Her Voice Matters!

Harriet Kamashanyu
Posted October 11, 2020 from Uganda
Heir Ritah - a girl leader Rhythm of Life & Heirs To Our Oceans
Ritah - as a panelist on one of the Webinars amplifying her voice for climate change.

On this International Day of the Girl (11 October), we join UN Women to celebrate girls everywhere as they inspire, break boundaries and take charge of their own future.

In 1995, before the girls of today were even born, the fourth World Conference on Women made history for the women’s rights agenda with the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action was adopted, the most visionary blueprint for the empowerment of women and girls.

For this year’s International Day of the Girl, we’re coming together under the theme “My Voice: Our equal future,” to celebrate all of the achievements by, with and for girls since the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and the passage of the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1990.

But many of the commitments made to girls are left unfulfilled. Each year, 12 million girls under 18 are married; 130 million girls worldwide are still out of school; and approximately 15 million adolescent girls aged 15-19 have experienced forced sex.

The more than 1.1 billion girls in the world have had enough. This year on International Day of the Girl, we’re sharing the stories of girls around the world that are calling to uphold the commitments made nearly 25 years ago, and create a better future for all. In the years following, women pressed this agenda forward, leading global movements on issues ranging from sexual and reproductive health rights to equal pay.

Today, these movements have expanded. They are being organized by and for adolescent girls – girls from all walks of life who are boldly demanding action against discrimination, violence and poor learning opportunities. 

“My voice is my strongest weapon as a girl advocate, I want to effectively use it to create social change in influencing a new world for my fellow girls in Uganda.”    Latifah Nansubuga, 18, Uganda 

This year, under the theme, “My voice, our equal future”, let’s seize the opportunity to reimagine a better world inspired by adolescent girls – energized and recognized, counted and invested in.

As adolescent girls worldwide assert their power as change-makers, International Day of the Girl 2020 will focus on their demands to: Live free from gender-based violence, harmful practices, and HIV and AIDS, learn new skills towards the futures they choose  and lead as a generation of activists accelerating social change.  We want to continue celebrating the amplified voices of girls not only in Uganda but worldwide that have stepped up to voice against all kinds of injustices they and their communities face.

This year, Ugandan girl leaders from Rhythm of Life, a local organisation were part of an amazing SEAL (Summit for Empowerment Action and Leadership) that was an International virtual program aimed at climate change advocacy. This was organised by Rhythm of Life Uganda in partnership with Heirs To Our Oceans (H200) - a rising tide of young leaders around the globe who are taking the ocean crises into their own hands, educating themselves and others, bringing hope and solutions to the surface, and creating waves of change that will ensure the health of our blue planet for their generation and for future generations. From a group of over 47 participants from all over the world, we had five (5) girl participants in the program.

The climate change and environmental crisis is something that the current generation is going to feel the impact throughout their entire lives. From food security to plastic pollution and having clean water, this generation will face a different world. Heirs To Our Oceans (H200) prepares young people for success and leadership in a changing and challenging future. With a mission of empowering youth to become experts, activists, and leaders who will drive environmental and social change necessary to create a more prosperous and equitable future. The Vision is that today’s youth and future generations live on a planet with thriving oceans and more equal opportunities for all.

“We are the next generation of fearless and compassionate youth leaders who will ensure a healthy natural environment for everyone”.

Embarking on this six weeks program- H2OO SEAL, participants were able to learn about human impacts on our oceans and waters, and they develop problem solving, critical thinking and public speaking skills while connecting with youth from around the world and from all demographics. Each participant was able to work on a short film on a topic that was close to the needs assessment of the communities they live in. Our girls geared up into the relationship between climate change and teenage pregnancies, plastic pollution, benefits of green -house farming, urban farming especially for the urban dwellers among others. Just witnessing the enthusiasm in doing this, and appreciation of their efforts towards contributing towards climate change advocacy was immerse. We had a country-wide general assessment in areas of Bundibugyo, Masuulita, Busabaala, Kisugu, Namuwongo, Soweto etc. It is clear it is our moment as girls and we ought to use all the opportunities to cause a positive change towards our environments. We are no longer leaders of tomorrow as the common saying, but also leaders of TODAY!

As a movement of young climate change advocates, we e are educating ourselves and others, buoying hope, floating solutions, and creating waves of change that will ensure the health of our blue planet. We are the next generation of fearless and compassionate youth leaders who will ensure a healthy natural environment for everyone.

We are unstoppable, because we have to be.

Together we spread awareness, accountability, and action among youth and adults worldwide.

Together, we protect the waters of our blue planet—our rivers, lakes, streams, groundwater, drinking water, and oceans—because all water on Earth is connected, and all youth should be learning about it and how to protect it. We have started a global movement to save our oceans and waterways—for ourselves and for future generations. Even through this Covid-19 era, voices of young people have remained amplified for instance follow through this timely Webinar.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-3bhbiiWCxg&feature=youtu.be

It is not enough to simply be a girl – but a girl with a voice that is amplified enough to cause positive change that will live longer that you. Our generation that will inherit this planet after today’s decision makers are done with it will need ingenuity and initiative to heal and protect it, and we need to do it together. 

H2OO SEAL participants, are able learn from each other as well as from experts in the field. Heirs from previous H2OO SEAL experiences step into leadership roles to guide and inspire new Heirs and empower new leaders. The world we will inherit needs leaders who value more than status and profit.

We, as the next generation, can rise up together to become better decision makers for each other and for the health of our planet. 

This story was submitted in response to My Voice, Our Equal Future.

Comments 5

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Harriet Kamashanyu
Oct 11, 2020
Oct 11, 2020

Let us give an opportunity to our girls to be HEARD!

Tamarack Verrall
Oct 11, 2020
Oct 11, 2020

Dear Harriet,
So true that promises made so long ago have been nothing but false promises. How hopeful to read about the strong voices of girls emerging to create the changes that today's governments have intentionally ignored. Freedom for girls and the perspective of girls is essential, and so closely connected to the protection of our Earth. I join you in committing to raise the voices of girls everywhere.

Nini Mappo
Oct 12, 2020
Oct 12, 2020

Hello Harriet,
It's great to see the opportunities created by H2OO SEAL for girls to be heard. I hope that when they are heard, that will translate to action. But even so, it is wonderful when they know they can contribute and infuse life into their world. Good on you for sharing. Indeed, more voice to the girls, the leaders of tomorrow.

Beth Lacey
Oct 12, 2020
Oct 12, 2020

H200 SEAL is a strong initiative

Karen Quiñones-Axalan
Oct 26, 2020
Oct 26, 2020

Hello, Harriet,

Those are huge numbers of girls being left behind by development, left out of school, and even forced sex. Enough is enough indeed. Kudos to the Rhythm of Life Uganda and Heirs To Our Oceans (H200) for organizing this six weeks program. We need more like this to be spread like a wildfire.

Please update us soon! And yes, please stay unstoppable! Thank you for sharing this with us.