Showing posts with label Gender. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Gender. Show all posts

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Journalist’s Death Sparks Anger Over Maternal Death In Zambia

Sitembile Siwawa Zulu
By Paul Shalala

In life, Sitembile Siwawa Zulu was just an ordinary journalist.

But in death, she has united the nation to fight for a just cause: reduce maternal death.

According to UNICEF, Zambia has one of the highest mortality rates.

“In Zambia, 591 maternal deaths occur per 100,000 live births while the infant, neonatal and under-five mortality rates are at 70, 34, and 119 per 1,000 live births, respectively. These mortality rates are unacceptably high. The major causes of child mortality are malaria, respiratory infections, diarrhoea, malnutrition, and anaemia,” reads a statement on the UN agency's Zambia page..

Three days ago, Zambia Daily Mail Sub-Editor Sitembile delivered what people call a ‘bouncing baby girl’ at the Levy Mwanawasa General Hospital in Lusaka.

A day later when everyone was sending her congratulatory messages, Sitembile breathed her last and that’s how Zambia lost one of its hard working journalists.

She became the latest victim of women who die while giving birth.

Sadly, her death came a few days before the first anniversary of her marriage to Mr Victor Zulu.

Her death has sparked outrage on social media.

Zambians from all walks of life are shocked at the untimely death of the 29 year old scribe who was recently promoted to the position of Sub-Editor after working as a reporter for a long time.

At the moment, the most trending hashtag in Zambia is #NoWomanShouldDieWhileGivingLife which is a spontaneous social media campaign to highlight the plight of women in labour.

On Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, Zambians have been discussing the challenges women face while deivering.

Zambians on Facebook writing about Sitembile's death
For Sitembile, I remember her for having dedicated a good part of her career covering issues of gender, children and agriculture.

She ran a blog called Gender@Heart where she wrote many stories over the years.

The profile on her blog reads: “Apart from being a writer, blogger and everything else, Sitembile has strong passion for fashion and beauty particularly black beauty! Having endured so much ridicule for being dark, she is a strong advocator of black big beauty! Everything about fashion and beauty to her centres around dark African women. She believes in the world of women although she is not a feminist.”

On the blog, as well as in the Zambia Daily Mail newspaper, Sitembile wrote many award winning pieces on children and gave a human face to the challenges children face and the strides they make in life.

“I hear that my former ZAMCOM student Sitembile Siwawa has passed on. She had finally become a colleague at Daily Mail and a Save the Children reliable reporter. My last lesson to her was 'Stembile, you seem to have an interest in children issues. Make it your niche'. She never relented and became a goodwill ambassador for children through her work. Dying in child birth after delivering a bouncy baby. RIP,” wrote Chishaba Masengu, a former lecturer and now a  Media and Communications Coordinator at Save The Children Zambia.

Sitembile (middle) and her close friend Doreen Nawa (far left)
 during the 2014 CAADP Media Awards
Even for women, Sitembile did the same but unfortunately, she ended up facing one of the challenges they grapple with: maternal mortaity.

In her career, Sitembile was a member of the African Union's Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) Journalist Network which promotes the reporting of agricultural issues on the continent.

In 2014, she was awarded the CAADP Journalist of the Year Award in Durban, South Africa.

The story which made her win this prestigious pan-African media award was titled “Female Farmers Empowerment Vital.”

Just the title of the story tells you how passionate the lady was to gender issues and agriculture.

At a personal level, I had a few encounters with Sitembile when I used to work in Lusaka.

Most times we would meet on assignments and she was this shy lady who rarely spoke in public.

I remember one time asking her if she knew the Siwawa family of Mumbwa who reside in a village called Natani which is close to my own village Lubanze in Nangoma area.

She told me she was related to them and that their clan originally hails from Zimbabwe.

