For the second part of my African heroine series,I am celebrating Wangari Muta Maathai(1 April 1940 – 25 September 2011), a political and environmental activist from Kenya. Although she is now late, she made a significant contribution to the African continent. This great woman was the first Africa woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize when she won in 2014. Also, she was the first woman in East Africa to have a Doctorate degree when she got her PhD in 1971 from the University of Nairobi.
Wangari studied Biology, getting her Masters from the University of Pittsburgh and also obtained a PhD. In 1977, she started the Green Belt Movement, an organisation that mobilised women in rural Kenya to plant trees, reverse deforestation, stop soil erosion while they make an income and have a source of fuel. By the early 21st century, the Green Belt Movement had planted about 30 million trees and had inspired similar projects in Ethiopia, Tanzania and Zimbabwe.
We celebrate this great heroine, continue to rest in power Wangari!
Anza Tshipetane and Nnditsheni Netshimbupfe are two young women I met at the Youth Global Forum who are passionate about making a difference in their community. They are medical students from South Africa who run a non-profit organisation that helps children who want to pursue a STEM(Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) career. They were inspired to start Bright Young Leaders Initiative(BYLI) after realising that many children from African rural areas do not have opportunities to pursue a STEM career.
Anza and Nnditsheni took part in the 2019 Youth Time Idea Grant contest and won the grand prize of 10 000 Euros. Being the Pan Africanist that I am, I took the victory as my own and celebrated with them and our other fellow delegate Warren who is also from South Africa.
Some of the programs run by BYLI include a Rural School Innovation Camp and BYLI Science and Innovation challenge. You can check out their website to see more: https://www.byli.org/
Mental Health is an essential part of one’s wellbeing. The youth like everyone else can be having depression, anxiety, bipolar and other mental health challenges. While at the Youth Global Forum, I met Shinelle Bayrd, whose passionate about addressing mental health in her home country Guyana. A World Health Organisation report in 2014 stated that Guyana had the highest suicide rate at 44.2 per 100 000. That’s alarming for a country with a population of under 1 million people. After becoming aware of these statistics, I could now understand why Shinelle is passionate about addressing mental health in her country.
In 2018, Shinelle was the winner of the Youth Global Forum Idea Grant, and this resulted in her creating a Wellness Centre. The Centre helps those with mental health illness by improving their mental, physical, spiritual and emotional wellbeing.
The youth can definitely be at the forefront of providing support to those with mental health challenges as Shinelle has done in Guyana. You can check out the Wellness Centre website: https://thewellnesscentergy.com/.
To start our women Celebration series, we begin our trip by going to Liberia, a West African country that gave the African continent its first female president. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf made history the day she became president. For the first time ever, a woman was president on the continent. This was quite a landmark achievement on a continent that struggles with a history of toxic patriarchy. Issues that affect women and girls in African nations range from child marriages, female gender mutilation, minimal Economic opportunities and other problems. Having a Female president brought hope and showed that one of the highest glass ceiling could be shattered.
Madam Sirleaf has impressive credentials, she studied Economics and Business Administration, and got a Masters in Public Administration from Harvard University. Before becoming president she served in public office as a Finance Minister during the Doe regime. She clashed with the head of state during this time, and as a result she was imprisoned, nearly executed and finally exiled.During her time in exile, she was an Economist for international organisations such as the World Bank.
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf ran for presidency in 2005, was sworn into office on 16 January 2006 and remained in office till 2018. In 2011 she won a Nobel Peace Prize. Additionally, she won the 2017 Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership, recognizing the good changes that happened in Liberia during her presidency.
Africa Day Australia (ADA) joined the rest of the world in celebrating International Women’s Day by hosting an event in Melbourne. The event was well attended and there were some inspiring speakers. Our keynote speaker was Dr Mimmie Watts who is an academic, author, African-Australian leader and much more.
Our amazing facilitator was Zione Walker who is a powerful woman in her own right. For the panel discussion session, the panelists included two men (Mohammed Yassin and Phillip Gai) who happen to both be fathers of two girls. Although a women’s event, it was important to get a male perspective on women empowerment.
