Sunday, April 23, 2017

 TuWezeshe Dada

TuWezeshe Akina Dada Africa-UK Young Women’s Leadership and Empowerment Movement (from here on known as TuWezeshe Dada) is a three year Comic Relief Common Ground Initiative funded women and girls’ rights project. Operating between July 2016-March 2019, TuWezeshe Dada will be implemented in five countries; the United Kingdom, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Somaliland. Facilitated by a consortium of four organisations namely Foundation for Women’s Health Research and Development (FORWARD), Akina Mama wa Afrika (AMwA), Sub-Sahara Advisory Panel (SSAP) and Young Women’s Leadership Institute (YWLI), TuWezeshe Dada aims to improve the rights and amplify the actions of East African girls and young women in their fight against all forms of gender based violence. Through innovative and effective approaches including convening, capacity building, leadership development, mentoring and social communication change activities, TuWezeshe Dada will address gender based violence in a holistic, integrated and intersectional fashion. Project interventions will focus on strengthening the links between and improving the visibility, profile and leadership of young women in East Africa and the UK diaspora as well as across generations and urban/rural divides.

Young Women's Leadership Institute (YWLI) is one of the four partner institutes of the African Centers of Excellence (ACE) for Women's Leadership program run by the Institute of International Education (IIE) , Ethiopia Office.

For more on IIE , ACE or YWLI please follow the links below.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Ayesha’s Cry…My Cry 

By Mahlet M. Alemayehu

These are tearful words of a thirteen year old girl – Ayesha.

“I got married when I was 13, I was still going to school and I had a dream of everything good.  My mother would beat me whenever I refused marriage; I was finally told that I am about to be wedded the day before my wedding day. I was forced to get married. I got married to a man 20 years older than me. When I got married I was sick and they took me to a hospital. I also wanted to stab myself but my husband stopped me. Many people say, if a girl is 8 years old, she is good for marriage. But I wish if I could finish my education. I was destroyed by early marriage. I found myself with a man who wants his marital rights. They destroyed my life!”

This is the story of fifteen million girls each year, 28 girls every minute, who are married off before the age of 18 as the world continues to force them into becoming women and doing things unbearable for their age both emotionally and physically. We watch them become wives snatched from their play grounds and education; we watch them become mothers at a greater risk of experiencing dangerous complications in pregnancy and child birth. We watch them suffer with lifelong health complications including fistula until we no longer want to even share a room with them, we watch them become burdened with household responsibilities and rearing children only at the age of 8, 9, 10 while they themselves are children. We watch them get violated and infected and die of HIV AIDS and all this is bestowed upon them as a result of a decision made on their behalf by people they trust the most. These girls are dis-empowered, dependent on their husbands and deprived from their fundamental rights to health education and safety with the social and cultural norms fueling the enormity of the issue.

 Ayesha had a dream, a dream that she will get to enjoy her childhood to the fullest, to play as a child, go to school as a child, and grow up like a normal child. When she was forced into being married, her dream died within her. I also have a dream, a dream that hasn’t yet died with hers. I wish to see a world where each one of us here as mothers and fathers and sisters and brothers would no longer sell our girl children for our own benefits in the name of marriage or continue to stand by and watch others while they do the same. I wish to see a world where we care enough to educate the vary many Ayesha’s of our days so they are able to exercise their rights; a world where girls can enjoy a safe environment and experience a normal childhood; a world where we care to talk about Ayesha and get everyone around us to do the same until everyone says Ayesha should not marry! We should come together to facilitate awareness among our leaders and elders and put pressure on our local governmental bodies to make sure that the talks are walked; that they take child marriage seriously and the policies we here are in place are indeed implemented and experienced!

No one should be forced into marriage; even more, no child should be forced into marriage before the age of 18!

The African Centers of Excellence (ACE) for Women's Leadership program is run by the Institute of International Education (IIE) , Ethiopia Office.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Rwanda Women Leadership Institute: Making Your Challenges a Catalyst for Transformation
                                   By Annette Mukiga

Lydia Busingye is a young woman who was kidnapped and subjected to sexual abuse at the age of thirteen. This tragedy left her with feelings of resentment, self-blame, low self-worth and confidence. As a result she felt discouraged to pursue her dreams of becoming a confident and effective leader someday.
Over the years that she struggled with her experience, Lydia found inspiration to regain her confidence and self-worth by having successful women role models such as Minister Louise Mushikiwabo, the late Minister Aloisea Inyumba, Joyce Meyer and Oprah Winfrey. Their life stories and achievements motivated Lydia to use the negative experiences from her childhood to rebuild her strength and encourage other women and girls to do the same. 

She developed an interest in building self-esteem for women and girls through restoring hope, dreams and fighting against sexual and gender based violence (SGBV). Lydia’s passion for women and girls issues encouraged her to look for opportunities that empowered her and other women in various ways. 

Lydia describes the Rwanda Women Leadership Institute (RWLI) as one such opportunity that has empowered her to be the woman she is today. As a woman who once dreamt of becoming a leader, she commends the program for reigniting her dream through its training in leadership skills. 

One of her most important lessons from the program is from an African proverb that was shared during the training; “if you want to go fast, go alone but if you want to go far, go together.”  According to Lydia, the proverb, reinforces “the importance of working together and supporting one another as women in pursuing our dreams,” and the capacity women have to be leaders that can contribute to meaningful change and development in society. She also learnt the importance of self-love, care, protection/safety of women and girls in any environment. 

As a RWLI alumni, Lydia has used both personal and professional platforms to share information on women’s key role in decision making, transformational leadership and SGBV. She hopes that in sharing with other women and girls, she can help them protect themselves and address issues of abuse as well as motivate them to be agents of change in their respective communities. Lydia describes RWLI as a programme that has given her the right tools to achieve her dreams; “I am now dreaming to be a woman of integrity, a role model, a source of health and wealth in my country and worldwide.”

RWLI represents one of the projects implemented by Rwanda Women’s Network (RWN) in collaboration with the Ministry of Gender and Family Promotion to empower Rwandan women from all walks of life. The institute’s objectives compliment various national and global campaigns that promote women’s rights and gender parity; such as the Rwanda’s national theme for International Women’s Day; “Preserving the Dignity Regained.”
Rwanda is commended globally for its gender sensitive policies and the highest Parliamentarian representation of women (64%) in the world. The theme outlines the nation’s role in building on these achievements in the empowerment of women. RWN is expanding and contributing to these gains through RWLI and more projects by using holistic approaches to address issues affecting women and girls in Rwanda.
In line with the global movement #BeBoldForChange, the RWLI program encompasses the importance of women’s active role in influencing change that contributes to empowerment of women and gender parity.  

RWLI falls under one of the RWN main program areas; Governance and Leadership. It equips women with knowledge and tools to be effective leaders and equal contributors to change and development in their respective sectors and communities. RWLI continues to empower and inspire more women like Lydia to “make their challenges a catalyst for positive transformation,” at a personal, community and national level. 

Rwanda Women's Network (RWN) is one of the four partner institutes of the African Centers of Excellence (ACE) for Women's Leadership program run by the Institute of International Education (IIE) , Ethiopia Office.
For more on IIE , ACE or RWN please follow the links below.