Mr and Mrs Zulu on their wedding in September 2016
Apart from journalists just praising her in death or sharing the hashtag #NoWomanShouldDieWhileGivingLife, others have gone a step further to question why issues of women and maternal mortality rarely make it to the front page of tabloids or evening bulletins of major TV stations.

“But I want every Zambian journalist reading this to pause for a minute and reflect on how it came to pass that we failed Sitembile and thousands of women like her by not making health a story worth telling, even though health is a matter of life and death for 14 million people who live in this country. And she passed on in a big city, the capital where there is even some modicum of care and infrastructure. Think about women tucked in the nooks and crannies of Zambia who risk death every time they have to give life to a child,” wrote Edem Djokotoe, a Ghanaian-born journalist and media trainer who has vast experience in media issues in Zambia.

Edem further says: “I am angry at all of us because we have chosen to subvert the values of news which form the bedrock of our professional and throw Public Interest out of the window. We have gone to bed with politicians and made them the only story in town. We don’t cover health unless the Health Minister is making a speech about health.”

Meanwhile, the Zambian government has launched an inquiry into the circumstances leading to Sitembile’s death.

A statement issued by the Minister of Health Dr. Chitalu Chilufya says authorities will soon get to the bottom of the matter.

And a senior Ministry of Health official has explained what is known so far.

Sitembile with Brenda Zulu in Johannesburg,
South Africa during a CAADP meeting 
“Sitembile Zulu, 29 years old, in her 2nd pregnancy underwent a caesarian section due to fetal distress on the 8th September 2017. Fetal distress is when the fetus does not receive adequate amounts of oxygen during pregnancy or labour. It is oftentimes detected through an abnormal fetal heart rate. The deceased became breathless after taking a bath yesterday in the morning, after which the condition rapidly deteriorated before she passed on despite efforts to resuscitate her,” said Dr Maximilian Bweupe, the spokesperson of the Ministry of Health.

Tributes have also come from Zambia’s official Government Spokesperson Kampamba Mulenga (Minister of Information) who has described Sitembile’s demise as a loss to the nation.

For some of her close friends, her death is a shocker.

Doreen Nawa, a reporter at the Zambia Daily Mail has shared her thoughts over the death of a colleague who I used to fondly call her ‘twin sister.’

She tweeted: “Am lost without you Sitembile…… Your death was preventable.”

Doreen and Sitembile travelled across the globe together and shared many platforms abroad where they jointly received media awards.

Another close friend Brenda Zulu, a blogger, said: “Remembering you through our travels around Africa as we covered Agriculture. We took these pictures for Doreen Chilumbu Nawa as she did not come along with us in Jo'burg for the conference. Will miss you! #RIP Sitembile Zulu.”

Sitembile’s death is not just a local story.

The impact of her death after delivering a child has made it on international media with the London-based BBC publishing an account of her death while some Nigerian sites have carried it too.

For Sitembile, her life has come to a tragic end but for her husband of 11 months, this is the time when Zambians need to show him love and care.

For us in the media, we will continue emulating Sitembile for the causes she stood for: Gender, Children and Agriculture.

Hamba Kahle Sisiwethu!!!!!

Sunday, 16 April 2017

Cynthia Sichula: Stuck On Wheelchair But Teaches Five Grades

Cynthia Sichula in class with her pupils
By Paul Shalala in Luanshya

Hers, is a life lived against the odds.
With almost everything seeming to be against her, Cynthia Sichula has triumphed over her ills.

For years, she lived an ordinary and relatively healthy life of a teacher.
But little did she know, that she had a serious affliction.

She was struck with gangrene.
Gangrene is potentially a life threatening condition that happens when body tissues die,

At its worst a body part begins to rot and amputation is inevitable.
In April 2009, Cynthia’s gangrene had wasted both her legs at the knee and doctors had no option but to amputate.

