Catherine-NyamburaCatherine Nyambura speaking at the UN General Assembly Special Session on the ICPD [International Conference on Population and Development] - 22nd Sept 2014

Being African and a Young Woman, What to Say for It?

By Catherine Nyambura

Editors note: This post was originally shared on Rural Reporters and also on Zofem's blog on 1st November, 2014 to mark African Youth Day. Catherine's powerful message is as important today as any day.

I am African and a young woman, these identities for some reason need to be emphasized, why is that?

Catherine Nyambura reflects on what it means being an African Young Woman on this day – African Youth Day.

Catherine-Nyambura-2Our society a few years ago would have me explain what I am doing, thinking, and I can just take the stage (in this case – this virtual stage) to dare air my opinion. But I am happy to be alive at a time when some African countries such as Rwanda top the 10 in gender gap, and my country Kenya is making strides all the way from number 78 to 42.

This is to be celebrated, but there are countries in Africa still doing badly in terms of closing the gender gap and achieving gender equality; we must harmonize our efforts and ensure daughters of Africa everywhere have something to celebrate.

I now get to the point where I will call Africa out on their bluff; Currently, we have 91.5 million women and girls living with the consequences of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), an archaic practice that endangers girls' lives and is usually a precursor of early child marriage that curtails girls' education.

I, for example, would not be so ably expressing myself had I not stepped into a classroom and granted the basic requirements to keep me in that class and ensure I excel; such basic requirements included sanitary towels – and as a young girl growing up on the MDG (Millennium Development Goals) poverty ceiling of families living below one dollar a day, these were not easy to come by.

Onto the topic of the day: it is African Youth Day with the theme to build on young women’s potential. As a young African woman, I feel the need to speak as to how I would like to see our potential built.  Young women are currently disproportionately affected by the high unemployment rates on the continents and for those who are employed they are prey to sexual violence and harassment and unequal pay, the historical gender gaps haven’t been closed and we have some field still widely dominated by young men which should eventually be equalized.

Now, I know that we have the perception that Africa is rising, but are we all rising or we are rising and leaving some behind, and these some left behind being young women and girls, participation in political leadership is still a touchy subject, we can rise but up to a certain point. No??

For us to build potential of any individual, they have to be healthy, so it is time that Africa invested in women’s health seriously, having committed to a 15% investment on health in the Abuja declaration – but is not there quite yet. To reap any demographic dividend from the 70% of our population (adolescents and youth including young women), health and education are just those things we have to keep working at.

I will end with a call for African youths to celebrate today; because of the fact we even have an African Youth Day shows that we have started the journey towards the right direction. Next step is to realize that youth are not homogenous and tackle their issues as such, like the young women’s focus on this year’s theme. 

The possibilities are endless!


This is a guest blog post by Catherine Nyambura, Kenyan SRHR (sexual and reproductive health and rights) activist and youth leader. She has over six years of experience working with girls and young women on issues around sexuality education and rights. Catherine Nyambura is a member of the African Youth Task Force on Post2015. She is also the deputy director of Dandelion Kenya, a Swedish-Kenyan non-profit grassroots organisation based in Nakuru

Click here to Watch Catherine podcast delivered during UNGA69

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