Young women taking over the reign

Date: January 1, 1970
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They say, “Today’s children are tomorrow’s future.À Simply meaning that if empowered and well nurtured at a tender age, people we consider as young today, tomorrow will be leaders of the nation in different aspects of life. To ensure that women take their rightful leadership role, there is a need to nurture today’s young women, now.

Across Africa, many young women are not being sufficiently empowered to realise their potential to contribute effectively to women’s movements and national developments. Women and men in decision-making and leadership positions today, at some point in their lives, will undoubtedly pass the torch to the younger generation.
Women are usually socialised to believe that their place is the kitchen and not public domain. We are brought up not to speak out, but let men speak on our behalf even on issues that directly affect us.
One just needs to look back at the recent elections in Zambia to see that there is a great need to develop tomorrow’s women leaders, if we are going to see a change in the decision-making landscape of the country to one of gender equity. Just 14 % of the 150 parliamentary seats contested went to women.  At the local government level the situation is even worse – just 9.5 %.
Zambia failed to reach the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) target of 30% representation of women in politics and decision-making positions by the end of 2005, and is even further from the newly set target of 50 %.  
It is for this reason that a non-governmental organisation (NGO) in Zambia, known as the Young Women in Action (YWA), has come up with an initiative to empower young women, to help create tomorrow’s women leaders.
YWA Publicity Secretary, Precious Mooze said in an interview that young women still face a lot of difficulties in being accorded opportunities to fully participate in decision-making at the community, organisational, family and national levels.
She said the reason often given as an excuse is that young women do not have the desired leadership skills and experience to take up higher positions or adequate knowledge and information to articulate issues properly.
“It is a fact that a number of programmes have been tailor made for adults, particularly older women. This has led to an intergenerational gap and often manifests itself through problems of continuity in organisations when older women leave their positions,” said Mooze.
Even when it comes to voting day, women are often over burdened with social responsibilities such as cooking, looking after the sick especially with the HIV/AIDS pandemic, selling markets, looking after children. Traditionally, women, especially those in rural areas, believe that voting is a man’s issue and it is a sheer waste of time to them. 
22-year-old Sanana Isiteketo participated in a training programme conducted by YWA. Isiteketo said that adults dominate most NGOs, but she wants to see a situation where young women are more involved. She said it is a challenge for young women to access opportunities to participate in decision-making positions, but through advocacy and lobbying relevant authorities, this can change.
“I feel great that I was given the opportunity to train as a young woman. They are a lot of things that I learnt which I did not know such as power relations and how young women can exercise power in their own right. We also learnt about NEPAD and the Africa Peer Review Mechanism, and how youth can participate, thereby contributing towards Africa’s development. This information was appreciated by most young women including myself because a lot of us did not know about it.”
Mooze added, “YWA also works with young men aged 15-35 as associate members. YWA believes that today, it has been difficult for men the world over, to support women’s cause because of their different believes and the lack of knowledge on what gender is as regards development.”
She said the organisation hopes to produce a team of young women as trainers, construct a training centre and resources centre for young women’s entrepreneurship skills and a well-established YWA Secretariat where young women will be able to source knowledge.
By training young women in Zambia, and in all African countries, we are equipping a new generation with the knowledge and skills to bring their countries forward. After all, once we are gone, who else is there?
Perpertual Sichikwenkwe is a journalist in Zambia. This article is part of the Gender Links Opinion and Commentary Service that provides fresh views on everyday news.

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