Imagine a young girl with so many dreams and ambitions living in a society that believes it has the rights and power to plan, determine and own her life. For me, as a young woman from Tanzania, it’s scary to have been born a woman because of the political, social and economic challenges young women face that hinder their development.
I recently had an opportunity to attend a global event run by SheDecides, a global movement to promote, provide, protect and enhance the fundamental rights of every girl and woman. This includes the rights of girls and women to decide freely and for themselves about their bodies and their sexual lives, including whether, when, with whom and how many children they have.
SheDecides has provided a platform for young people to raise their voices on behalf of other young women and girls around the southern and eastern Africa regions. It has enabled me to join hands with youths from other African countries to advocate for a new normal where girls and women decide about their bodies, their lives andtheir futures. Without question, I have learned that a new normal is necessary because for the rights of young women and girls; especially in my country Tanzania, are affected by four main factors. These are the contradictory laws and policies on marriage, religion, socio-economic and cultural practices, and taboos such as Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). These factors expose a young woman to all forms of violence and oppression, and deny her the right to reach her full potential.
For this movement to be successful we need a meaningful engagement of people from the community (grassroots) level to the national level.We need a meaningful involvement of young people in decision making. Both men and women need to sit together at the table and give women a chance to make decisions concerning their lives by themselves.
As a young woman working with YWCA Tanzania, I will champion young women’s and girls’ rights to decide their own futures. I do not want to be part of the generation where being born a girl feels like a curse or burden. This is my motto “My future belongs to me, I take charge now” With this I will start intervening on issues concerning girls and young women’s Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights and advocate for the government’s accountability to young women’s and girls’ rights as I believe this is the door to freeing her future.
Margaret Kironde is a Program and Branches Coordinator at the YWCA of Tanzania. She is a young woman leader and mentor. She coordinates programs that address Sexual and Gender Based Violence, as well as promote legal rights awareness, economic empowerment and Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE).