Misozi: Advocating for Youth in Zambia
Misozi, left, teaches computer skills to a member of the Children's Committee in Kafue, Lusaka, Zambia.
Misozi clarifies a point on early marriage for ministers and traditional leaders.
At the House of Chiefs, Misozi spoke out about laws affecting the situation of young people.
I am Misozi, age 23, the firstborn in a family with four children; I have two sisters and a brother. My father is deceased, but my mother, siblings and I live in the Kafue district, in Zambia’s capital, Lusaka.
When I was involved with ChildFund’s program during my school years, I was the president of the Children’s Committee, a board that is made up of children who represent other children from various communities. I was also the spokes-child for the Global Movement of Children, which is a worldwide movement that works at making the world fit for children. I was also the secretary for the Kafue District Youth Fund.
During this period, I had been involved in a number of advocacy issues where we as youths talked to our community leaders, including parents, community members, church leaders, teachers, the police, the councilors and other policy- and lawmakers.
At the community level, we were able to advocate on a number of issues that included children’s rights, the mushrooming of beer-drinking places, the regulation of opening times for bars, enforcement of the law prohibiting underage patronage of these places, protecting children against early marriages and pregnancies, negative cultural and traditional practices and the lack of recreational facilities available to children.
From there, we were able to create partnerships with the community leaders and went forth to the district level where we engaged with the district commissioner and the council. Later on, these people, with aid from ChildFund Zambia and Kafue Child Development Agency staff, connected us with provincial leaders, and we were able to discuss issues at the national level. We had discussions with the ministers and traditional leaders at the House of Chiefs. Because these people are the law and policy makers, we advocated for laws that addressed the plight of the young people.
We achieved many things we are proud of today as a youth movement of Kafue: Our communities are more aware of children’s rights; young people are more informed about the problems that affect them and how to deal with them; medical user fees were eliminated; some beer-drinking places have changed their hours of operation; young people are more confident and knowledgeable about issues that concern them; and more young people are able to make informed decisions.
In 2008, I was chosen to represent Zambia at the 17th International AIDS Conference in Mexico, where I presented on “Meaningful Participation of Young People in the Fight Against HIV and AIDS.” I talked about some of the challenges that youth are facing in our country and what we are doing to combat them, how we network with the government and other stakeholders, and what am I doing as an individual. Upon my return from Mexico, I had an opportunity to share information and experiences gained with my fellow youths in the communities of Kafue.
Due to the experience that I had acquired in working with young people, I was hired as a research assistant for UNAIDS’ Regional Psychosocial Support Initiative (REPSSI), in which we researched the psychosocial well-being of children in a number of communities in our district for a period of three and a half years. The contract has since expired.
And now, I am doing volunteer work with Kafue Child Development Agency, an affiliate of ChildFund Zambia, where I am a child and youth mentor and mobilizer. I also do follow-ups with the children and youth on the advocacy issues we have worked on to see how they are being looked into by the responsible authorities.