"I got gangrene, i didn't know that disease. I was just told by the doctor, he explained to me. Both of my legs started drying up, i stopped feeling pain. Doctors decided to remove both legs so that in future i may wear those plastic limbs. I actually got sick on 31st December 2008 as we were going into 2009 and four months later i was amputated," said Cynthia.And so ended her life as a teacher.
Confined to a wheel chair, Cynthia had difficulties in getting a job as a teacher.

To make matters worse, her husband also lost his job at Luanshya Copper Mines when the company was placed under maintenance and care.
With both of them out of employment, Cynthia decided to form Zyuka Nursery and Primary School inside her two bedroom house in Luanshya’s Section 25 area.

"I just decided to open a school here in my living room. The school is three years old now and i have pupils from nursery to Grade four."

For the past three years that the school has been in operation, a number of pupils have passed through her hands and gone on to continue with higher education.
This is her consolation.

"I have taught many pupils at this school, some are even in upper schools. Even these who are here are very sharp. Very soon they will go to higher schools like Nkambo Primary School because here i don't have Grade five," she said.

Her condition does not make it easy for her to teach as she is confined to here wheel chair and movements restricted.

One of her challenges is writing on the board.
Cynthia Sichula listening to her pupils in class
"As for the Grades ones and the babies, someone has to move around and check what they are doing and how they are responding to the lessons. And the space here is too small, i cant move with my wheelchair to check them."

Her son, who is one of her pupils, helps out, though his assistance is limited.
But Cynthia is undaunted.

"I'm appealing to the First Lady Mrs Esther Lungu to help me with the building of the school, as you can see the classroom is too small. I only have two desks and a board," said Cynthia.
But her teaching has NOT been in vain.

Her pupils are sharp and very alive to current affairs.
When this blogger visited the school, he heard them recite the name of the President, names of all previous Presidents, Zambia's first female Vice President and the country's youngest ever diplomat Vernon Mwaanga.

The young boys and girls enjoy being taught by their sole teacher.

"She teaches very well and she is sharp," said one of the female Grade Two pupils.
And her neighbours marvel at her endurance.

"Children from this school are doing very well and the owner is making an impact in our neighbourhood. The lady needs alot of help from wellwishers," said James Katempa.
It is obvious that Cynthia is one of those rare souls, who remain undaunted and keep going even when it is darkest.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This story was originally aired on TV1's Morning Live program on 6th April 2017 and it can be watched here.

Friday, 3 March 2017

41 Year Old Kitwe Mother Passes Grade 12 Exam But Son Fails

Given Mwila (right) during the interview with the author
By Paul Shalala

She first came into the limelight as a mature Grade 12 pupil at Parklands Secondary School in Kitwe who was in the same class with her teenage son.

And that was last year when this blogger broke the story of Given Mwila on this blog and on Zambia's state TV.

This year her story has even gotten better.

Given has completed her Grade Twelve with a pass.

She had been in the same class with her son Chishala from Grade 10 at Parklands.

Having dropped out of school 20 years ago, Given returned to the classroom to finish secondary school with the hope of becoming a nurse in the near future.

She initially started in Grade eight and passed her Grade nine exams before proceeding to Grade 10.

Her dream is now getting clearer though she is saddened that her 19 year old son and classmate Chishala failed to make it, he failed.

Despite this, Given is happy that she made it against all odds.

“I didn’t expect myself to do well in the exam because I had challenges. I haven’t even formally collected my results because I didn’t finish paying my tuition fees. I got three merits and a credit,” said Given in an interview at her home in Kitwe’s Chimwemwe compound.

In October 2016 i profiled Given, following her from the time she woke up and prepared for school.

At school, I interviewed some of her classmates and teachers.

Given (left), the author (middle) and
her son Chishala (right) in this
photo taken October 2016 at Parklands
 Secondary School in Kitwe
Given was an inspiration to all that’s why she was even selected as a Prefect.

And all that this mother of three wants to do in life is to be a nurse.

But due to lack of finances, she is appealing for sponsorship.

