Today, we review question 4 of the Mandela Washington Fellowship 2018 application questions with the kind contributions of the following fellows:
Patience N. Agwenjang– Cameroon
Lucinda Mary Athieno– Uganda
Witika Mk(Bwalya Maketo)- Zambia
Helina Stiphanos- Ethiopia
Adepeju Jaiyeoba– Nigeria
Esther Mark– Nigeria
Owolabi Tobi Isaiah– Nigeria
Tola Oni– Nigeria
Janet Gbam Gbam- Nigeria
Describe a specific problem or challenge in your community that you have solved or are currently working to address. Explain the steps you took or are taking to address the problem. Why is this issue important to you?
Key Components of the Question
1. Identify a problem or challenge in your community.
2. You must have solved it are solving the problem.
3. What steps did you take or are you taking to address the problem.
4. Why the issue is important to you.
5. 250 words limit
Important Points to Note
1. Tie your answers. Remember Question 1 about your current work? As much as possible, tie your answer to it.
2. This question seeks innovative approach to problem solving. Remember that.
3. Seeks to establish that you have a proven track record and are a self starter.
4. This question is also low key measuring team spirit and collaborative efforts. How you work collaboratively with others is important because often times your solution will represent a radical change from something which people may resist.
5. Personally connect with the story where possible.
6. Make sure you show your passion when answering this question especially while addressing why the issue is important. Focus on an area that you aspire to bring change on.
It is important to be highly specific and professional in responding to this question. For example, saying you are ‘increasing Girls’ Access to Education’ is better than simply saying you are ‘Helping girls’ or saying you are ‘Helping local farmers have access to market’ which is better than simply saying you are ’empowering farmers.’
Please explain whatever you are doing in detail and don’t leave questions or doubt hanging in the mind of the marker. Remember you won’t be there to explain it.
You may have different problems you are trying to solve, or have solved, focus on the one that stands out and speaks to you the most. It is best of you tie this accomplishment to your professional work so you can maintain a flow from your previous responses.
In order to explain the steps you are taking to address this issue , it might be helpful to highlight your approach or key strategies an example is community mobilisation , building partnership with tech enterpreneurs, or creating platform for political leaders and community members to dialogue. It is important to tell a personal story to describe why this is important to you. After your personal story or experience statistics directly relevant to your community might help for example 21 girls report rape at the local police station every week.
Avoid trying to be un-necessarily emotional or over religious in describing why this issue is important to you. Don’t say things like “people are really suffering but I bless God for my life”.
Let’s use the teenage mum example again.
The teenage mum is using her own life experience as an example to promote sexual education for teenagers, provide support teenage mums who need to return to school and provide the required counseling needed to ensure that they leave their mistakes behind them. She’s tackling the problem of teenage pregnancy and inadequate sexual orientation in young adolescent. She’s doing this by having focus group discussions on sexual education with parents and providing an anonymous online platform where young people can get advice and counseling on sexual matters.
Addressing Root causes of the problem you have identified is a definite plus.
Ensure you give practical steps you took in addressing the problem. Let your practical steps also reveal innovation. What did you do? Who did you meet? What hurdles did you cross? Did you work with a team? Were there challenges you encountered? Those are some of the questions you have to answer as you tell your story.
If it is something you are still working on, talk about the stages you’ve crossed so far and the remaining stages you have left.
As you discuss the problem, ensure you touch on the importance of the problem you are trying to solve. If you are not solving this problem, what would be the effect? How would it affect people? Let the reviewer see why the work you do or are doing, is of utmost importance. What impact is the project making? Show it in numbers, or give a good description of it.
Lastly, do not LIE. Do not say what you are not doing. Be sincere in answering these questions!
All the best with your application.
See you again on Friday.
Compiled by Adepeju Jaiyeoba, Founder, Mothers Delivery Kit and Brown Button Foundation.