We must be a part of Pan- Africanism

By Chanda Buumba Katongo, YWCA of Zambia

Below Chanda Buumba Katongo shares her thoughts and experience during the African Union (AU) Summit. The 20th Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the AU took place from 21 to 28 January 2013 at the headquarters of the African Union in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The World YWCA participated with a delegation of 35 young women.

They say…a woman should not cross over from teary eyes to regain strength.

She must stay in poverty, illiteracy, ill health and violence. She must be quiet, even after rape, betrayal, and abuse. So that she must be called ABUSED! She must stay victimised and disrespected. She must remain waiting for words of appreciation and affirmation that never come. Waiting for equal pay, equal say and equal opportunities that never become a reality.

Yet we say: She must walk, she must run, she must fight and go that extra mile.

Chanda Mutongo

Chanda Buumba Katongo

We say she must be a part of Pan- Africanism. She must be part of African Rennaisance. She must shape African development and global development. She must deconstruct the patriarchal system and break down the barriers. Challenge the aggression and free herself from oppression, poverty, ill health, violence, conflict and discrimination.

As young ambassadors of women and girls in Africa, we here at the AU Summit have committed to working in solidarity in creating the future we want for Africa. We have committed to stopping oppression of women, girls, children and youth and ending poverty, ill health, violence, and discrimination.

It has been a very exciting experience to be part of the Africa High level intergenerational leadership dialogue on the Post 2015 development process at the AU Summit. It has been amazing and empowering to meet African champions, women leaders and advocates like Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, AU Commission Chairperson, Dr Mary Robinson Former Prime Minister of Ireland, African ambassadors, Ministers from different African countries and other.

As young women leaders, we have interacted with African heads of state and practiced advocacy.  We have shared our priorities and visions with these leaders, and eloquently represented our dreams and aspirations in hope that they can push our agenda forward as we walk in solidarity with them towards Pan Africanism and African Renaissance.

Its been energising to meet and dialogue with representatives of the United Nations, African Union, Gender is my Agenda Campaign (GIMAC), representatives of key civil society, and other key social change organisations and individuals.

The various presentations and words of encouragement at the Young women’s leadership summit and during the GIMAC sessions have been a major source of inspiration and encouragement. Our mentors have been true to their cause and have mentored us in so many different ways through guided and unguided learning. It is my sincere hope that this process of mentorship and intergenerational leadership can continue.

I have obtained renewed energy after networking with other young women leaders from the African region. Not only have I made new friends and found new sisters, but I have also obtained regional and international perspectives, ideas, recommendations and solutions on issues affecting young women and girls in Africa.

It has also really been exciting for me to have worked with other young women leaders from Africa, from diverse economic and social backgrounds, religous affiliations, sexual orientations, and professions in drafting a communique targeting the African Union, Governments, United Nations, Civil Society, private sector and other development players. Our statement which communicates our collective vision and priorities for Africa not only present the afore mentioned stakeholders with our vision for the Africa we want, but also provides influence towards the post 2015 development agenda and provides us as youth advocates with concrete a framework through which we can advance for a progressive rights based agenda both within the remaining spaces of post 2015 review processes.

The Young Women’s Leadership convening and other dialogues held before the A.U Summit has provided me with another opportunity to be a global leader as a young advocate. With renewed energy, vision, passion and ambitions, I salute the Young Women’s Christian Association and all the other YWCA partners that convened young women in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to explore their role in Pan Africanism and African Renaissance. Having appreciated the opportunity to have had my voice as a young African woman heard, I say to you all…Sister Sister, Aluta Continua!

Dream. Believe. Make it happen!

By Celine Uwera, YWCA of Rwanda.

The ICPD Global Youth Forum 4-6 December 2012, in Bali Indonesia took place with the theme  Youth Rights at the Heart of Development. The outcomes and recommendations from the Forum shall contribute directly to the process of defining the future global development agenda.


