In claiming lives and wreaking economic havoc throughout Africa, COVID-19 is placing an especially heavy burden on girls and women, primarily because their prominent role as caregivers (both in the workforce and at home) puts them on the frontlines of the pandemic response.
It is also so because they are more vulnerable to income and job loss as well as to domestic violence. This is the fraught setting in which Women Deliver, a global advocate for gender equality and the health and rights of girls and women — announced its 2020 class of Young Leaders comprising 117 beneficiaries with 22 from Nigeria.
According to the organisation’s Senior Communications Associate, Sumit Galhotra, the individuals are drawn from 26 African countries who are committed to advancing gender equality, with a focus on economic empowerment, political participation, education, climate, gender-based violence, and other issues.
The Women Deliver leadership programme started in 2010 to connect passionate young advocates with the platforms, people, and resources to amplify their influence on a larger scale. It has reached 1,000 young advocates from 148 countries.
President/CEO of Women Deliver, Katja Iversen, said, “As we witness young people responding to both new crises and old injustices, it’s clear their leadership is fundamental to meaningful change. The Programme is to partner with young people, elevate their leadership, skills amplify their voices, and share knowledge and resources during this unprecedented time and beyond.”
In her remarks, Vivian Onano, a Women Deliver Board Member and alumnus of the Young Leaders Programme said, “In Africa, the uneven damage caused by the COVID-19 pandemic to society and the economy demonstrates more dramatically than ever the need for a new approach to the continent´s growth and development.
“The Women Deliver Young Leaders Programme is an excellent example of how we must cultivate dedicated leaders who are capable of bringing about this shift,” she said.
The 117 Young Leaders from Africa focus on issues that range from sexual health to child trafficking in conflict zones.
Among the participants was Olorunisola Rebecca Abe, a 28-year-old Nigerian journalist who reports on influential women that inspire change and speaks to young girls about menstrual hygiene and management. With schools closed due to COVID-19, Abe has turned to her online social media platforms to share important stories and resources.
Liz Guantai, a 28-year-old Kenyan lawyer who trains and promotes participation and justice now leads an online campaign around Menstrual Health Day — with joint multi-stakeholder efforts leading to a new Kenyan policy to address menstrual health challenges.
Joseph (Ekow) Amoako-Atta, a 22-year-old gender advocate from Ghana, who was inspired by his mother’s entrepreneurship, wrote a novel and distributed it to young girls in rural communities. Since COVID-19, most of his advocacy efforts have moved online.