Five young African women leaders were chosen by FORWARD from within its network to represent the African diaspora at the First Pan-African Youth #EndFGM Summit organised by The Girl Gen. One of the delegates, Grace Labeodan, a TuWezeshe Fellow in our April 2018 cohort, gives an account of her time in Nairobi and of what she learned from the experience.
On the 25th and 26th April 2018, 170 young activists met in Nairobi to participate in the First Pan-African Youth #EndFGM Summit. I was honoured to be part of five women chosen by FORWARD UK to represent the youth of the UK’s African diaspora community and to discuss ideas, best practices and advocacy efforts towards ending FGM. I was both inspired and challenged to be in a room filled with FGM survivors, young people and key leaders within organisations that are working towards ending FGM within a generation.
Here are a few lessons that I learnt from my participation at the summit;
- Seeking to transform society requires the involvement of all – and young people must be at the forefront of efforts to eliminate FGM within their communities. Young people making a difference now will cause a ripple effect and enhance the lives of those that come after them.
- On the continent there is already momentum building; men and boys have joined the battle against FGM and are just as passionate about gender equality. Youth-led organisations working with local communities must be supported and given adequate resources to ensure that their work is sustainable.
- Young people are a force to be reckoned with and African government leaders would do well to listen to their ideas, work in collaboration with them and build their capacity.
- Advocacy must be a planned and organised process. Although policy change takes time, and can be a challenge in some contexts, it is not impossible and young people can still influence decision makers in their countries to make long term sustainable change.
- Young Africans already possess the skills needed to influence those with formal power and have the commitment, passion and drive to challenge social norms,. What they need is adequate support to hold their governments accountable.
- The African-led movement to end FGM is a global movement that is supported by Africans in the diaspora as well as the UK government. Together our voices, our efforts, and our engagement can bring about global change and an end to FGM.
The Youth #EndFGM Summit was inspiring and it was great to hear from representatives from DFID, UNFPA, Equality Now, The Girl Generation and most importantly, youth activists actively campaigning to end FGM. I was equally impressed by the number of young people in attendance as there was ample opportunity to hear from a variety of people with different perspectives and experiences of FGM. They were willing to share ideas, resources and potential policy improvements that can be made to ensure that girls and women are protected from the practice of FGM. A key quote that stuck with me was from a lady named Bernedette Lologu: “A woman is born perfect and she should remain the way God created her”