Celine Uwera

It was my great pleasure to attend and participate in the Global Youth Forum (GYF) organised and funded by UNFPA on the 4th to 6th December 2012, held in Bali, Indonesia. I really thank UNFPA for organising for the first time such an international youth platform which gathered over 900 youth delegates from all over the world.  The main objective (which has been achieved) was to give young people the opportunity to contribute directly to defining the new UN Development Agenda Beyond 2015 and the ICPD Beyond 2014 Review as declared by the Executive Director of UNFPA Dr. Babatunde Osotimehim who co-chaired the opening ceremony of the GYF.

During the course of the three-days, participants were trained through plenary sessions on theme topics:  Staying Healthy, Comprehensive Education, Promoting Transitions to Decent work; Families, Youth Rights and well-being including sexuality; Leadership and meaningful Youth Participation and finally the plenary session on Realising Youth Rights.

After each plenary session, a world-café whose topic had a direct link with the previous plenary session was organised to allow young people to discuss different challenges they face in their communities. I liked this because through this channel, young people shared their best experiences and views on how to address those issues. Young people came up with clear recommendations (oriented to Governments, NGOs, Private Sectors and to the International Community) based on the identified priorities.

In some recommendations for instance it was highlighted that efforts should be increased to achieve: universal access to free education, comprehensive sexuality education, non-discrimination, equality and gender, investing in people and jobs, participation by all young people, national policies and plans, legal protection funding, empowerment and capacity building and accountability. Personally I feel that the best part of the recommendations is the special emphasis on marginalised and vulnerable people, to ensure their needs are being met.

I can say with all honesty that I have benefited from this Global Youth Forum experience because it not only contributed to my capacity building and increased my skills; but also because I was given the opportunity to stand and speak out for the young people representing 43% of the world’s population of 7 billion.

Also, as one of rapporteurs, I learned a lot especially in reporting, compilation and summarising recommendations from all the world cafés by ensuring that no idea was lost.  Before the GYF, I also attended the training organised for rapporteurs and facilitators; and from both programmes I gained skills and social connections.

This is why I want congratulate UNFPA and all those that participated in the organisation of this meeting which was a real success; and I am thankful to World YWCA and YWCA of Rwanda from which I gained empowerment and capacity building.

It is true; Government, NGOs, private sectors, the international community and other stakeholders should ensure that voices of youth are heard. However, I also think we as young people have to be more responsible: if we want the change in our future, we have to make it happen. I appreciated the words of the famous singer Agnes Monica who was invited in the opening and the closing ceremony: “Dream. Believe. Make it make it happen”.

Reflections on Development & Disability

By Inunonse Ngwenya from the YWCA of Zambia. Inunonse recently attended the Global Youth Forum in Bali, Indonesia and shares her thoughts on what meaningful development looks like. 

–         If you are thinking a year ahead , sow seed

–         If you are thinking ten years ahead, plant a tree

–         If you are thinking one hundred years ahead educate the people. developm

Convinced that real and lasting change begins with the grassroots and that young people especially girls and young women including those living with disabilities, hold a key to a nation’s bright future, I strongly believe that in every country there is work to be done and in every community there are wounds to heal. It remains for all of us as leaders to unleash our potential to significantly contribute to this global undertaking even with our seemingly unappreciated efforts at local level.

In every woman there is great potential to excel in life. Womanhood is a phase where young girls cross over to become adults and responsible citizens of society. There are so many young women that have always desired to be a lawyer, doctor, nurse, engineer or teacher we can name them. But do they get the same chance to achieve their ambition or once given the opportunity do they fully exploit such opportunity to realise their dreams?

Action will take place in a vacuum, and the first stage in any sustainable development process must be to raise awareness of local – global causes and to show people concrete, practical and meaningful ways to make changes in their own lives which benefits the wider environment.

Development will not  be sustainable  unless  it  originates  from  the concept  of local  development based  on efforts  of the local population  who respect priorities that they themselves define.

Disability Disability_symbols_16

One of the first objectives of sustainability development planning is to establish a common vision of the future of the community, without this vision the action planning process would lack a clear picture of the community and society’s priorities and satisfying their needs be very hit and miss affair.

