Sisterhood, mentorship and transformation

When I left the TuWezeshe Leadership Training I was nicknamed ‘TuWezeshe’ because of the many ideas I suggested at the training, to my organisation Building Tomorrow. I was filled with enthusiasm from meeting young women that were, like myself, willing against all odds to fight for women’s rights unapologetically and to stop the high prevalence of sexual and gender-based violence. I am encouraged that the world consists of safe spaces such as the TuWezeshe Fellowship which I had the chance to occupy. Here is my story.

The moment that I entered the room at Garuga Beach Resort, I met women with different stories and from all walks of life – women that worked with sex workers, marginalized sexualities, young mothers and girls. These women were social workers, lawyers, IT specialists and journalists like myself. To me that is when transformation began. It became very clear that there was nothing else to be but an activist in the places I worked and lived. I was trained to provide mentorship and a social structure for the sisters (as indeed we are) and not judgement.

Prior to my joining the Fellowship, I had an idea to drive an initiative that addressed the needs of young mothers in schools and empowered them financially and socially. I had no clear idea however, how I was going to implement such an initiative. The guidance, resources and confidence given by the TuWezeshe Fellowship allowed me to target and collaborate with three school communities that were interested and had the capacity to build a force against SGBV and gender violations.

I started at Kibaale East. Even though the school had no electricity the teachers were very interested in computer lessons. Using my own laptop, a colleague and I were able to deliver these lessons on the condition that each teacher attended a session on how to promote inclusive learning environments and ensure that all students learnt in positive surroundings.

Kyehemba Primary School ICT Club

 

ict club 2

Another ICT teachers club at New Eden Primary School

For the pupils, we started the Girls Sisterhood Club at New Eden Primary school. The club builds on themes such as gender fluidity and gender roles. It facilitates: discussions, debates, reading, watching movies, and farming. Each of these activities has a lesson learning outcome that empowers confidence and power in being a girl.

club memebrs

Club members receive diaries to document their experiences

For the community, the Fellowship has enabled me to build the Embibo Gender Based Initiative, which is aimed at young mothers aged of 15-20; we empower them with employability and life skills such as CV writing, health talks, nutrition talks. We’ve even rolled out a bar soap making session through which we hope to intensify financial opportunities through the inclusion and provision of grants.

cv writing clubs

Embibo young mothers during an employability workshop

Personally, I have been able to write a pro women’s blog, pebbletalk@wordpress.com that gives a friendly narrative to bottled-up feelings that African women may have and serves as training for my own journey toward novel writing. The events that we have attended as part of the Fellowship have broadened our network and exposed us to more complex theories of power which impact our capacity as activists and feminists. The old perception of mentorship is that the mentor has the authority and teaches while the mentee simply learns; a unilateral flow of information. However through the mentorship scheme offered by the Fellowship, I have found that mentorship is based on shared power, learning and mutual improvement; this has been instrumental in the viewing of myself as a leader. My mentor works at Land Net and is an endless fountain of knowledge. During our meetings and catch-ups, she has equipped me with a spirit that refuses to give up and work hard even where I may not have the necessary funds or resources.

The TuWezeshe Akina Dada Fellowship continues to be an incredibly insightful and wonderful movement to be a part of. It’s great to be working in something I’m, so passionate about. One of the questions we were asked at training was:

“What is leadership?”

My answer: “it is the ability to use hard work to influence and inspire positive change for the greater good of others around you”. That definition is my guiding light every day toward sisterhood, mentorship and transformation.

Words by Tendo

#MyBodyMyPower: Reclaiming Black women’s Bodies’ as spaces of power

The concept of bodily autonomy is one that we rarely consciously engage with. It’s the ability to act with sole self-determination to make decisions that affect you as an individual – psychologically, physically, financially or spiritually. How do you exercise the power within? What actions do you take to positively affirm your autonomy? What would you do if someone was invading your personal space? Or rather, what would you want to be able do? The last two questions are probably easier to answer because we tend to engage with our personal agency more when it’s under threat. There needs to be a shift toward nurturing this agency throughout our lifetimes, not only in moments of self defence. It’s difficult, however, to exercise a form of power that is constantly being denied; it’s a numbing experience Black women know all too well. Furthermore, lack of ownership of Black women’s bodies by Black women, is an added tax for which history has plenty of receipts.