Her husband is partially blind and does not have an income

“Am appealing to anyone who is watching this interview, including the First Lady Mrs Esther Lungu to come and help me realize my dream of becoming a nurse. I want to excel higher than I have done,” she said.

With her results, Given can easily study nursing once she finds finances.

In Kitwe where she lives, there are nursing schools where she can enroll for the two year Zambia Enrolled Nurse (ZEN) certificate course or the three year Registered Nurse (RN) Diploma course.

In Zambia, women or girls who drop out of school can continue even after many years.

This is made possible through the Ministry of General Education’s new strategy called the Re-Entry Policy.

The policy is aimed at giving a second chance to those who are derailed in one way or another.

Given is a good example of the successful implementation of the Re-Entry policy.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This blogger also did a TV report of this story which aired on TV1's Morning Live program on 2nd March 2017. The YouTube link to the video is here

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Kapiri Mposhi Mother Arrested For Burning Her Child Over Food

Mrs Nsongwe and her daughter Lillian at home
By Paul Shalala in Kapiri Mposhi

A 34 year old mother of Kapiri Mposhi in the Central Province has been arrested for burning the hands of her seven year old daughter after she ate sweet potatoes at a neighbour's house.

Doreen Nsongwe has been remanded at the Kapiri Mposhi Police Station where she has been charged for the offence of assaulting a child.

"We received a report of a seven year old girl of Kapiri Mposhi being burnt by her mother. The report was given to the Police by the girl's stepfather who said the mother was annoyed because the girl ate at her neighbour's house," said Central Province Police Commissioner Lombe Kamukoshi in an interview.

According to an officer who conducted the arrest in Material Compound, on 9th February,  Mrs Nsongwe got hot charcoal and placed it in the hands of her daughter Lillian which ended up burning her severely.

Lillian is a Grade one pupil at Material Primary School.

During her arrest yesterday which this blogger witnessed, Mrs Nsongwe cried, saying she was trying to discipline her daughter when she burnt her.

The arrest attracted a huge number of neighbours, some of whom wailed as she was led away into a vehicle by uniformed Police officers.

The victim, who was visibly traumatised, cried as she noticed that her mother was being led away by police officers.

And Kapiri Mposhi District Commissioner Peter Mwiinde vowed that parents who physically harm their children should be prosecuted.

"This is total stupidity. Such parents must be arrested and taken to court. Am ordering all the Police officers in the Victim Support Unit, do not release such culprits, take them to court and let them face the law," said the visibly annoyed Mr Mwiinde.
The GBV One Stop Center under construction 

Mrs Nsongwe was today expected to appear before a magistrate's court in Kapiri Mposhi.

Her child has now been taken by the District Social Welfare Office which will monitor her progress as she is being treated by medical personnel.

Gender Based Violence (GBV) is a major problem in Kapiri Mposhi.

This has led government to construct the first ever GBV One Stop Center in the District which will serve the whole province.

The center has so far reached roof level and the contractor Workman Limited is on schedule.

K1.4 million is being spent on the project.

"GBV cases here in Kapiri Mposhi are on the rise due to the location of the town. We need this GBV One Stop Center because currently, victims have nowhere to run to," said Kapiri Mposhi District Social Welfare Officer Moses Manasseh in an interview.

He added that once completed, the center will offer refuge to GBV victims and those who do not need shelter will be going there for counselling.

EDITOR'S NOTE: The story on the construction of the GBV One Stop Center was also aired as a report on TV1's Morning Live program on 16 February 2017 and it can be watched here: GBV One Stop Center

Friday, 27 January 2017

Despite Dilapidated School, Kamakonde Pupils Score High

Agness Nkomeshya with her mother sitting outside their house
By Paul Shalala

Sometimes, good fortunes come from humble beginnings.

Men and women have risen from squalid existence to make it in life.

And even the schools they may have attended are nothing to talk about.

