My time at the African Girls' Summit

10 December 2015

Amina Alliy Mtengeti is a 23-year-old youth activist who uses social media as a tool to advocate and raise awareness on issues such as gender and peace.

She works with the Child Dignity Forum in Tanzania on media advocacy, and delivers girls’ empowerment programmes on issues such as ending FGM and child marriage.

Amina believes in the power of the youth as key stakeholders in the development of any nation and that in order for the world to experience substantial change, young people have to rise up to this responsibility. Amina attended the AU African Girls' Summit on behalf of The Girl Generation – read on to find out more about her experiences.

"Being a young Tanzanian girl, I have always been viewed as naive and weak and that I would never be able to influence change in my community simply because I am a girl.

Whenever I would point something out I would always be told “What can you do? You’re only a girl.”

It hurt to know that as a girl my views and opinions were discarded simply because of my gender and that my place in the community was so distinctively defined that if I ever were to go astray I would be branded disobedient and stubborn.

That infuriated me because girls should have equal opportunities as boys and when they are nurtured and valued in the same way they too can do more for their communities and influence change.

I continue to do what I do because I want to show the world that girls can succeed to bring change when given a chance. I don’t get much in return, but knowing that sharing the knowledge that I have helps benefit young men and women and can bring change to someone’s life is the only satisfaction and motivation I need to keep going.

I am the voice

I am the voice that speaks for all the other young girls in my community who are itching to break out of the social norms and make a difference.

I have said this a dozen times and I will keep saying it until I have no other reason to say it again:

“It is difficult to change cultures that have been there for generations, but if each person takes the responsibility and does what is right we can overcome gender inequalities, we can overcome harmful practices, we will attain development and we shall have a better world. The times are changing and it’s high time we all change as well.”

African Union African Girls' Summit on Ending Child Marriage

On 23rd November I travelled to Lusaka, Zambia to attend the AU African Girls' Summit on Ending Child Marriage and other harmful practices.

This was the first time that the Girls' Summit was held in Africa, following the successful Girl Summit in the UK in July 2014.

It felt like the whole of Africa gathered in Lusaka for the Summit, as different organisations and institutions, both regional and international, attended this auspicious event.

Government officials as well as other stakeholders and youth came together to discuss the strategies that can be put in place to end child marriage.

Prior to the two day summit there were various side events that took place and I had a chance to attend in some of them.

First, was the Youth Preparatory workshop organised by #YouthForChange that aimed at bringing together different young people advocating to end child marriage and FGM.

At the workshop I met a variety of inspiring young people from across the continent, and we worked together to suggest ways to bring these practices to an end and contribute to drafting an outcome document that was presented at the summit.

On the 25th November I had the opportunity to speak further about FGM/C at a parallel session that was organized by Orchid Project, The Girl Generation and #YouthForChange.

From that session I realised that there is still a need to increase the efforts to ending FGM and the biggest step is to begin to openly talk about the issue to the community members and to engage men and boys to advocate for girls rights.

Because of the patriarchal system in Africa, men are the ones who have the bigger voice and can be the ones to influence change.

There is a dire need to put FGM on top of the agenda and make it our issue because it is only when we do that that we will be able to tackle it.

The summit

The summit itself was a whirlwind of speeches and panel discussions, and I was fascinated to listen to the leaders of our continent talking about some of the most important issues on girls’ empowerment.

What did I take out of it?

Well, first, different stakeholders and delegates emphasised the need to ensure that the girl child stays in school and finishes her education as a key opportunity to delay her early marriage.

Second, I was proud about the role that young people had at the summit, and to hear young people urged not to wait to get invited but rather to get involved and advocate for ending child marriage, FGM and other harmful practices in their communities.

Many voices advocated that young people should be the force driving their leaders and getting them to commit to end these harmful practices and be the change they want to see.

Specifically, this was said at the Youth Voices parallel session, which I spoke at, where different young people from various African countries came together in one unified voice to talk about FGM and child marriage as issues that need to be given major attention. 

Through this session, young people were seen to be the driving force of change and many organisations made commitments to ensure their continued interventions to end child marriage and FGM.

As young people, we agreed that social media and media are the strongest  platforms available to advocate and accelerate change towards ending child marriage and FGM and other harmful practices.

All in all, the entire summit came out with great resolutions and built a  momentum to continue to thrive in advocating to end these harmful practices that undermine women and young girls all over Africa.

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