HeLa cells, for instance, are the oldest most commonly used cell line in the field of biomedical research. They’ve been at the forefront of monumental breakthroughs in oncology, vaccines for polio and cosmetic testing. The initial cells were procured for their replicative ability. Up until 1951, scientists had struggled to observe and create conditions for human cells to be replicated indefinitely. They found these conditions in a biopsy of a cancerous tumour growing in the cervix of Henrietta Lacks, an African-American woman from Virginia. The cells were taken from her without consent or remuneration but today, HeLa cells are easily obtainable and widely distributed (if you’ve studied a biomedical or biochemistry related degree you’ve probably used them yourself). Similarly the vaginal speculum used in routine sexual health consultations is modelled on the crude instruments used by J. Marion Sims on female African-American slaves in the 19th century. In his own words,  “there was never a time that [he] could not, at any day, have had a subject [available for his research]”. It’s worth noting that while Sims is referred to as the ‘Father of Modern Gynaecology’ and is credited for providing much of the basis for present day knowledge on gynaecological fistulas only three names of all the women he experimented on are recorded in the history books; Lucy, Anarcha and Betsey.

Black women have not only been violated, they’ve been denied justice and recognition for the contributions they’ve painfully made. Harvey Weinstein choosing to deny Lupita Nyongo’s allegations amongst all the women who came forward leaves the bitter taste of misognyoir in one’s mouth. The whitewashing of #MeToo and failure to credit it as a movement created by a Black woman; a movement inclusive of all women, highlights a lack of support for our voices to be heard and recognised once again.

The #MeToo campaign started in the USA, but closer to home, data from NHS England shows that Black women are less likely to report acts of sexual violence. Of those who manage to file reports, only a small number pursue charges against perpetrators. We carry the double burden of race and gender and often exist in the cosy intersection of faith, sexual orientation or disability. Recognising our bodies of spaces of power like any political board or forum can help level the imbalances of power we experience in our various walks of life.

I intern at FORWARD – a diaspora, women-led organisation which is committed to ending violence against women and girls. For the United Nation’s 16 Days of Activism, I had the opportunity to ask 16 Black women aged 18-30 across London how they exert their bodily autonomy as part of FORWARD’s #MyBodyMyPower campaign and why, given the recent allegations of sexual abuse, ownership of their bodies and space is important to them. The aim was to simply have Black women at the forefront of a discussion in which we are rarely given the mic.

My Body My Power

FORWARD X Marianne Olaleye

Imelda

As a makeup artist I try to encourage young girls that they don’t need to have layers of makeup. Society needs campaigns like this, especially for young Black women. You don’t need to be who society wants you to be, you need to be who you are.

imelda

Jabs

My body & mind are my strength. I believe in solidarity, empathy & compassion. It’s how you show your power & empower others. Women of all backgrounds need to remember that bodily autonomy is not given to us & cannot be taken from us. It’s something we own.

jabs

Marie

It’s important for us to reclaim our bodies because we don’t owe them to anyone else, they are ours. We don’t have to make excuses for the actions of other people. When we feel uncomfortable we feel uncomfortable we don’t have to be ashamed of it and we don’t have to justify those types of feelings.

marie

Fola

I’m starting to reclaim my space on the tube. People sit next to you and crush you, getting up in your face or close to your body. So I’ve made it a point to tell people when I think they are encroaching on my personal space. And I try to be understanding it’s the tube, but sometimes people feel like they can push their way through and because I’m kind of small, Black and a woman, they think I’m going to move out the way. Reclaiming my body and my space in this way is a small step I’m taking to exert my rights.

fola

Theresa

I think for a long time I was part of the problem because I was scared to speak out. I didn’t recognise things for what they were- harassment, abuse- I thought that was just the way things were and I accepted it. Now I feel like it’s important for everyone to take a stand against the small and the big stuff- from physical sexual abuse to catcalling. It’s important to reclaim your body by saying; ‘this is mine, you will not manipulate it, abuse it, or use it for your own pleasures’.

therese

Hafsah

It’s important that we don’t divide ourselves in terms of who wears what, or who looks like what, because the ideas we have amongst ourselves, the ones that segregate us, are a result of the common male influences and misogyny women experience. There is a lack of empathy in communities – in terms of religion, in how we look, in terms of our preferences. Empathy is something we need to lean on; without empathy we can’t succeed.

hafsah

Laura

Love yourself unconditionally and live fearlessly with all your mind, body and soul. No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.

