Learning Journey: Learning is a lifelong journey

Learning Journey: Learning is a lifelong journey

Date: June 1, 2019
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African Proverb: “If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

Advocacy in my DNA

October 2018 was an eye opener and an enriching learning journey and personal growth. It all started in August 2018 with a call from Malaysia to ask if Gender Links (GL) will submit a shadow report to Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women CEDAW’s 71st session.

It has been six years since I started working for GL and I have brought about some constructive and sustainable change to GL Mauritius. I have been very active with work on the ground, working on empowerment and gender mainstreaming trainings both locally and regionally. Corporate fundraising and training makes a very big part of my work at GL Mauritius. My team and I have also been very much involved with the Local Government and other NGOs providing training on Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR).

I have learnt with time that opportunities come to us for a reason and life has shown me that one needs to understand how take advantage of what is offered as one can make wonders from small opportunities.

Being part of the Human Rights Secretariat of the Ministry of Justice, GL has actively been participating in the National reporting and follow up Mechanism. A national public mechanism or structure that is mandated to coordinate, prepare reports and to engage with international and regional human rights mechanisms (including treaty bodies, the universal periodic review and special procedures). Our work also includes coordinating and tracking national follow-up and implementation of the treaty obligations and the recommendations emanating from these mechanisms. It may be ministerial, inter-ministerial or institutionally separate. In August 2018 after discussion of the state report that was sent to the 71st session of CEDAW committee, GL together with other NGOs sent its very first civil society shadow report.

It was such an eye opener to understand how the state would blow their trumpet about the fantastic work they are doing and yet no mention to burning issues like teenage pregnancy, child marriage, pay gap, LGBTQ+ issues, Gender Based Violence, education and drug issues. Sex/Gender disaggregated data on the mentioned issues.

The Shadow report that GL and the other NGOs wrote was taken into consideration and well appreciated as it was the very first time that civil society has sent shadow report to CEDAW committee from Mauritius. The Committee during the lunch briefing in Geneva, bombarded me with question on Education, literacy, the status of women and other issues affecting children and the LGBTQ+. I proudly delivered a statement for Mauritius and was happy when the committee raised all the points in their final remarks to the state.

The beautiful lesson learnt from this whole magnificent experience is that I took an interesting opportunity to bring on change in my country and in a timely manner. From the Geneva experience, I managed to bring about some strong advocacy for the Republic of Mauritius. I am militating against child Marriage in Mauritius and talked and sent recommendation letter to the Attorney General and the Minister of Gender, including the Prime Minister to get them to understand the danger if laws are not passed to abolish child marriage and also to ensure that in the children’s bill that has been in a drawer for nearly 15 years should be acted upon. With the very high rate of teenage pregnancies and lack of Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights in the republic, I used the CEDAW platform to advocate for better services and effective education.

It is a slow and uphill battle however there are so many other groups who are also willing to join the fight and I am adamant that we will succeed and bring the age of marriage to 18 and have trained staff to educate the youth on SRHR issues in primary and secondary schools.

The lesson learnt is how to use opportunities and make something big out of it through a strategic planning and a good execution including paying attention to details and a clear communication. Through optimism, I have found potential to grow in the advocacy work and see the potential in issues and people. After examining the issue through a lens, that process helped me see the worse possible scenario and through optimism saw the bright side.

Anushka Virahsawmy is the Country Director of GL Mauritius office

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