This perhaps is the road on which Agness Nkomeshya is trotting along.

From her home in Kamakonde area to her school in the same neighbourhood, nothing eases her daily hardships.

Kamakonde is a slum in the western part of Kitwe, the second largest city in Zambia.

This 13-year girl old who lost her father two years ago, has only her mother to fend for her.

And she is not alone because her unemployed mother has to look after five other children.

The 19 year old classroom block at Kamakonde Primary School
The family live in a mud brick house whose roof leaks when it rains.

At home, her life is a battle of survival and while at school, it is all about endurance.

The only structure which the Grade one, twos, threes and fours use at Kamakonde Primary School is dilapidated and unfit for learners.

But Agness and her fellow pupils have defied the odds.

For close to 20 years, the school has received little attention.
The years have now taken their toll on this lonely structure built in 1998 when the community decided to open their own community school.

The two classrooms are overcrowded and pupils literally sit on the floor because the school lacks desks.

The four grades take turns in sharing the two classrooms every day.

In each class session, there are about 70 pupils being taught by a teacher.

Mary Kasanga (right) in class
And the heat is unbearable and poor ventilation forces pupils to use their books as fans to get some fresh air.

And to make matters worse, the classrooms get flooded when it rains.

When the water takes over, classes are conducted under nearby trees.

“The situation here is bad. When it rains, water flows into these classrooms and we abandon this structure. We conduct lessons under trees. It is pathetic during the rain season,” said Hillary Muyoba, the Headteacher at Kamakonde Primary School.

But despite these problems the pupils are undaunted.

They are aiming high.

“I want to be an account when I finish school because I want to be counting money in a bank. When am an accountant, l help me my mother, my father and my brothers,” said Mary Kasanga, a 10 year old Grade four pupil who was interviewed while seated on a brick.

Another pupil Lweendo Malambo hopes to work in the medical field.

The tree under which pupils learn during floods 
“My ambition is to be a doctor. I will help the sick,” said Lweendo while seated on the floor.

During the 2016 Grade Seven examinations, whose results were announced two weeks ago, Agness surprised everyone, she got 711 marks.

This result made her one of the best pupils to have scored well in the whole of Kitwe District at a time when the Copperbelt Province has scored the least among provinces in the Grade seven results.

“I want to encourage other pupils who may go through the hardships I went through. I encourage them to be strong and pray to God. He will bless them also,” said Agness in an interview at her home.

 Her mother Sara Sipula is with her all the way despite the hurdles she faces everyday to fork a living for the children.

“When I got news that Agness passed her Grade Seven exam with flying colours, I was happy. But a minute later I started crying, thinking about my husband who should have seen her success. My only worry is how I will pay her school fees because am unemployed,” said the 41 year old Mrs Sipula.

The school administration revealed that Agness was not the only pupil to have scored such high marks from the school in the past few years.

Nkana MP Alexander Chiteme handing over shoes to a parent
“Agness has made us proud, she is a pupil who is easy to mentor and has a passion for education. Her 711 marks is a reminder that even pupils from poor communities can make it. Actually we have been having an increasing number of pupils getting over 700 marks in the last five years,” said Mr Muyoba.

But Agness’ achievement has not gone unnoticed.

It has caught the attention of the Member of Parliament for Nkana, the constituency where the slum of Kamakonde belongs.

Nkana MP Alexander Chiteme recently pledged to sponsor all her school fees until she completes her senior secondary school.

“I have been told that one of your pupils Agness Nkomeshya got 711 marks in Grade seven. Sure a child who was sitting on the floor while in class can get such high marks? As a way of motivating her, I will be paying for her school from today onwards until she completes Grade 12,” said Mr Chiteme amid ululations from residents of Kamakonde.

This was during a recent community meeting in the area were the lawmaker also donated 50 pairs of shoes for the boys and the girls at the school.

Some of the pupils had never known what it feels like to wears shoes.

