By Kelly Petersen and Lee-Anne Jenkins
It was a summer to remember for Kelly Petersen and Lee-Anne Jenkins, two young leaders and co-founders of BRAVE, an EMpower grantee partner in South Africa. In late June/early July they attended the 10th Africa Conference on Sexual Health and Rights in Sierra Leone. This was the first time that Kelly and Lee-Anne had travelled by themselves and their first time attending a major international conference.
They joined 900 delegates from 41 different countries at the six-day conference, which included a Girls Summit and a Youth Pre-Conference—where young people explored changing the narrative around sexual and reproductive health and rights.
One of the topics that stood out for the delegates was the violence of child marriage and female genital mutilation. These are some of the most serious human rights violations and hearing first-hand from other young women and girls illustrated how you can take back power by speaking up and breaking the silence.
The Girl Summit was a one-day event that provided a safe space to 50 young girl activists from all over Africa—with diverse backgrounds—to learn, strategise, inspire, and celebrate their achievements.
At the end of the Summit, the girl leaders created a rousing manifesto: “We have shared space, shared stories, we have learnt from each other and from the women who walk with us. We have felt our shared power in this space. We have learnt that our struggles are the same struggles, even within our differences.”
Kelly and Lee-Anne were reminded of the importance of investing in young people because they are the future of tomorrow. They were inspired to keep doing what they do at BRAVE.
“Young people are problem solvers because they believe that the impossible is possible.”
The conference provided a unique opportunity to learn from other young people facing both similar and different challenges and to come up with solutions that would work in their own specific contexts. The girls found the inspiration and energy to continue this work.
“It is affirming to realise that BRAVE is already doing the work, we just need to build on it through continued education, increased advocacy actions, and deepening our understanding of the systemic issues,” said Kelly.
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