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Khauhelo ‘Mile ’18: Student Leader, Entrepreneur, and Self-Published Poet

Khauhelo ‘Mile is an integral part of the African Leadership Academy community. At the age of 18, she is Chairlady of the ALA Student Government, the leader of multiple student enterprises, and most recently, the author of a self-published book of poetry, Puo Ea Pelo, exploring themes of social justice, sexuality, language, and patriotism.

Khauhelo ‘Mile reading her self-published book, Puo Ea Pelo.

Khauhelo ‘Mile is a Mosotho student from Maseru, Lesotho. Khauhelo was born into an artistic family of musicians and music composers so it was no surprise to her when she discovered she was artistically inclined. At the young age of six, Khauhelo inspired by her sister started writing music and poetry. Her passion for writing continued throughout her high school career and further as she was recognized as an exceptional writer of essays, poetry, and songs.

In December of her first year at ALA, Khauhelo decided as part of the Do Something Cool program – a week-long tradition that provides students, faculty and staff members the opportunity to engage in deliberate practice and create something cool – that she wanted to compile the pieces of poetry which she had written in English and Sesotho over the past few years. She realized that she did not have time to make a suitable book for the end of the program, so she decided to present her pieces of poetry as a collage. She stuck the cut-out pieces on a piece of cloth her mother had given her in her childhood.

Extremely conscious of leaving her own impact on African literature, Khauhelo decided that she wanted to publish her pieces as something permanent and tangible, specifically a book. The only question in her mind was finding the most efficient and cost-effective way to accomplish this goal. Khauhelo considered reaching out to publishing houses, but with inspiration from her idol and favorite South African poet, Thando Fuze, she decided that she did not want to risk censorship of her work and concluded that the best way to publish her anthology was to do it herself.

Khauhelo soon realized the numerous drawbacks of this option, specifically economic. Self-publishing meant financing the entire process herself. Luckily, her mother was extremely supportive of her daughter’s work and provided a small portion of the funding. However, Khauhelo’s mother was only able to make a small contribution to the large publishing fees. She discussed this problem with her peers at ALA who reminded her that she could apply for a loan from the student government. She applied and received a small loan from a fund dedicated to exceptional student enterprises. However, this was still not enough.

After approximately nine months, Khauhelo found a solution through her writing skills. Her friends, especially those with English as a second language, were asking her to edit their college essays. During this time, Khauhelo saw an immediate need for tutoring help with college essays and a few days later put together a license application for a student enterprise. She realized, through helping others with their writing, that she could raise the required funds to self-publish and sell her anthology.

The self-published anthology titled Puo Ea Pelo, which is Sesotho for “Soliloquy of the Heart”, is a strong self-reflection focused on Khauhelo’s journey as a young, queer woman exploring feminism, love, relationships, family, self-care, neo-colonialism, patriotism, and social justice. The essence of the book according to Khauhelo is to capture the notion of “healing in our mother tongues, through dialogues with our hearts.” She believes the juxtaposition of writing in both Sesotho and English is necessary to highlight the importance of vulnerable self-expression through the mother-tongue especially individuals who were born into a generation where African languages are viewed as inferior to the English language. She realized the beauty and significance of writing in Sesotho at ALA. “I formed a relationship with Sesotho when I got to ALA. This place fosters a sense of individuality and your patriotism comes out no matter what you feel about your country’’, she says.

Through the entrepreneurial focus of African Leadership Academy, Khauhelo’s passion and drive enabled her to use her strengths as an entrepreneur to achieve her goal of self-publishing her poetry book. To order a copy of Khauhelo’s book, please contact us here.

Do you know of a young leader in your community who has the perseverance and determination to drive change across the world? Nominate them for our two-year Diploma Program today.