Last month in Davos, at a World Economic Forum (WEF) special event on Millennium Development Goals, President Kagame said: “Investing in girls’ empowerment calls for increased investment in the good health of the girl child as we do for the boys, so that they all grow into balanced human beings with equal opportunities to realise their life aspirations.”
This statement highlights that for girls to thrive and contribute to the development of our countries, we as girls should be taken as priority.
I am a 19-year-old orphan who finished high school at Agahozo Shalom Youth Village School last year and I have now set my eyes on going on to university to pursue my degree.
Recently, I (inset) participated in the African Union Summit as one of the ‘Gender is My Agenda’ meeting panelists. The event provided a platform for civil organisations to join forces and promote opportunities for girls in Africa.
During this meeting, we learned that in some parts of the continent, women produce 60-80% of agricultural output, but only own 1% of the land.
There are good programmes and policies trying to tackle this issue, but we need to see more action on legislation to ensure girls and women can own and control the land they work.
In 2015, the Millennium Development Goals will end. The world is now charting the next development agenda. In April 2013, the United Nations My World survey was distributed throughout Rwanda and gathered in-and out-of-school youths’ perspectives on priorities for the next set of development goals. Of the 70,000 surveys distributed throughout Rwanda, 30,000 responses were received, of which 55% were by girls.
The top three priorities identified by the youth to include in the post-2015 development agenda were a good education, better healthcare, and better job opportunities.
Girls particularly called for the need to address issues of violence. The results of the survey are one of many ways that girls’ voices are being heard by the decision-makers for the next development agenda.
As an African girl, I believe it is important that girls are put at the forefront of the post-2015 development agenda. Today, I’m using my voice as an African girl, to be able to speak for those who do not have a chance.
We, African young women and girls have dreams, but we also face challenges in achieving our goals. For example, we still face the challenge of accessing health services because of limited availability, lack of education around sexual health, and the fact that sex is a taboo subject.
We, as young women, have problems with access to land and limited economic opportunities, which we think limits our level of independence, especially those of us who live in rural areas.
And even though we do have access to education, many of us drop out of school due to unwanted pregnancies and the social and economic challenges that come along with them.
We, African girls, are looking for opportunities instead of barriers. We need to maximise our potential, but we don’t think we can do it alone. We need mentors and leaders who really understand our needs and who understand gender equality and the importance of implementing policies that will help us realise our dreams.
Rwanda is doing amazing work for girls so far, and our leadership is committed to this. We call on leaders and communities at every level to support investing in girls so that we are better equipped to fulfill our potential.