Young Women First Inter-generational Dialogue: Rising voices!
By Ingrid Kahari
NYANGA, 5 December 2012 - The official opening of the Young Women First Inter-generational Dialogue at Troutbeck Inn, Nyanga Zimbabwe commenced on a high note with members of the High Level Task Force on Women and Girls and key guests from various countries within the region. Among them Former First Lady Maureen Mwanawasa of Zambia, Queen of Limpopo, Valoyi Traditional Authority Trust Hosi Nwamitwa of South Africa and SAfAIDS Executive Director, Mrs. Lois Chingandu, among others.
During the morning proceedings Mrs. Lois Chingandu spoke about mentorship where the older women mentor the young women so that they reach their goals. “I dream of a world where young women know that it is possible to walk any corridor, political, economic, social, standing on their own and knowing they do not need a man or to use their bodies to achieve their goals,” said Mrs. Lois Chingandu. She emphasised the opportunity that the dialogue is presenting for young women to learn and to be groomed by the older women.
The Young Women Leaders team from the region introduced themselves sharing their stories and how they have benefited from the programme. Some of their histories include poverty and gold panning for survival, HIV family background, stereotypes hindering progress and challenges of being a girl child in a family that expected a boy. They have all overcome their past and are moving forward carrying the Young Women Leaders vision and advocating for issues affecting young women.
Ms. Caroline Sande, the Senior Gender Advisor UNAIDS Regional Support Team, Eastern and Southern Africa spoke about the role of the High Level Task Force on Women and Girls. The main role is advocacy to enable the removal of the remaining barriers to equal access for women and girls.
As the Guest Speaker, Lady Maureen Mwanawasa emphasised that a title does not define your profession but who you are and what you achieve with the role determines your successes. Her message was entitled “Holding governments accountable for protecting women’s Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR)”, highlighting the importance of SRHR and the need for all governments to prioritise it as a key issue to be addressed. She stated that, “Women's Sexual and Reproductive Health is a central calculus in determining global efficacy in promoting women's general well being, there is an opportunity for young voices to raise and make positive demands not requests and for the older generation to push these voices. SRHR for women should not be negotiated but be an entitlement and enshrined in our Constitutions and a credible form of accountability is crucial, especially on gender, HIV and AIDS; which can be financial, performance – based and political accountability”.
Patsime, a theatre group gave a very educative and informative play on Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights issues and challenges faced by young women, touching on forced abortion, Sexually Transmitted Infections and HIV, lack of SRHR information, teenage pregnancy, Gender-Based Violence (GBV) and negotiating safe sex. The first day proceedings set the momentum of the conference and set the scene of the critical issues that will be explored by the young women and the older women.