Totaling 300 young changemakers, the class includes 117 individuals 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. This class represents a deep commitment to adolescents and marginalized groups, with nearly a third of the total number of Young Leaders identifying as LGBTQIA+ and 20%belonging to a religious or ethnic minority group in their country.
The collective message of the Women Deliver Young Leaders from Africa is that, in the face of COVID-19 and other crises impacting women differently and often more severely than men, it is urgent and essential to mainstream gender in society´s response, and this, in turn, requires dedicated and informed leadership — particularly among groups that have been traditionally excluded.
“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 — one that brings women and youth from the margins to the center of planning and action,” said Vivian Onano, a Women Deliver Board Member and alumnus of the Young Leaders Program. “The Women Deliver Young Leaders Program is an excellent example of how we must cultivate dedicated leaders who are capable of bringing about this shift.
The 117 Young Leaders from Africa focus on issues that range from sexual health to child trafficking in conflict zones. Among them are:
- Olorunisola (Sola) 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 in human rights, HIV/AIDS, and gender equality issues with communities of faith, grassroots, and pastoral settings. With her in-person efforts postponed or cancelled due to COVID-19, she recently helped lead 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 — 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.
- Divina Stella Maloum, a 15-year-old Cameroonian student who leads children’s peace movements and advocates against child trafficking and exploitation in conflict zones. Since the pandemic, she’s joined the African Youth Resilience Initiative Against COVID-19 to help mobilize children, youth, women, and civil society against the pandemic.
- Yidnekachew Mogessie, a 24-year-old Ethiopian doctor advocating for gender equality and youth-friendly reproductive health services. Since the COVID-19 outbreak, he’s been a volunteer advisor for the Ministry of Health’s Adolescent and Youth Health Technical Working Group — helping to mitigate the negative effects of the pandemic on girls and women.
This was the program’s most competitive application process yet, with more than 5,600 applications from 167 countries for 300 spots — nearly double the applications received in the previous round.
Women Deliver selected all the Young Leaders for their potential to have a lasting impact on the lives of girls and women. As a group, they have already driven tangible progress on a wide range of issues, including sexual and reproductive health and rights, maternal health, HIV/AIDS, LGBTQIA+ rights, peace and security, water and sanitation, gender-based violence, education, climate and environment, political participation, and youth engagement.
As in past years, the 2020 class will receive training and resources that extend their influence and enhance their capacity to shape programs and policies on the health and rights of girls, women, and young people. Since 2010, Women Deliver’s Young Leaders Program has trained and supported 700 advocates, who are tackling the challenges that girls, women, and young people face in their communities and countries.