BEING AFRICAN AND A YOUNG WOMAN, WHAT TO SAY FOR IT?

I am African and a young woman, these identities for some reasons need to be emphasized, why is that?
Our society a few years ago would have me explain what I’m doing thinking I can just take the stage (in this case this virtual stage) to dare air my opinion. But I am happy to be alive at a time when some African Countries such as Rwanda are among the  top 10  countres in the recent world Gender Gap report and my country Kenya made strides all the way from number 78 to 42. This is to be celebrated but there are countries in Africa still doing badly in terms of closing the gender gap and achieving gender equality, we must harmonize our efforts and ensure daughters of Africa everywhere have something to celebrate.
I now get to the point where I will call Africa out on their bluff, currently we have 91.5million African women and girls living with the consequences of Female Genital Mutilation, an archaic practice that endangers girls lives and is usually a precursor of early child marriage that curtails girls education and puts their health at risk. I for example would not be so ably expressing myself had I not stepped into a classroom and been granted the basic requirements to keep me in that class and ensure I excel , such basic requirements included sanitary towels and as a young girls growing up within the confines of the MDG poverty ceiling of families living below 1dollar a day, sanitary towels were not easy to come by, neither were they the priority commodity for my mother to spend the little money we had on!!
Onto the topic of the day, It is Africa Youth Day with the theme” to build on young women’s potential”, as a young African woman I feel the need to speak as to how I would like to see our potential built. Young women are currently disproportionately affected by the high unemployment rates on the continent and for those who are employed they are prey to sexual violence, sexual harassment and unequal pay, the historical gender gaps haven’t been closed and we still have some professional fields still widely dominated by young men which should eventually be equalized. Now I know that we have the perception that Africa is rising, but are we all rising or we are rising and leaving some behind? and these some left behind being young women and girls!! Participation in political leadership is still a touchy subject, we can rise but up to a certain point. No??In some parts of Africa, rape continues to be used as a weapon of war..this is despicable!!!!!

For us to build potential of any individual, they have to be healthy and well capable to utilize their potential productively , so it is time that Africa invested in women’s health seriously having committed to a 15% investment on health in the Abuja declaration but not there quite yet.To reap any demographic dividend from the 70% of our population ( adolescents and youth including young women) health and education are just those things we have to keep working at.
I will end with call for African youths to celebrate today because the fact we even have an African Youth Day shows that we have started the journey towards the right direction. Next step is to realize that youth are not homogenous and tackle their issues as such, like the young women’s focus on this years theme.
Possibilities are endless.

 

Catherine is a Mandela Fellow 2016, Women Deliver Young Leader and member of Youth RISE International working group. Catherine is a passionate young African feminist activist with over 7 years of experience in advancing gender equality, youth development and sexual and reproductive health and rights in the context of sustainable development through movement building, digital and social media, policy advocacy and capacity building for young women and adolescents girls. Catherine is currently Deputy Director at Dandelion Kenya, and sits on the SDGs Kenya Forum coordination committee. Catherine has engaged with various global and regional policy processes such as ICPD Beyond 2014 review, Beijing +20 and the post 2015 development agenda. She co-authored the article ‘Leave No One Behind; Will African Women be left behind in the post 2015 development agenda ,an article published on the East African Business Monthly in February 2015. Catherine launched the #SRHRDialogues, an online advocacy and awareness raising platform on SRHR and #YAFDialogues, an online platform anticipated to be a permanent mobilizing platforms borne out of an African feminist dialogue 2015 in Accra. Follow her on Twitter: @catherinenyamb1