The 2020 Teenage Girls Champions/Trailblazers

2020 has been a year that mean a lot of different things to different people. A lot has taken place and the uncertainty about what tomorrow looks like still continues. African girls and young women have been highly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, however, some of them have utilized the pandemic season and made the most in advocating for girls’ rights. In 2020, FEMNET continued to create spaces that enhance the agency and power of teenage African girls as powerful influencers of change that Africa needs. Although interaction was only limited to virtual, the power of African teenage in these platforms and social media cannot be ignored.  From the Republic of Madagascar to Algeria to Liberia to Angola, teenage girls continue to stand and speak out for a fair, just, safe and peaceful world.  As the year 2021 begins, FEMNET would like to celebrate and share with you 20 African teenage girls and young women who boldly spoke truth to power in different platforms in 2020. We hope they will inspire you to continue working towards ensuring that the African we want safe for African women and girls to thrive.

Michelle Gwaikolo- Liberia

I am is a 17-year-old girl from Monrovia, Liberia. I describe myself as “an optimist, who always tries to see the best out of a anything”. During the COVID-19 pandemic together with my two friends; Kate Faraj and Kormassa Vankpannah we established the “Girls Ending COVID-19” campaign that seeks to enlighten her community about the coronavirus pandemic two days per week. In addition, I am involved in advocating for girls’ rights in Liberia particularly against Sexual and Gender Based Violence with fellow teenage activists and feminists in Liberia and in shaping and designing the She Leads program that kicks off in January 2021. “I want to see adolescent girls wear what they want without the fear. I want to see girls go where they want without fearing of being assaulted. I want to see a world where girls have freedom. We all need freedom.” My dream is become a surgeon in Liberia.

Liz Lum- Cameroon

I am a 17-year-old girl and Gender Equality advocate from Cameroon. I have been advocating for the rights of girls, especially adolescent girls, since 2016.  I believe that girls have waited too long to live in a world where gender equality is a reality. Over the years, I have worked with different organizations and young people to make gender equality a reality.  Currently, I am a young board member and youth leader at COMAGEND (Common Action for Gender Development) Cameroon, and adolescent girl advisor at Global Fund for Women USA, a GAVI (Girls Against Violence Initiative) ambassador for Cameroon and I was recently announced as a Women Deliver Young Leader 2020. I am also part of some adolescent feminist movements like the Mifali Organizing, all aimed at creating safe spaces for the voices of girls and also to promote servant leadership amongst adolescents. I am a mentor in various girl clubs where she inspires her peers to lead change as well as do various acts of charity.

I desire to see a society where there is Gender Equality, social justice and no discrimination on the basis of gender. She wants a world where girls are meaningfully participating in leadership, policy and decision-making processes, as well as making decisions. A world where girls are educated especially on sexual and reproductive health issues so they are able to make informed decisions. I am skilled in Graphics designing, content creation.

Tharwa Boulifi- Tunisia

I am an 18-year-oldfeminist girl from Ariana, Tunisia. My country is considered prominent regarding women’s rights, in the Arab world, and the African continent as well. Being raised by a feminist mother who’s my main female role model, I learned about equality and the feminist movement at a very young age. I’ve always been feminist, even before knowing the word and its meaning. I also love writing. So, I decided to combine my love for writing and the values which I support. That’s why I started writing mainly about feminist issues, underrepresented, marginalized women. One of my female role models is Dr. Nawel Saadaoui who’s a fierce Egyptian feminist and a practicing physician. I’ve always looked up to her because I feel so close with this woman with whom I share the same cultural and ethnic background.

I started writing at the age of 8 and publishing at the age of 15. I’ve been featured in more than 10 publications, in four different languages. Most of my writing is axed around women’s issues, especially in my country Tunisia. My main goal in writing is to influence people’s mentality and their perspective about women and girls. Being an introvert, writing is a way of expressing myself and interacting with the world.  I love the whole writing process; the inspiration I get and the passion I put in my words, to convey my feelings and emotions.

I want teenage girls to accept their bodies, to embrace their flaws and to liberate themselves from the constant pressure that the media is putting on them. I want them to know that they’re beautiful just the way they are, that they don’t need to be “perfect” to please boys, that their value is not limited to their looks, that they can be smart and achieve their dreams. I want girls living in rural areas and other less privileged backgrounds to have the same opportunities with girls from wealthy families. Girls need encouragement, positive representation in media and equal treatment and opportunities. I want teenage girls to look at boys, not as their superiors, but as their partners in building a more equal world.

Stella Njoki- Kenya

I’m talented poet. I have participated in the Kenya national music festival and emerged position two out of 18 participants. I love to talk to girls living with disability about self-acceptance and self-worth. I am differently abled, with a condition known as cerebral palsy. Living with disability in Kenya is a challenge, however the greatest task was to accept myself, rise above stigma and believe that I am the best. I appreciate my mother’s investment towards my therapy which has shaped my life positively. In addition, I am privileged to have been accorded great life values. I feel persuaded to create awareness and empower everyone around me with a message that “our challenges don’t define us, rather they give us motivation to strive on”.

Mariam Aldianabangou – Mali

I am a 17-year-old teenage girl born in Koulikoro in Mali. I am currently in my first year of computer science management in Bamako. My dream is to pursue further studies in the field of geology and become an engineer working in the mine industry.  I was elected the president of the regional children’s parliament of Koulouri in 2015-2019 for two terms.  I addition, during the National session of the children’s parliament I was the president of the Child Survival Parliamentary group of the National office.