laura

Zethu

I use performance art to explore and celebrate my Black heritage. It’s important to spread knowledge on what it’s like to be a Black woman now and historically. It’s an effective way to show the oppression of Black beauty and negativity in the media.

zethu

Nki

I’ve dealt with sexual harassment and you struggle to deal with it- but being surrounded by sisterhood helps. Overcoming cultural silence is good for healing by breaking through silence and speaking out in our communities. Not being silenced by patriarchal structures is important. Embody sisterhood and empathy.

nki

Shae

I think it’s really important for women to reclaim the power that comes with being a woman. Every day we live in a society where we are faced with people telling us what to wear and what is beautiful, according to the eye of the media. It’s important for a woman to find her internal strength and do what she feels like doing. I’m a walking example. I’m 5 foot 11, I’m ‘thick’, I’m not a ‘stereotypical’ female that fits into a box and that’s how I’m reclaiming my power- by owning that.

shae

Sedji

As Black women there’s a responsibility to look after other people; families, communities, friends. Even though that can be beautiful, we should make ourselves a priority too! We have a choice and it’s exercising that choice in everything that we do that’s important. We are not beholden to anybody or anything. Take space, practice self-care!

sedji

Flakes

‘My body my power’ means not being the world’s standard of beauty, and being my own. I myself am enough. I am the way that God intended and no one can take that away from me.

flakes

Natalie

I think it’s about time that young girls stand up together and break the western stereotype of beauty. Beauty is not defined by our status, size or complexion, it is defined by who we are, how we decide to look and how we make that come across. Our size does not define us, and we are beautiful and powerful whatever shape, size or colour that we are.

natalie

Justina

I think it’s important for young girls to know their bodies are powerful because our bodies are the first space of power that we ever encounter, and I think it’s about security and knowing that you have ownership over your space. No one has the right to touch you, or to impact you in ways you don’t want. As young women in the world that we live in, there are so many spaces where we are dis-empowered, and so to be strong and secure in your body is very important.

justina

Ukaylah

Taking ownership of your body is important. I take ownership of every curve, every shape, and define the beauty of my body within myself. There is no set definition for beauty when it comes to a woman’s body.

ukaylah

Cherina

The whole idea of reclaiming your body and owning your body and sexuality is especially important for women, in particular young black girls. Our bodies have been brutalised so much throughout history by white supremacy so I think it’s important that we talk a lot about that with our daughters and sons. Not only is a Black body not up for consumption, it’s to be celebrated and to be praised.

cherina

As I reflect on 2017’s most prominent events, the storm of sexual-abuse accusations as well as the courage shown by a multitude of women and girls in sharing their stories continues to strike a chord with me. I am proud to be a woman in an age where we have some of the liberties that many have struggled for. Nonetheless I am reminded that as a Black woman, I am marginalised in certain spaces. I can raise my hand, politely, to make a contribution and be ignored. I can vocalise my thoughts and be deemed as confrontational. I can fight alongside my White and Asian comrades in the struggle against sexism but find myself alone when fighting against the actors that seek my personal oppression. I can push the agenda for all women tirelessly, but I won’t see the breakthrough until my White colleague puts it on her agenda. For all the originality that Time magazine put into 2017’s Person of the Year issue, ‘The Silence Breakers’, Tamara Burke the creator of #MeToo, is still not included on the front cover. So, I’ll continue nurturing my inner power, joining it to that of my fellow Black women through campaigns such as #MyBodyMyPower and using that to exist in a world where I can say I have do have power over my body and my choices.

Words by @AngOBB 

#16DaysOfActivism: Spotlight on Mogadishu

On Saturday 14th October 2017,  East Africa witnessed the single most deadly terrorist attack after a truck bomb was detonated in the Somali capital of Mogadishu, killing more than 350 people. The response from world media was slow at best and completely lacking at worst. In doing research for this blog entry, I struggled to find basic information on the who, what, where and how around the attack (try for yourself, I’ll wait). In an age where social media profile pictures are changed within hours such attacks, it is shocking that these basic points are not even addressed in the first paragraph of news articles…why do African lives not matter?

 

Tumblr: creativenomad

The theme of this year’s 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence was ‘safeguarding women and girls before, during and after conflict’. We know that women and girls are disproportionately affected in times of conflict. In the aftermath of a civil war, in the midst of drought and now living with the impact of the attacks (plural – yes, 21 to be exact) that have taken place in Mogadishu in 2017 alone, one can only imagine how women and girls have been affected.

