naledi youth award.
Before I went for my exchange I did not have any qualifications. But on return I was motivated to work on my career so in 2017 I enrolled for a national certificate in supply chain management and graduated in 2018. A year later I enrolled at the university of South Africa where I am currently working towards my Bachelor of Education.
"I wouldn't trade Girl Guiding for anything"
‘"I wasn’t a Girl Guide by the time I applied to go for the exchange, but I knew no matter what happens with my application,
Girl Guiding was going to be a part of me. Today it is still the best part of my life and I don’t see myself trading that for anything."
It feels like it was just yesterday when I signed the agreement for the exchange programme. Writing this makes me remember how it all felt; from packing my bags to boarding the plane to that first step out onto Ugandan soil.
There were so many first experiences for me. It was my first time on a plane, working in an office, or even sending emails. In fact my life had come to a turning point and I was not nervous at all because it all felt like destiny. It felt like home; I felt like I was not going to stay for seven months. I was there to stay. And sure enough, I stayed.
But let me first take you right back to the beginning. I had just finished high school and I didn’t know what I wanted to do next but one thing was clear I did not want to go straight to university. I didn’t feel ready for that. I wanted time to think about it. And well God, as he always prepares us for our next steps in life, he gave me the chance to grow.
I was very hopeful about my application for the exchange, even though I wasn’t even a Girl Guide yet. I had a feeling that no matter what happens with my application, Girl Guiding was going to be part of me and I was right. It is the best part of my life to this very day and I don’t see myself trading that for anything. As faithful as God is, my application was successful.
The seven months that I then spent as a YESS Girls' participant in Uganda, working with Mrs. Robina Asiimwe Sentumbwe helped me identify my career path, making them the most valued months of my life. I realised my potential, I made life long friends with young women from different African countries, some of whom I don't go a day without contacting.
Mrs. Robina Asiimwe Sentumbwe did not only guide and support me in executing my responsibilities, she went the extra mile as my mentor and is a mother to me still now.
With her advice and support I managed to apply for a Bachelors’ Degree in Industrial and Organizational Psychology at Makerere University in Uganda. As I write this I am in my final year of study. God knew it all from the start.
In addition to going on exchange , I have participated in lots of different opportunities presented to me by the Girl Guides from facilitating the YESS Girls' preparatory course to volunteering as the Lead 'Capacity Building' Volunteer for the YESS Girls' Movement for 2021.
Being away on exchange taught me a lot of things. I grew up a lot and my perspective changed in ways that I never would have imagined. I now can say that I am independent, assertive, open to new ideas, and more confident about myself. It was the best time of my life. I will always remember how choosing to go on the YESS Girls' exchange helped me discover what the world has in store for me and to walk through my life with confidence!
"Never the same after the exchange"
Ackissah Baluti is my name. I’m a Young Leader from the Malawi Girl Guides Association and a 2018 YESS Alumnae participant to Uganda.
Ever since I participated in the YESS Girls’ Movement, my life has never been the same. I have become a very confident woman, a reliable agent of change and there has been a great change in my leadership skills and knowledge.
After the exchange, I started working as a mentor to girls in rural areas with the support of the Malawi Standard Bank; a trainer in WAGGGS’ Free Being Me, Action on Body Confidence and Menstrual Hygiene Management programmes.
Nationally, I was selected by my government to represent Malawi youth in delivering the 2018-2022 National strategy for Adolescent Girls and Young women. And internationally, I facilitated the 2019 YESS preparatory course in Uganda, attended WAGGGS' Helen Storrow Seminar in Switzerland and in June, I was trained as a WAGGGS Africa region facilitator.
I now work as the YESS Programme Assistant and I’m really grateful to be working with the very programme that has brought about such a change in me and my life. Participating in this programme, has made me a great, reliable and confident leader, and I not only witnessed this change in myself, but many others who knew me before too.