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The LEAD Fellows completing the 2023 YouthLed LEAD Fellowship Program together with key partners from the United States Agency for International Development, The Asia Foundation, Asian Institute of Management, Ateneo School of Government, and Ayala Foundation, Inc.

Thirty-five dynamic young leaders from across the Philippines successfully completed the 2023 Leadership and Democracy (LEAD) Fellowship Program. 

Initiated in 2021, the LEAD Fellowship is one of the flagship programs of the Youth Leadership for Democracy (YouthLed), a joint project of the United States Agency for International Development and The Asia Foundation that works to increase civic engagement of young Filipinos leading to their strengthened participation in democratic governance. 

Through the LEAD Fellowship, YouthLed invests in the leadership skills of youth from diverse backgrounds to strengthen their capacity to effectively navigate, engage, and optimize platforms for democratic governance.

In its second cohort, implemented from July 2023 through April 2024, the LEAD Fellowship had three specialized tracks tailored to the unique profiles of participating youth leaders. These tracks include the Aspiring Leaders for emerging youth leaders from the YouthLed-supported regional coalitions; the Governance Champions for youth leaders in government; and the Changemakers for youth leaders in civil society.  

At the culminating event on April 8, 2024 in Makati City, YouthLed’s Chief of Party Natalie Christine V. Jorge underscored the impact of the fellowship.

“Over the past year, we witnessed the transformative power of youth leadership in action. The LEAD Fellows exemplified democratic values, drawing from the lessons they learned throughout the fellowship and experiences from tirelessly working with their communities. They have grown to become leaders who have a deep understanding on how their leadership can amplify voices, influence reforms, and change existing narratives,” Ms. Jorge said.

Sharing his journey of growth and empowerment through the fellowship, LEAD Fellow Mahatma Sangacala, a member of the Local Executive Board of the United Voices for Peace Network in the Bangsamaro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, emphasized the insights he gained.

“I found the courage to speak up, to share my insights, and to believe in the value of my voice. I learned the importance of transparency, accountability, and integrity in decision-making; and understood the necessity of safeguarding our “whys” and securing our non-negotiables in navigating the political arena. With this understanding, we are better equipped to advocate for positive change within our communities, echoing the principles of good governance instilled in us,” he said.

Through strategic partnerships with the Asian Institute of Management, Ateneo School of Government, and Ayala Foundation, Inc., the LEAD Fellows participated in a series of learning activities aimed at enhancing their political leadership knowledge, skills, and attitudes. These sessions facilitated meaningful dialogues with experts from the academe and seasoned leaders from local government units on leadership experiences, program management, and advocacy work.

LEAD Fellow Annika Carolina Acebedo, technical staff at the National Youth Commission, emphasized the value of the sessions in advocating for increased civic engagement among Filipino youth.

“Having gone through the Future Bridging Leaders Program of the Asian Institute of Management, the Project Amuma (overarching program on servant leadership for democracy) of Ayala Foundation, and the Governance sessions with the Ateneo School Government, these are platforms we can use to amplify the call for Filipino youth in each and every one of our communities to strengthen civic and political participation and contribute to democratic governance,” she said.

Grounded in a deeper appreciation of democratic values, structures, and systems, the LEAD Fellowship also provided fellows with the opportunity to apply their learnings as they designed and implement Change projects in their communities which are aligned to their advocacies and to the broader goals of Filipino youth empowerment.

These projects are addressing issues related to engagement of young leaders in political processes, societal reintegration of Children in Conflict with the Law, mental health support for disaster-affected young individuals, and equal opportunities for the deaf and hard hearing people, among many others.

To kickstart their Change projects, LEAD Fellows were granted access to Fellowship and Democracy Grants to scale up or expand their projects’ impact.

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