Angela, FORWARD’s Africa Diapsora Programme Intern, spoke to Hafsam, President of Brunel’s Somali Society and Shukri, Rahma and Osob, members of LSE Somali Society, Rahma, and Hafsa

 

Expressing a sense of frustration and compelled to take action, many Somali university societies across the UK continue to raise awareness and support efforts on the ground. I was curious to hear their views on the ongoing issues and on the role of social actors to inspire action or, in some cases, inaction.

Angela: The attack that took place on Saturday 14th October was not the first. What about this event made you eager to take action in your universities? How did you raise awareness about the issue?

Shukri: As we’re quite a small society, we tried to support other Somali Societies (Som Socs) for instance we attended the vigil held by Kings College Som Soc.  We also got in touch with LSE Islamic Society to help share the message about some organisations that we were supporting. Now that we have an official committee, we want to offer our own efforts. At the time we didn’t really have the manpower but it was great to go and support what other societies were doing and to join in prayers for Somalia. For me, the experience highlighted what the youth can actually do. I think a lot of us realize that it is our responsibility to help at home. No one else is going to do it so it has to be us pushing it forward.

Osob: The number of deaths had a lot to do with why there was such a huge response from the Somali community. Obviously there’s been a lot of conflict and terror attacks since the civil war but the numbers we’ve seen since the 14th October are just ridiculous; its been called the 9/11 of Somalia. It’s sad to say but I think that’s why people were interested. I think a lot of Som Socs wanted to get involved because there was no media coverage and most people were getting their information from twitter and that’s a problem.

Shukri: Think about it, so many people died and their names aren’t shared, their faces weren’t put in newspapers.

Angela: The Rohingya crisis continues to play out and was going on at the time of the Mogadishu attack, however Mogadishu did not receive a morsel of the coverage the Myanmar issue has. Does race have a role to play in the Mogadishu crisis?

Rahma: Race has a HUGE part to play – definitely a massive part to play! I think it’s such a big problem. Just look at the university scene, Islamic Societies (ISOCs) are usually dominated by Asian Muslims and even when people in the UK think of a Muslim, they think of an Asian Muslim. Even though these atrocities took place, we ourselves had to reach out to the Islamic societies – we shouldn’t have had to ask.

Shukri: I asked why [the Islamic societies] hadn’t responded immediately and I was met with a vague answer which at the time made me very upset. What I was trying to make them understand is that it was and is a dire issue! Eventually, they did share links to some of the organisations we were supporting.

Hafsa: More or less Somalis tend to do things ourselves. For me, it was really difficult getting a response from the ISOC, it was frustrating. I just think it is so much easier to do things by ourselves. I would urge Somalis to stick together, which we’re very good at anyway. In staying together we can break the barriers that we face as a community. I think the government and media have the capacity to do something, of course they do. I’ve seen so much on Syria but I don’t see much on Somalia. It’s been mainly us using twitter to spread the news.

Rahma: It just seems to me that the fairer skinned Muslim gets more attention than the darker skinned Muslim. We never hear about what happens in Nigeria with Boko Haram. I don’t know if I necessarily blame ISOCs themselves because I genuinely think they are not aware that they’re doing it. However, there is a massive blockage where some Asian Muslims are more empathetic to fairer skin Muslims and vice versa.

Osob: For me, I don’t think it’s ignorance, it’s active blindness. You’ve grown up in the UK, you have some notion of the racial tensions. When something’s happening to a black person, they are desensitized.

Angela: So we’ve mentioned race and religion but there’s a gender aspect to it too in my opinion. My question is: what role can women play in bringing these conflicts to light ?

Shukri: In terms of the Somali demographics, there are a lot more Somali women than men in higher education so it will definitely be women pushing it forward. However, Somali boys and men still have a part to play and Som Socs this year have been doing so much, they have grown so much.

There has been a lot of conflict and terror attacks since the civil war but the numbers we have seen from the 14th October are just ridiculous; its been called the 9/11 of Somalia.

Rahma: I feel that compared to other ethnicities, Somali girls are not that held back. If I was to say to my mum and dad I want to do this or that and I want to study abroad, they wouldn’t say no. I still feel, however, that the household expectations are there.

