Organizing is a long-term, often slow process requiring lots of patience. So when an event happens that feels like a giant leap forward for a small part of womankind—it’s very exciting. It also affirms the big payoff of sustained investment in dialogue, reflection, training, and group building. That’s how we at JASS feel about the launch of a new young women’s organization—Generation Alive!—that has emerged from our work there.
In a series of analytical, problem-solving, and skill-building exercises facilitated by JASS over the past two years, these women have travelled a sharp upward trajectory. They are discovering the power of their own voice and activist potential, and the even greater potential power they have by working collectively.
Together with women of other generations, Generation Alive! will work to open up spaces and opportunities for women to play a significant role in the country’s social and political life. Their challenge begins right in their own backyard, so to speak, because in an unusual twist, many of Zambia’s women’s organizations are currently headed by men! Investing in women’s activist leadership is an urgent task.
Activism and leadership are “not just about doing something [and then standing still] but about being able to start something and let others take it up.” ~ Codillia Phiri
Generation Alive! has identified some of the key issues affecting young women in their country, including:
- “Zambian women often have low self-esteem and an under-developed sense of self.” Thus, when they are victims of domestic violence they don’t feel empowered to protest the abuse;
- A lack of youth leadership role models, especially among movement-builders and activists and limited resources for young women’s organizing (making JASS’ investment that much more strategic);
A tendency for others to make decisions on behalf of young people, instead of giving them a space to gather information, develop their own analysis, voice their opinions, and actively practice decision-making;
- Inadequate access to sexual and reproductive health information and services, cultural beliefs, and other factors leading to high rates of teenage pregnancy, unprotected sex, unsafe abortions, and HIV/AIDS
The group decided that the best way to affect positive change for young women in their communities was by finding ways to get them into leadership roles and increase their participation in decision-making.
This will involve a long-term process of creating new kinds of leaders through mentorship, awareness-raising campaigns and political education in collaboration with women of all generations. They are now working with JASS to define next steps and determine how JASS will accompany and support their progress.
Codillia Phiri, a member of the group, hinted at the transformation that is already taking place. Commenting on what she had learned about activism and leadership, she said its “not just about doing something [and then standing still] but about being able to start something and let others take it up.”