The lawmaker also gave the school footballs and replica jerseys. 

Next week, Agness is expected to join her Grade eight class at Chimwemwe Secondary School within Kitwe.

Pupils seated on the floor during a class at Kamakonde
Back at Kamakonde Primary School, not every pupil wears the navy blue uniform.

This is because their parents cannot afford to buy them uniforms but school management does not turn them away.

In Zambian government schools, pupils cannot be chased from school on account of lacking uniforms or school fees.

The school’s plight also forced government to take over the school last year and construct a new classroom block which also has a staff room.

The new building has two classrooms which are used by Grades five, six and sevens.

Kamakonde Primary School has over 700 pupils with only 10 teachers who take turns in teaching the seven classes.

Despite all these challenges, the learners exceed the community’s expectations in their academic performance.

In the coming years, these determined children from Kamakonde Primary School may become the country’s captain of industries despite their daily struggle to gain an education.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This story was originally aired as a documentary on TV2's Morning Live program on 26 January 2017 and repeated on TV1's Newsline program on 27 January 2017. The link to the YouTube documentary aired on Morning Live is here: Kamakonde Primary School Documentary

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Youth NGO Saves Over 200 Chibombo Kids From Child Labour

Some of the children helped by Youth First Foundation
By Paul Shalala in Chibombo
A Youth-led non-governmental organisation in Central Province has saved over 200 children from harmful child labour practices and taken them back to school for further education.
Youth First Foundation (YFD) has supported 237 children who it has sent back to various schools in Chibombo District since 2013.
The children will continue being supported and mentored for as long as the organisations donors keep offering their help.
Through a grant of US$10,000 (K100,000) from the Global Fund for Children, YFD has helped children who had lost hope on school, get a second chance in life.
Recently, the organisation hosted a public event where 50 of the children gathered to share their experiences on how the project had made an impact in their lives.
Through the Stay In School (SIS) initiative, children who had dropped out of school and started looking after cattle or selling by the roadside, or carrying heavy loads for business, were brought back to the classroom to continue literacy and numeracy lessons from where they had stopped.
At the event, their parents signed contracts which committed them to making sure that they allow their children to attend classes when school is in session.
During the event held at Nachibaya Primary School last week, Youth First Foundation Founder and Board Chairman Cooper Chibomba said the organisation was aiming at empowering children and changing lives.
Parents signing contracts
“Now, in advancing the education of our children, Youth First Development has committed itself to a number of life changing things and one of them is to work closely with the government in ensuring that children access education and to partner with every school to track the progress of children in their education. Its not enough to just send them to school, we must educate them. We are also entering into a binding social agreement with parents to ensure that NO CHILD is Left Behind, said Mr Chibomba, amid ululations from the parents.
He also announced that 50 orphans and vulnerable children would be given education support in the coming years to ensure that they continue furthering their education adding that empowering such children with education would help in improving quality of life and creating a bright future for them.
Mr Chibomba, a 2016 Mandela Washington Fellow, revealed that the children will not only get education support but other support necessary for improving life.
“The children will continue to be reached with information and school programs on access to sexual reproductive health and rights, teenage pregnancy, early marriage, defilement and all forms of physical abuse,” he said.
And Chibombo District Commissioner Barnabas Musopelo commended Youth First Development for giving hope to the many children its working with.
Mr Musopelo said the Zambian government was happy that the local NGO is implementing its project through young people who live in the community especially that 80% of its board members were local villagers.
Some of the parents who attended the meeting
“I know that resources sometimes can be very difficult to mobilise but I am encouraged by the fact that the investment we are making today in our children through the Stay In School program will help make Chibombo a better place,"said Mr Musopelo.
He added that educating children is a direct way of fighting poverty, injustice, all forms of discrimination and giving equal opportunities to girls.