Osob: Definitely, Somali homes are very matriarchal. Women in the house are the ones that run things. So I feel like this idea of the matriarch in the family trickles down to Somali girls being expected to strive and not have any social barriers.  I think in this respect, we are able to be more active when it comes to raising awareness about such atrocities. This is is not to say that Somali boys aren’t active, it’s just that most of the notable action comes from high level institutions and there isn’t a massive representation of Somali boys there; it’s mainly girls.

Shukri: Because of the way we are raised in terms of the household, Somali girls are given a lot of responsibility at such a young age. It’s empowering, you’re still expected to go to school, do well in school, hold down a job and excel. We’ve been taught to do seven roles at once and we’re okay with it. It’s an expectation and I do think it’s a good expectation – I’m killing the game inside and I’m killing it outside. But I do think it’s sad because it means boys don’t have good role models. Somali girls have so many role models to aspire to.

Rahma: As with many other cultures, the older generation may have a particular view of the things that are more appropriate for women and girls to do. However, I’ve been always raised to believe that there’s nothing I cannot do.

Angela: What can the Somali Diaspora do to raise awareness especially women and girls?

Rahma: Try and increase female education back home because I feel most of the money goes toward drought. It’s not a long term investment.

Shukri: Once Somalia’s been stabilized in terms of long term goals. Its about female education and increasing access to education.

 

Tumblr: creativenomad

Osob: For now its pretty limited at the moment in terms of what Somali girls can do, Somalia is still very unstable, so I feel like there’s not a lot of space for Somali girls to be active and to help with society because, as Shukri said, it’s about basic necessities. In terms of diaspora, its about being aware of what’s going on at home and not being detached.

Shukri: I think we sometimes take for granted the opportunity to be educated here and to live here. We have access to organizations such as FORWARD where we can spread the word.

Hafsa: I think the youth in London have a great standing. We have opportunities to help those at home through our outreach and our networks. The collaborative efforts among Som Socs for example is a great place to start. I would say, don’t be afraid to do something for your people. Be brave and bold, you’ll always have the support of a handful of people.

Special thanks to:

Hafsa – BA Accounting & Finance, Brunel Somali Society President

Osob – BA History, LSE Somali Society Member

Rahma – BA History, LSE Somali Society Member

Shukri – BA International Relations & History, LSE Somali Society Member 

Words by @AngOBB

 

4 Simple Ways To Self-Care

Yes, it is the buzzword of the year; highly overused. Frequently affiliated with scented candles/yoga and the minimalist approach of bodily awareness and self-understanding (we’re calling this ‘neo-self-care’). Whatever you practice, self-care is important and to add to your list, here’s our four cents to remind you to self-preserve:

i. reclaim your day 

Our attention is in high demand. If we’re not careful we can give away too much of our time to the wrong people, expensive lunches and social media threads. Identify your most important tasks and strive to complete them. Reflect on one thing that could have gone better – implement it tomorrow. Keep notes to yourself on what you’re eating and drinking and don’t forget to be grateful for at least two things.

ii. eat that frog

If you haven’t heard the phrase before, it’s as unpleasant as it sounds; it’s about prioritising the most important things (alright this one isn’t exactly simple, but you can do it!). Procrastination is real, if you can beat this fiend, it means more productivity during the day, less stress in the evening, higher levels of melatonin at night which equals a more rewarding beauty sleep (this in itself is self-care so consider eating a frog a 2 for 1 deal).

iii. shade outside the lines

About early 2014, adult colouring books became a mainstream trend. They’re not that cray-[ola]! Colouring allows the brain to shift its focus from physical surroundings to a state of mindfulness and self-awareness whilst exploring new concepts, reconciling emotional conflicts and reducing anxiety. P.S: You can use any empty colouring book, or, colour in your doodles (the ones you do during meetings).

iv. protect your peace

Information Overload 2017…can I get an amen?! We are the recipients of unrelenting social spam. Whilst it’s great that we can be at the forefront of breaking news and a few keyboard entries from our loved ones, not all news or streams of communication are digestible and they shouldn’t be. It can be hard to filter and monitor the effects of the information we’re consuming so it’s necessary to step back sometimes. If you don’t like the tone of a series of tweets, mute the words. If there’s a topic of discussion you don’t wish to engage in, mute that group chat. Peace of mind = clarity = a solid game plan.

blocked

Words by @AngOBB

 

 

 

10 mins with Naana Otoo-Oyortey MBE

naana2I work at FORWARD, the lead partner of the TuWezeshe Akina Dada project. We have a unique culture – it’s loud, it’s passionate and it’s hardworking. It’s a culture that’s led from the top. Our Executive Director Naana is one of the most remarkable and poised women I’ve ever met – and her desk is just 5 steps away from mine. Barely a day goes by when we don’t hear Naana singing the praises of a young activist she’s just met or inquiring on how we can forge impactful relationships with dedicated organisations like ours. That’s the thing with Naana and with FORWARD, we’re all about uplifting and amplifying the voices of young African women.

