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Nondumiso N Hlophe: Bridging passion and intention

Nondumiso N Hlophe: Bridging passion and intention

Reflections, taking stock and charting the future with intention

Image above: A bridge in the village of Matsamo, Swaziland

On Somhlolo Day, marking the independence of the Kingdom of Swaziland, Nondumiso N Hlophe, reflects on changemaking and the Queen’s Young Leaders’ Programme.

This year marks 50 years of full independence in the Kingdom of Eswatini – Swaziland.For emaSwati, Somhlolo Day– 6 September – is a time of reflection for us to mark where we have come from, take stock of where we are today, and chart our future with intention.

This year also marks the same for me personally, with respect to the Queen’s Young Leaders Programme. As a social advocate, my passions for education and gender equality have always guided my impact, both professionally and personally. But until this programme my work was more impassioned than intentional.

Core beliefs

For me, becoming a Queen’s Young Leader played a huge role in reaffirming two core beliefs. First, that your passion can make a difference in the world, if you intend it to.

The second is summed up in the African proverb, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together”.

The Queen’s Young LeadersProgramme came into my life when I  had just founded the Global Shapers Community, Mbabane Hub.

The programme asked me to question everything, including myself. Who I was at my core, what values guided me and where did I truly see myself – in the medium- to long-term.

It called on me to dream bigger than my then-reality.

It was a safe space to share audacious dreams. Because when you share your dreams with fellow dreamers, they will consciously share with you how you can make minor tweaks to these dreams. In this way, the big dream you already thought was audacious becomes bigger than life itself.

Khuluma Discussion Forum, moderating 'Day of the Girl Child' discussion

Khuluma Discussion Forum, moderating 'Day of the Girl Child' discussion in 2013

What winning meant to me

As an inaugural Queen’s Young Leader in 2015, I was not prepared for the attention and the great expectations that came with this honour.

Interviewed on what winning the award meant to me, I said it would force me to take stock of all the achievements in my life up until that point and no doubt, propel me to do more.

As a child of Eswatini, who has called many places “home” and who carries a piece of them with her in her heart, I know where I have come from. This, and the vision that I have, complement the life I am building and the impact I am making – one step at a time – for myself and for my country.

Why me?

Being in the UK, meeting Her Majesty and bringing my medal home to Swaziland, almost completely consumed me with a feeling of imposter syndrome. The “why me” question.

This past June, I had the privilege of being part of the support team for the final cohort of Queen’s Young Leaders winners. I was on the other side of this experience, meeting Queen’s Young Leaders who seemingly had that same feeling – that “why me” anxiousness.

Being at both ends of the programme – a “book end” Queen’s Young Leader – is more than coming full circle.

Nondusimo receiving her award from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth in June 2015

Nondusimo receiving her award from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth in June 2015

It has given me time to reflect – not only on how this programme has grown, but on where I have come from and where I am headed, as a young leader in the Commonwealth.

Looking back on what seems to be a blur of the last three years of Queen’s-Young-Leader-ness, if I were interviewed again on what winning this award means, the only  change to my answer would be to add “with intention”.


Believe it or not, it took this entire Queen’s Young Leaders journey for me to begin answering my own “why me” question.

I have learned to own the fact that behind my passion, there is a lot of hard work. By myself, by my team, by my colleagues as we do our part to change the world, one action at a time.

There has been failure. There have been times where I wanted to give up. There have been people who have inspired and encouraged me to keep pressing forward.

The bigger the dreams, the harder the obstacles one has to overcome. For every setback and every time that you feel like giving up – and there are many – passion and intention is the fuel you need when you feel you are not enough.

That does not change if you become a Queen’s Young Leader. If anything, you become more aware of how important the lessons are that come with the long hours, the low moments and the setbacks. Those lessons remind you to cherish the high moments and celebrate the successes, big and small.

Perseverance is the answer.

My Health, My Value

Where education and gender equality are concerned,the Queen’s Young Leaders family has served as the catalyst on my road of intent to make a difference,.

Last year, a group of us were able to collaborate in east and southern Africa on My Health, My Value – an initiative aimed at raising awareness on sexual reproductive health rights (SRHR) among youth in our respective countries. 

The My Health My Value team

The biggest accomplishment here was, from our respective places, each one of us has worked with at least 50 youth on this project, with seven of us on a team.

With a single action, 350 youth were reached in person and countless more online. We found 20 SRHR champions around the Commonwealth. We hope to see them do the same – collaborate and pay it forward, in their countries and abroad.

In the Queen’s Young Leaders’ family of  480 award winners and runners-up – in a collective of doers – the call to lead is one marked with passion.

However, this is not a call for us alone. My Health, My Value was a reminder of this.

There are setbacks, shortcomings and difficulties to overcome even in a group of doers. That passion and intention will carry you when it all seems to be overwhelming.

Why not us?

Beyond Queen’s Young Leaders, as the largest and youngest population in the world – as the decision-makers for where the world is headed – the answer to “why me” is “why not us?”

We live in a time where every little tear of contribution fills the ocean. Whatever your passion is, start small and collaborate.

If not us, then who? And if not now, then when?

Alone, one only gets so far. Together we get a lot further and have a lot more impact.

If you intend to do good in the world, and your passion fuels you, you will do good.

If your intentions are shared with like-minded people and your passion unites, it is amazing what we can all achieve together.

Nondumiso N Hlophe

"We live in a time where every little tear of contribution fills the ocean. Whatever your passion is, start small and collaborate. If not us, then who? And if not now, then when?"