African Union Summit-Standing with Pride

The World YWCA and its partners took a delegation of 40 young women to the African Union Summit in Addis Ababa Ethiopia in January 2013. For the first time young women had a chance to speak to their leaders, to practice advocacy at the highest levels of leadership on the continent. 24 year old Rebecca Phwitiko, President of the YWCA of Malawi and World YWCA board member shares her experience.

I stood there with pride – proud to be a young woman, proud to be a young African woman… staring at portraits of our founding fathers, from Kwame Nkrumah to Nelson Mandela. I’m really standing here, at the headquarters of the African Union.

Rebecca Phwitiko

Rebecca Phwitiko

It seems somehow fitting that I’m here, at a time when a great woman of this land is heading this organisation, occupying the highest seat on the continent, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, Chairperson of the African Union Commission.

The gods are smiling on me today, in this moment, this whole week. Talking to my peers, young women from all corners of the beautiful continent, sharing common fears, goals and aspirations. Sharing this space with our mentors, wonderful powerful women from the movement and beyond.

Lessons on leadership from Former President of Ireland Mary Robinson, about lifting and supporting each other from Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma and President Joyce Banda of Malawi.

Spending time with women who have given their entire lives to the cause of women and girls, those who have gone before us to question the misuse of culture and religion to oppress and sideline women.

Standing next to Dr Zuma, in her office, speaking to her directly, I felt a wave of emotion come over me. I have met my share of influential, powerful people – I’m not really a star eyed groupie. But today it feels personal. Perhaps it is because of the way she received us, in her office, her space. Perhaps it is because of what it means for her to be in this chair, today.

Maybe it’s because of the millions of girls that don’t even know I’m here and yet I have to speak for. It’s because of who she is, what she represents on a continent that has seen too much pain, too much negativity.

So I stood there with pride, proud to be part of the YWCA movement and the work that we do and must continue to do. Proud that the YWCA always finds spaces for young women to shine and grow.

I salute the women of the YWCA, the women of Africa, the women of the world. My sisters, my mothers, my grandmothers.  In this moment I fully appreciate the urgency, the importance of lifting up another just as I have been lifted high. And so I return home, to lift another, every day.