To say the last few months have been busy would be an understatement. We’ve travelled over 9000 miles (thank you Distance Calculator) and trained more than 50 girls on being innovators of change in the campaign against sexual and gender-based violence. With one more country left on the map, I managed to secure ten minutes with Naana before the TuWezeshe fellowship went to Tanzania.

A: Four trainings down, one more to go why do you think there is such a need for the TuWezeshe fellowship?

N: I think the Tuwezeshe fellowship really meets a huge need within African communities in the UK and on the continent. Young women don’t always have access to safe spaces that give them an opportunity to reflect on themselves and the issues that adversely impact their capacity to make a difference. TuWezeshe provides a space where they can think deeply about the power within whilst simultaneously being supported by a sisterhood of like-minded women with whom they walk the journey. The skill building, access to mentors and the resources gained from the fellowship; these are what I believe they need on the road to becoming leaders.

A: You mentioned the power within; one of the sessions you led during the London training, Save The Drowning Babies, examined the role of different actors in development interventions. What would your advice be to a young activist who sees a need in her community but also feels overwhelmed by the many factors to consider?

N: I think the whole issue around that exercise was for us to realise that often, we’re picking up the pieces without necessarily looking at the root cause of the problem. Having said that, it is also important to understand the consequences and the impact of ALL actions. It’s not that one way of operating way is wrong. You do need to help people who are affected by a system but you also should really understand the powers that contribute towards the problem and to deconstruct the context. That session was also to illustrate that advocacy requires you to work with other people; one person may have to stand up to recognise that we have a problem but you must work with allies and networks. To my young activist:  recognise that yes, you have a voice, but you need to strengthen that voice. Everything is possible with your determination and vision.

“I was really impressed by our conversations- the breadth of ideas, the innovation, the determination”

A: What has been the most memorable moment of the trainings ?

N: The most memorable part was getting our young women to deliver their pitches. For me, that epitomised everything that had been gained throughout the training. I was really impressed by our conversations during the speed mentoring sessions; the breadth of ideas, the innovation, the determination. The confident manner with which the fellows delivered their pitches on the day, was outstanding; really everyone was a star. This further emphasises the need to create spaces where we can refine these jewels and gems that are our young women. In the next five years, I am confident that we will see these women at the forefront of social change and development.

A: Tell me more about Tanzania, what are your expectations for the training there?

N: Tanzania will be very interesting and exciting. We’ve worked in Tanzania over the last 10 years and we’ve had elements of bringing young women from the communities to facilitate leadership training in different contexts. This training will focus on mobilising young women to lead their own projects. Having the training in both English and Swahili is going to very stimulating. For us as a Diaspora-led organisation, it is a model of good practice which we will review at the end of the year. I myself am very excited because the young women we have leading the project are very dynamic; they are motivated and very determined.

Connect with us on social media @TuWezesheDada @Naayosuwa

Words by @AngOBB

Lessons from #EDD17

Photo 07-06-2017, 09 53 23

The European Development Days is an annual conference set up by the European Commission to showcase the work of the international community, in championing global development and ending poverty. The European Commission is the largest donor of aid in Africa and is unique in that all it’s member states adopt coherent policies on international development. The impact of this was easy to see with the extensive efforts of different organisations targeting various areas of development. These ranged from export of Caribbean Goods for sustainable development of Caribbean-owned businesses to virtual reality methods of story telling.

On the 7th – 8th June, FORWARD‘s Tuwezeshe Dada project, in cooperation with The Girl Generation and AMREF had the privilege of hosting a session on the Importance of Investing in Youth to end GBV at #EDD17 in Brussels, Belgium. Aside from being inspired by some notable speakers including Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Leymah Gbowee, the following themes were very noticeable throughout the days.

