Women Deliver is an international organisation that tirelessly advocates for the advancement of women and girls. Recognising the critical role that youth and young advocates play in achieving gender equality, Women Deliver introduced their Young Leaders Program in 2010 to build the capacity of young people who have the potential to make an impact in this area. I’ve been selected as one of 300 youth changemakers who comprise the 2018 Class of Young Leaders. I’m so very honoured to have been chosen and I’m really excited about what this opportunity will bring.
Although I’ve always believed in equality between men and women, I didn’t necessarily set out to work in the area of women’s rights. And ironically, I shied away from overtly labelling myself a feminist based on a mistaken belief that I was unworthy of placing myself in the same category as famous feminist philosophers and activists like Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie or Audre Lorde. However, my masters studies in human rights, particulalrly modules on gender and human rights advocacy, completely changed my perspective. My studies have been the impetus for my wearing the feminist badge with pride as well as living and working as a feminist activist. I’m also so grateful to my friends and family who have been so supportive and encouraging in this regard.
Last year, I did a ten-month human rights consultancy in my home country, Zambia, which had a focus on women’s rights. I hold a Zambian passport but I’ve lived outside of Zambia for most of my life so I was both intrigued and anxious about the prospect of working there for close to a year. Through the experience, I came to meet with women’s rights advocates working in government, civil society, academia, business and even the arts. I got some great insights into pressing women’s rights concerns in the country as well as the challenges faced by Zambian women in realising their rights, including gender-based violence and child marriage.
While my work did make quite an impression on me, my interactions with the activists I met in more informal settings was truly inspiring. As the owner of a small jewellery business I came to meet many social entrepreneurs, women in particular, whose businesses have not only changed their lives but transformed the lives of women in their communities. Overall, my time living and working in my native Zambia was an enthralling and inspirational one which has helped me better understand the context and identify key concerns which will inform the interventions I would like to make to further women’s rights in the country.
My appointment as a Young Leader has been such a game-changer for me. When I received confirmation of my acceptance into the program, I was so thrilled because, for me, it signifies another major step in my pushing the feminist agenda in both my personal and professional life. I’m not so arrogant or misguided as to believe that I can ‘save the world’ but I do believe that through the training and mentorship I will receive, networks I will create and other young leaders I will meet through the Young Leaders Program, I will have more of the tools and knowledge I need to make some impact in the lives of girls and women in my country of origin.