"I urge other NGOs working with children to learn from Youth First Development on how best they can tackle harmful child labour practices and how to work with children at risk of early marriage, teenage pregnancy and children that are at risk of dropping out of school due to poverty. I find that their model of rescuing, supporting and coaching provides long-term support to the children and their families is effective. Government alone cannot do these things, this is why Youth First Development has partnered with government to ensure that our children go back to school, stay in school and are progressing in their education".

In Zambia, a person under the age of 16 cannot be employed.

According to the Employment of Young Persons and Children Act, employing a person under the age of 16 is illegal in Zambia.

Despite this law and similar others like the Employment Amendment Act of 2015, child labour is still a major problem in the country.

For example, the 2015 Child Labour and Forced Labour Report by the United States Department of Labour reveals that children in Zambia continue to engage in labour practices in the production of tobacco and commercial sexual exploitation.

The Zambian government has been placing billboards and running TV adverts to fight child labour.

Further, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) has also been implementing several projects aimed at withdrawing children from labour across the country.

Through its Achieving Reduction of Child Labour in Support of Education (ARISE) Project, ILO withdrew 575 children from child labour and a further 4,327 were prevented from engaging in child labour.

The biggest challenge to fighting child labour in Zambia is the deep rooted culture were children are supposed to help their parents do house chores.

This ends up taking the children to full time jobs and activities which are meant for adults.

To win this fight, stakeholders must engage chiefs and other traditional authorities to try and change people's day to day way of life.

Sunday, 11 September 2016

African Youths Call For Non-Discrimination Of Homosexuals

The youths who attended the African Union Consultation
By Paul Shalala in Windhoek, Namibia

Youths from across Southern Africa have called for the respect of minorities in society such as homosexuals, saying they deserve respect because they are also human beings.

According to recommendations made at the just ended two day African Union Regional Youth Consultation on Human Rights with focus on Youths and Women, the youths called for the respect of all people’s rights irrespective of their economic status, sexual orientation or religious affiliation.

“As a group, we feel that society must recognise the existence of minorities such as homosexuals. We also need a common goal on how these people can be fully integrated into society,” said Roopanand Mahadew from Mauritius, who read the resolutions from the group on Inclusion, Diversity and Popular Participation which discussed various issues and made recommendations to the African Union.

Roopanand Mahadew speaking at the meeting
The group also recommended that there was need for massive advocacy on the issue of sexual minorities to avoid the continued stigma and hate against the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transsexual (LGBT) community.

“We need advocacy and education for the judiciary. Imagine if we have an LGBT person taken to court and the magistrate has no idea of homosexuals. He or she can discriminate against the suspect and not give fair justice, he added”

The youths called on the civil society to champion a campaign to raise awareness of sexual minorities so that they can also enjoy their rights.

20 youths from all southern African countries met in Windhoek on Thursday and Friday to come up with recommendations for the African Union 10 Year Human Rights Strategy which would feed into the Agenda 2063, an ambitious road map to Africa’s development which the continental body is pushing.

In other groups, youths recommended that there was need for improved environmental governance in Africa to protect people from environmental disasters and effects of climate change.

The youths also recommended that AU member countries must promote the establishment of Youth Think Tanks to champion the interests of young people.
Some of the youths who attended the meeting 

They further said there was need for the African Union to establish a Youth Division at its Addis Ababa headquarters so that issues pertaining to young people are ably handled by a specialised office.

“There is need for affirmative action on gender equality. Member states should also harmonise the disparities between customary and statutory laws so that women can be protected,” said Nsovo Mayimele, a youth from South Africa who read the resolutions from the group which discussed Women’s Rights.

Under Project 2016, the African Union is holding four regional consultations for youths in Southern, Eastern, Western and Northern Africa before it can consolidate its 10 Year Human Rights Strategy.

According to the objectives set by the continental body, the consultations are expected to help in the establishing of learning platforms and networks as an ongoing knowledge sharing and peer mentoring platform for promoting human rights in Africa.