Understanding your vision 

Tuwezeshe Akina Dada is a consortium of pioneering, Africa/Diaspora organisations; we pride our self in that.  To quote Seleyian Ortoip, one of the panellists at our session: “I don’t want anyone else telling my story for me”. If African women and girls are to change the narrative surrounding their rights and dignity, they must be at the forefront of their own stories. Whilst there is great value in collaboration, African women and girls must be given the spaces to execute their visions.  Throughout the 2 days at the EDD, many European organisations would stop and engage in conversation about the work we were doing. This was occasionally followed by suggestions on how African grass-root NGOs could alter methods and better spread their message.

deep sigh

Perhaps our methods are different to the Western perception of how problems should be fixed; that’s okay, diversity of voices can be productive, but each community must be free to lead their own change for that change to be sustainable. Our message to the global community is: we must work together but let us hold the reigns on issues that concern us. Our message to our diaspora young women: have faith in your methods, you know best what your community needs. The advantage you have in truly understanding your culture should not be underestimated or undermined.

Youth are the future

A number of sessions at the conference this year were youth-focused. From using mentoring to tackle radicalisation in the Horn of Africa to youth in agribuisness there was no hiding from the strong sentiment of African youth fueling Africa’s growth. Not least because young people have brilliant, world-changing ideas. They, more pressingly, are the ones most affected by poverty and conflict. Economic crises and political instability, even in more developed parts of the world, have a most profound effect on those who may not yet have access to full personal agency. For instance President John Magufuli of Tanzania saying that girls will not be allowed to re-enter school should they fall pregnant has tragic consequences not only for young mothers and children but for the state too. Instead of giving girls their education, girls are cut off from the means to improve their lives and contribute to the GDP of their countries. What a sorry picture that is for the continent.

Engaging in inter-generational conversations on taboo and cultural issues can be a challenge. However, investing in youth needn’t be a multi-billion scheme. Simply allowing them to live and have access to basic rights is in itself a huge investment.

“Those who’ve had experience abroad, should look for ways they can help back home”. Richard Dzikunu, EDD Young Leader 2017

The importance of your voice

The underlying theme of the development days this year was “I Am the Change”, calling all participants to recognise their ability to implement sustainable change through their mediums. At our stand, we had an interactive mural where members of the EDD wrote words of encouragement to the millennial young woman making a change in her community. This stance of solidarity encourages us that our work is noticed and that there are people supporting us in the fight against sexual and gender-based violence. It is a fight against centuries of patriarchy and misogyny but one we know millions of young women are committed to; together we will overcome.

Apply for the Tuwezeshe Fellowship 2017 (Open to UK Applicants only)

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Words by @AngOBB

Opportunities: Tuwezeshe Fellowship 2017

Tuwezeshe Akina Dada Afica-UK Young Women’s Empowerment Movement is an international project funded by Comic Relief’s Common Ground Initiative with the aim of mobilising young women to be agents of change within their communities in the campaign against gender-based violence.

Please see Applications to apply for the UK fellowship programme. For more information on how you can be involved see below.

LEADERSHIP TRAINING

The one year fellowship offers participants the opportunity to gain core leadership skills, to be mentored by an established woman-leader and to implement their own, funded, project. As part of our commitment to improving the visibility and profile of young African-women leaders, participants will have the chance to shape sexual and gender-based violence policy, network with other inspiring young women leaders across East Africa and the UK and share their ideas, voices and stories on a range of national and international platforms.

Deadline: 25th July 2017

MENTORSHIP

We know that behind every strong woman is a lineage of strong women, which is why mentoring is essential to our program and our participants. By pairing young women with those who are already established in their fields, we hope to equip participants with the skills, confidence, knowledge and power necessary to transform their lives and communities. As mentors you will have the unique opportunity to partner with us by investing in and forging meaningful relationships and networks that will develop you as leaders and innovators in your own right as well as ensuring the fight for women’s rights and freedoms transitions from idea to reality.

Deadline: 25th July 2017

YOUNG WOMEN’s ADVISORY PANEL

We believe it is essential that young women’s voices are at the centre of our work and at the forefront of our project. This is why we are establishing a Young Women’s Advisory Panel (YWAP) who will hold the project to account, advising us on how best to implement our activities and, more importantly, how best to support our participants. As members of the YWAP you will have the unique opportunity to shape an international project from the inside, gaining skills that will support your development as leaders and innovators in your own right as well as supporting the fight  for women’s rights and freedoms.

Deadline: 25th July 2017

To apply click here