Girls and young women raise their voice for a more inclusive and equitable world
Young women leaders are shaping the future of Eastern and Southern Africa, encouraging all aspiring leaders to not let their gender, age or disability limit them
When we empower girls to become leaders, they can be the changemakers needed to transform communities and societies. UNICEF is committed to placing the rights and well-being of adolescent girls at the very core of what we do, and every day, we embrace and celebrate their leadership.
Get inspired by 10 young female advocates in Eastern and Southern Africa and learn what they have to say about leadership, advocacy and the right to equal opportunities for every girl.
Catherine Mantswe (18), Botswana
“Advocacy for me is all about creating an inclusive world by raising awareness on the need to deal with barriers that hinder the girl child to reach her full potential and dreams regardless of where they are.”
Charity Mukelabai Nyambe (22), Zambia
“Encouraging conversations about inclusive practices, addressing stereotypes in media, and promoting diverse role models can all contribute to a more equitable environment for girls in your community.”
Elisa Gordo (19), Mozambique
“I have raised awareness of the rights of girls with disabilities among girls with and without disabilities and was very pleased to learn that most of the girls were able to become agents of change in their schools and communities.”
Inaki Shongwe (16), Eswatini
“Realizing that I am being heard is empowering. Speaking or standing up for my rights and making people aware of my needs facilitated changes in my school which made me feel more accommodated. This encouraged me and gave me the confidence that I should continue being the voice of the voiceless.”
Mary Adut (17), South Sudan
“People used to undermine girls, saying that boys are superior and can do best in everything but when I talked to them at the school assembly telling them the importance of girls’ rights, people's mindset began to change.”
Nasrin Abdi Abdullahi (27), Somalia
“I created a peer-to-peer network that connects girls together allowing them to engage in advocacy efforts. It was a gratifying experience to witness the empowerment of young girls who now possess the freedom to voice their personal concerns and address the challenges they face in society. I celebrate both my small and big wins, and when faced with challenges, I seek support from my family and friends.”
Patricia Mativo (26), Kenya
“My most rewarding and satisfying experience is meeting people who inform me that I unknowingly impacted their lives through my advocacy. When I get overwhelmed, I pause and speak to my closest friends about it. At times I take leave from all social media platforms by temporarily uninstalling them.”
Teresa Capilo (22), Angola
“I think that my actions can create positive changes in society, in the sense of emphasizing the qualities of people and I have been helping girls, especially girls with disabilities, to develop their self-esteem. Every action we do, such as debates and lectures are reflective actions and have created changes, because people listen and things change.”
Tlotlo Moilwa (24), Botswana
“I have found it was easier for girls my age to relate to me. Those that have been following my journey and even those that are now younger and would like to embark on advocacy have learned from me that it is okay to do advocacy even as a child and not to let their age or gender limit them.”
Tsungirirai Lucia Paridzira (23), Zimbabwe
“My advocacy is on mental health and sexual reproductive health and rights. My most rewarding experience was training 98 youth from Zimbabwe on the UNICEF Youth Advocacy Guide and most of them were young people aged 16- 24. Being a trainer gave me the opportunity to see how young people are willing to fight for positive change in their communities.”
Catherine, Charity, Elisa, Inaki, Mary, Nasrin, Patricia, Teresa, Tlotlo, and Tsuringirai have a wealth of experience in advocacy. Below is their advice to other adolescent girls and young women who want to become changemakers:
- Believe in yourself: Never let your current situation dictate how your future is going to look and do not give power to your doubt. You do not have to wait for power to be given to you, or “the right time” to act.
- Have a vision: Identify an issue that is affecting most people and have a vision for what you want to achieve with your advocacy.
- Educate yourself: Research and learn as much as you can about the issue you want to advocate for. Understand its root causes, current challenges and potential solutions. Knowledge will help you form strong arguments and engage in informed discussions.
- Connect with like-minded individuals: Seek out others who share your passion and want to make a difference. Join local or online communities, participate in events, or attend workshops related to your cause. Engaging with others will provide support, new perspectives, and collaboration opportunities.
- Start small but start somewhere: Advocacy doesn't have to be grand from the beginning. Begin by taking small steps in your community, such as volunteering or raising awareness in your school or neighborhood. Once you gain confidence and experience, you can expand your efforts to larger platforms.
- Use your voice: Use your voice to speak up about the issues that matter to you. Use various platforms like social media, blogs or public speaking engagements to amplify your message and reach a wider audience.
- Stay resilient and adaptable: Advocacy work can be challenging, and you may face setbacks. It's essential to remain resilient, adaptable and open to learning from both successes and failures. Remember that change takes time, and perseverance is key.
For more information about UNICEF’s work with and for adolescent girls, please view our Adolescent Girls Programme Strategy.