Clearly, this vision is only valuable if it represents the views of a cross – section of the community, and as such it will be necessary to involve an element of compromise. This is because the diverse mix of people in any community brings great diversity in traditions, priorities and concerns. However it is not just the diversity of community interest that makes achieving a common vision a complex process. The vision must also balance the interest of business, of ecosystems, and of human societies – the familiar balancing act between three dimensions of sustainability: the economic environmental and social dimensions. Hence one of the first challenges for sustainable development planning is to represent these diverse priorities while also creating a consensus from which action can take place.

Participation: Presence of people with living with disability in decision making processes including governance structures at sub-national level.

Voice: Just their presence in decision making processes and structures is not enough but let their concerns be head through their voices.

Access: People living with disability lack information on development in their every day life but in order for them to claim what is due to them they need to have access to information that can better and improve their lives.

I Got Flowers Today

By Claudine Villanueva from the YWCA of the Philippines. Claudine attended the World YWCA International Training Institute 2012, in Korea and below reflects on violence against women in relationships.

Claudine Villanueva

Claudine Villanueva

I Got Flowers Today

by Paulette Kelly

I got flowers today.

It wasn’t my birthday or any other special day.

We had our first argument last night,

And he said a lot of cruel things

that really hurt.

I know he is sorry

and didn’t mean the things he said.

Because he sent me flowers today.

Above is the start of the famous poem ‘I got flowers today’, it really moved me most during the World YWCA International Training Institute (ITI)  2012, in Korea. However, during the presentation of Heisoo Shinn, it only reminds of other women suffering from violence. I know many women in our country suffer from maltreatments from their husband, from their family members, and from neighborhood. I was actually touched by the poem, much more when I presented it during the closing ceremony of the world Week of Prayer in the YWCA Philippines National Headquarter when I was requested to give reflection.  I remembered the flowers I received from my first boyfriend.

I was 23 when he became my boyfriend. An idealistic woman who wanted my first boyfriend to be the man who I would marry, and  the first and last man I would make love with. Before our one year relationship, he showed traits that I liked. I invited him to join or help me in several activities in the YWCA to see how active I am. One day he asked me to go out for a date. But on our way, he asked me if I loved him and if so then would I make love with him. I said NO and explained the consequences of having premarital sex and told him that if he really loved me, he would wait until we got married. He obeyed my decision however he changed a lot. He asked me to resign in my position as board member of our local YWCA. He even didn’t want me to attend any YWCA activities. He complained that I was spending more time in the YWCA than spending time with him. He became jealous even with my girl friends in the YWCA, and didn’t want me to mingle with them.

His words against me were manageable at the time. I just prayed that he would change and return to the man he used to be. However, time went by that he became  physically violent.  I got my first bruises when I tried to protect myself against him hitting me with an umbrella. He became jealous when he saw me talking with my two male high school friends.  I prayed that he would change, because I still loved him.

One day, he asked me again to marry him. I had an honest answer, “I will marry you but I am not yet ready”. When hearing my answer he burst into anger. While we were walking, nobody noticed that he was holding my arms fiercely and as a result I suffered more bruises. When we reached my house, I talked to him with a strong decision for our broke-up. Several weeks passed when he came into my house holding white roses. It was the first time that he gave me flowers.

He gave me flowers though it was not a special day. He gave me flowers because he knew that I love them. He gave me flowers to make me fall in love with him again. He gave me flowers while asking me to come back.  I received those flowers because I love them. I received those flowers but it made me fall in love with my self. I received those flowers but I never came back to him. I received those flowers while telling him goodbye. I told myself that he will be the first and last man who will hurt me and will give flowers after hurting me.

I was traumatized by his threats and harsh words against me. There were times that I caught myself crying and shaking in the middle of the night or whenever I heard his name. It took several months to recover with continuous prayers. I already forgive him that’s why I told myself that I will forget him but never forget the way he hurt me physically and verbally and won’t let it happen again.

Before I went to Korea for the ITI, I felt so lucky that I was chosen to represent the Philippines and present the best practices of our national work focused on violence against women and peace building. I learned about the great work of other YWCA’s in helping women in conflict and their advocacies. But one thing I learnt more and should be proud of is, how the YWCA helped me to overcome the trauma and the violence I experienced. Through prayers and advises, YWCA let me feel that I am a woman with courage to stand and fight against violence on women.