Some valuable lessons I took from the keynote speaker Dr Mimmie Watts: -Do not settle for what is below your level of achievements. -Be honest with yourself and others. -Mentor and sponsor others. -Value and appreciate what you have, especially your family
I had fun volunteering at this ADA event and madam president Shillar Sibanda(ADA president) ensured that everything ran smoothly. Surely a great event celebrating women.
On Saturday 22 February, I had an opportunity to attend a Young Women’s Empowerment Conference in my hometown Harare. This event was put together by an organisation called SHE ROARS. SHE ROARS is an organisation that empowers young girls and women to break gender stereotypes and help them find opportunities. One thing that stood out at this conference was, there was someone who was translating the presentations into sign language for the deaf. This is really important as no one should be left behind because of a disability or special needs.
Among the presenters, we had Honourable Minister Monica Mutsvangwa (Minister of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services) and media personality Ruvheneko Parirenyatwa.
Some of the valuable lesson I learnt from the conference:
1. Its crucial to build your self-esteem
2. It’s important to take care of our mental health
3. It is essential to be financially literate. How many financial books have I read?
4. I learned to be distinct, as distinction makes you different from another person
5. Don’t leave another sister behind. Carry other women along when opportunities come
Happy International Women’s Day to you all. In US, UK and Australia March is Women’s history month. Time is taken out to commemorate and celebrate the important role of women. In Canada Women’s history month is celebrated in October. Women have been historically disadvantaged in many areas be it socially, economically etc. Its sad to say that for some women this is till the case. According to a UN Women report, out of 189 economies assessed in 2018, 104 economies still had laws preventing women from working certain jobs and in 18 economies husbands can legally prevent their wives from working.(https://www.unwomen.org/en/what-we-do/economic-empowerment/facts-and-figures). These figures are really depressing. However, equality can still be achieved.
I usually love paying special attention to the important women in my life as they are part of my support system. I’m grateful to descend from brilliant and resilient women and I’ve always had other strong women support me. Growing up my mother would say, ” Mwana musikana akakosha uyezve anochengetedzwa.” This basically means a girl child is precious . She should be taken care of and protected.” Growing up with such affirmations, I grew up to be an ambitious, empowered and strong woman.
For those of us who are empowered women, we will not leave any sister behind. It’s such an honour and privilege to be a woman and I’m proud to be one. To celebrate Women’s history month on my blog, in addition to other articles, I’m running a 3 part series celebrating 3 women on the African continent who have stood out and inspired me over the years. Let’s celebrate, empower and encourage the lovely ladies in our lives. Once again, Happy International Women’s Day.
At the Youth Time Forum, I got to participate in a group activity where we concentrated on Inclusive growth, and our focus was people being able to have a voice. If you ever find yourself as a minority, immigrant, or part of a marginalised group, you understand the importance of having a voice. If you are unable to speak out for yourself, there is a risk of being misrepresented in the media, and other people keep on carrying negative stereotypes due to their ignorance or misinformation.
Some of our groups points of discussion included the following:
-Freedom of Speech
-Town hall meetings
-A diverse representation in the media space
Below is a summary of the discussion that our group had. Be a voice wherever you find yourself to speak up for yourself or for those who are not give a platform to speak.
2020, a new year and decade have come. As we look to the future, our world still faces many challenges, from climate change to lack of development. However, with these challenges lie great opportunities. If the world is to be a better place, then the development and empowerment of youth need to be a priority. In most African countries and other developing nations, young people are just not prioritized. Young people are missing from decision-making positions, and they do not have enough opportunities.
Last year in December 2019, I had the opportunity to attend the 5th Edition of the Youth Global Forum in Amsterdam. I enjoyed this conference as it provoked me to think of the role youth play to make the world a better place. This year 2020 reminds us that we have entered the last decade to achieve the 17 SDG goals that we expect to reach by 2030. What have we fulfilled in the previous decade? Has progress been made? In the next few weeks, I plan to share inspiring stories of people that I met who are making a difference in their communities and thus making a world a better place. Also, I’ve decided to play a part in empowering young people by advocating for them and also helping to create opportunities in any way that I can. My main focus will be youth from African communities.