By: Beverly Nkirote Mutwiri, Kenya
We live at a time where there is more opportunity than ever before. For some young women, the principles of feminism are encouraged. They are supported in their endeavors to get an education, be professional, and be independent. They are given equal opportunities with men in terms of education, employment, and inheritance. But, unfortunately, this is not the case for most. Despite our privileges, my generation must continue the fight for equality.
One thing that can help young women as they take this on is the presence of a role model. I feel lucky to have a lot of good role models and examples. One of them is Edith Esinam. The first time I met Edith, I was so envious of her. She was the embodiment of the woman I really wanted to be. Her level of knowledge on the sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) issues of young women in Ghana excited me. And, in a way, I saw myself in her. I was so proud of her and immediately knew I needed to get to know her better. The mere fact that she was a young woman who was stepping into her role as an SRHR youth advocate and ensuring that people heard her views was inspiring.
As I got to know Edith, she gave me a piece of advice that has stuck with me through the years. She told me, “You never work a day in your life if you do what you love.” This is something I try to keep in mind everyday and instill in the young women I work with now. I want to be an inspiration to other young women, and I try to to lead by example, especially to those coming up in the SRHR advocacy space behind me.
At several instances in my life, I have felt frustrated when my work was not effective due to the various challenges that exist in my community. For example, there is still a predominant aspect of male dominance in our society. Women are not given the opportunity and space to voice their views; the only role society prescribes to them is that of a housewife who should be seen, but not heard. This is a key barrier that limits the full potential of young women.
During these more difficult times, I remember the advocates who came before me and repeat Edith’s advice in my head. I am so grateful to my predecessors who have fought - and are still fighting - for the existing spaces, platforms, and programs designed specifically for young women. Were it not for them, the advocacy space would still be hostile to my peers and me.
And as I appreciate the advocates who paved the way for me, I also think about those who will take up this fight in the future. My advice to other young women - those working in the SRHR space and outside of it - is to ensure that you are proactive and fully maximize the opportunities given to you by taking a leading role. Remember that you are representing more than just yourself, you are representing the powerful role of young women in your community and around the world. Together, we can break the glass ceiling!
#YoungWomenSay is a partnership with Say It Forward in support of International Youth Day 2018 and culminating on International Day of the Girl. The campaign features blogs from incredible young women from around the world, and is designed to harness the power of storytelling and social media to drive attention to their lived experiences, dreams, and aspirations.