Madagascar’s ‘youth first’ creates leaders

The initiative has produced successful entrepreneurs

The initiative has produced successful entrepreneurs   | Photo Credit: Misonga Fihanka


For Olivia Malala Rakotondrasoa, creating and managing her own company had been a dream. But she had no clue on which industry to invest in before signing up to the Young Women Leadership Program (YWLP), created by the Madagascan NGO Youth First.

YWLP invites women aged 15-24 to work in groups of four to develop and present a project. The projects are assessed at the end of the programme, and the top five are awarded 1.6 million Madagascan ariary ($500). Rakotondrasoa, a communications major, suggested that her project team work on the Moringa tree, which grows all over Antsiranana – the region of Madagascar where she grew up. “We use its leaves all the time to prepare romazava (broth), but they hold significant nutritional and medicinal value,” she explains.

It took the team four training sessions spread over several weeks – to finish the “Moringala” project. “We decided to use the product for cosmetics,” Rakotondrasoa says. The women gained knowledge and took inspiration from meetings with mentors recruited by Youth First, and from other entrepreneurs.

But the jury did not select Moringala. To Rakotondrasoa’s disappointment, her team-mates also gave up on the project. For Rakotondrasoa, the experience bolstered her determination to become an entrepreneur. She continued the Moringala project alone. Thanks to the training programme, she developed self-confidence, leadership and advocacy skills, as well as the capacity to gather resources – and she was off to a flying start.

Her products – soap, massage oil and tea – all made of moringa leaves, are available in several hotels and beauty salons in her native Antisiranana. Like Moringala, many projects undertaken by young women have succeeded.

This article was originally published in L’Express, Madagascar

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Printable version | Jan 26, 2020 4:48:42 PM |

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