I believe that the future belongs to children. Mali has many children, but many are not going to school because of conflict. This is my motivation to fight for their rights and ensure that all children affected by conflict go back to school, enjoy their rights and are free from any violations.

I’m bold, outspoken and I stand up for what I believe. I want to see girls and young women being more empowered in Africa. I constantly dream of the day when there will be no more patriarchy and discriminative gender roles that affect both girls and young women in all African communities. I run an online feminist group to connect and chat about diverse issues. I talk about feminism a lot in different spaces. I want to see liberated girls and young women who are not conformed to any oppressive social gender norms and stereotypes but rather have the power own informed choices. I love public speaking and writing.

Chancelline Mevowanou- Benin

I am a young feminist from Benin. What makes me incredible is my determination to advance the rights of girls. I never keep silent in the face of injustices inflicted on girls. I am a blogger, communicator and moderator of the Girls Out Loud project in Benin.  In my village (Avrankou) where I grew up, it was common to learn that a 14, 15- or 16-year-old girl became pregnant at an early age before she even got to the ninth grade. Some of these girls dropped out of school. Others were forced to start a family because they were pushed out of the house to marry the perpetrator of the pregnancy.

I always tell girls their voices count; we must say NO to sexism and all other forms of violence. I use my blog to raise awareness and advocate for girls’ rights. Soon I will be initiating Dreams Talks to connect girls and female role models.

I want to become a policy maker in order to contribute on a larger scale to build an egalitarian world in which all people are fulfilled and realize their dreams.

Yolanda Kwadey- Ghana

I have achieved so much in sports, in school, in debate and public speaking, and in being vocal about women’s issues. My biggest dream is to become the first female president, and to help make women’s lives better. I envision a world with increased access to menstrual hygiene products and re-education on what it means to be female. I am affiliated with Women in Debate in the University of Ghana Debate Society where we convene discussions on issues concerning girls, outreaches and activism.  I also FirstLove Foundation – a charity organization; because I have several awards from creative writing.  I love dancing/Choreography, singing/Rap, cricket, football, debating & public speaking, creative writing, Scrabble, introductory economics and linguistics.

Agness Lungu- Zambia

I’m bold, outspoken and I stand up for what I believe. I want to see girls and young women being more empowered in Africa. I constantly dream of the day when there will be no more patriarchy and discriminative gender roles that affect both girls and young women in all African communities. I run an online feminist group to connect and chat about diverse issues. I talk about feminism a lot in different spaces. I want to see liberated girls and young women who are not conformed to any oppressive social gender norms and stereotypes but rather have the power own informed choices. I love public speaking and writing.

Doricas Kigonga- Tanzania

I am a hardworking person, and very devoted when it comes to protecting rights and helping other girls get justice and contributing towards ensuring the community is a better place. In 2020, I wrote two poems that were published by FEMNET. In future, I want to set up an organization and help others hence make positive change in my community. I desire to see girls; getting equal rights, better education, achieve their dreams without limitations, participating in activities of their choice, make decisions concerning the goals they want to achieve and living free from domestic violence.

Yande Banda- Zambia

I am the chairperson of the children’s news agency under the media network of child rights and development, an organization in Zambia that works to ensure that children’s rights are realized. I am also an adolescent girl’s advisory council member for the Global Fund for women, an organization based in the United States of America that works for girls’ rights issues. I am also a transform education champion for the united nations girl’s education initiative that works to empower young people to use their voices to champion education. I am girl’s rights activist from Lusaka Zambia, a country in the sub-Saharan part of Africa and I have been using my voice to effect change and this is what makes me amazing, the fact that I refuse to remain silent in injustice and will continue to fight for change.

My dream is to live in a world where girls are represented in boardrooms and not just bedrooms, where there worth is not dwindled down to whether they can dress or cook well and a world where the health and the education of young girls and women is prioritized and that their voices are heard and action is taken.

I want to see a system change. I need to see that girls’ voices are being heard and that the action is being taken. I want to see a world where girls health, education and their wellbeing is made a priority. All I want to see for girls is a world where they are considered human above all things and that their potential in all their ways and forms is realized.

Raissa Ravaka Randrianarijona- Madagascar

I am a law student and very passionate about my field of study. I am outraged after realizing that I am literally in a society that disadvantages women and girls simply because they are “women/girls”. I understand what feminists are calling for, because I too live in a patriarchal society. My biggest dream is to be in a place where I am helping women and girls to fully enjoy their human rights. Besides my studies, I love teaching underprivileged children around me. I wish teenage girls didn’t have to think that studies are only for men anymore. I would like every teenage girl to be aware of their place in the future of their country and to have endless goals to show that everyone is capable.

Mariam Hannachi- Tunisia

I am a 17-year-old girl from Tunisia. I am a high-schooler preparing myself for mathematics 3rd grade for the year 2020/2021. I am an assertive and powerful woman, who is clear and direct about what she needs, without waffling or second-guessing herself.

I speak 4 languages and currently learning the fifth. I’m a voracious reader and an avid WRITER. It may explain why I got the first national prize in writing 3 consecutive times. I am currently busy writing my first book in my native language Arabic.

My biggest achievement is being awarded the YES PROGRAM scholarship for 20/21 in the United States of America. Sadly, the COVID-19 pandemic cancelled everything. But it didn’t cancel my dreams and my hopes. It gave me more enthusiasm to get out of my comfort zone and never fear or give up when I see no light at the end of a dark tunnel. I will continue to raise my voice high and express my feminist thoughts.

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