Leah Chipepa reports from UNCSW - Day 3
Leah is an Zambian MU member and part of our 2018 delegation to UNCSW. Leah has extensive experience working as a women’s rights advocate and campaigner in Africa and internationally. Here she reports on her third day at UNCSW
On this 3rd day of CSW62, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that Africa has launched a Pan African “#MeToo campaign” to end abuse, sexual exploitation and domestic trafficking of girl children through forced/underage/child marriage. Such marriages increase the chances of cervical cancer, maternal mortality, mental health conditions, STDs/HIV, violence related injuries, to mention a few. I am in total agreement with the call that all of us must make it our business to join the campaign. The inclusion of traditional leaders in country initiatives to educate communities on the vice of child marriages received kudos from a lot of people because these leaders are custodians of societal norms which are often perceived to perpetuate negative cultural practices.
The continuing talk on educating communities here at UNCSW, makes me think of the role that Mothers’ Union can play in creating awareness on child marriages and their impact. I believe that we can conduct activities at different levels to include; global advocacy, intergenerational dialogues, community-based advocacy as well as promoting positive male masculinities.
I found time to attend a Eucharist service at noon at the Anglican Communion Offices in New York. This was absolutely uplifting, and it gave me a renewed vigour to cope with the rest of day - the setup of events here is such that they are not all located in one building therefore you have to do lots of walking! You can imagine how challenging this is for me who is from Zambia, walking around in wet snow - I must say I was stone cold most of the day, but I guess so was everyone else including the New Yorkers!
I attended several different sessions throughout the day and it struck me how young women were emphatic about their right to seat at the table, so they can participate in discussions and decisions on challenges they face and how they can take advantage of opportunities. Young people want to lead and tell their story. They want to come up with their own solutions because they believe “who feels it knows,” as sang by Bob Marley, the late Jamaican singer. I could not agree more with this line of thinking. I believe that young people should be given the space to express themselves because they deserve to be heard and listened to. This emphasizes the point of intergenerational dialogue not only at CSW but in churches, communities and homes to promote the exchange of ideas, values and to preserve families.
My day ended with a session I attended that emphasized the importance of knowledge. There is need to empower women and girls with knowledge to enable them to claim their rights. A lot of legislation and policies exist on the rights of women and girls living in rural areas, however, lack of awareness on their existence means that women and girls are unable to utilize the information to demand the realization of rights.