Cross-posted from UN Women
Mtisunge Kachingwe is a 23-year-old young woman from Malawi working as a doctor at the Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital.
I work for the YWCA of Malawi and in one of our Branches, a 12-year-old girl, called Chikumbutso approached the counsellors late one afternoon to share her predicament. Her mother was forcing her to get married to an 18-year-old boy. The counsellor involved other members of the community and together they were able to talk to the mother and helped this girl not to get married and not be a victim of early and forced marriage.
Thanks to the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, women, young women and girls, are better informed and able to react to and confront discrimination. Organizations and community groups are more organized and can lobby their governments and demand change when laws and practices put their lives and welfare at risk. The Beijing Platform has been around for almost 20 years and continues to inform political social and economic development in all UN Member States.
Although the Platform was developed when I was only four years old, it came at a time just like today when the world was experiencing profound political, economic, social and cultural changes, and when the promise of women and girls’ equality had fallen far short of expectations.
Though challenges still exist, I bear witness to the successes of this agenda for women, young women and girls in my country. I have seen girls having access to free primary education. I have seen young women have access to vocational training to learn the skill of baking. I have seen the joy and elation of a woman after opening her first bank account having been economically empowered to start her own business. I have seen a girl stand up and refuse to continue being a victim of gender-based violence and I have seen a woman grow into a leader in her community.
Twenty years down the line, the Beijing Platform for Action continues to be relevant. It continues to be a strong agenda for women’s equality. It allows girls like Chikumbutso and others all around the world to affirm their rights and speak out when they are infringed upon.
Today women and girls continue to be left out and left behind in all areas of development. It is for you and I to advocate further for Governments to recommit to the Beijing Platform for Action and intensify efforts to empower women and girls.