Stories and podcasts Spotlight Feature Spotlight Feature: Tikhala Itaye Name: Tikhala Itaye Age: 27 Country and Location: Malawi, Lilongwe Area of Interest: Health and Human Rights Twitter Handle/Social Media: Twitter: @MissTikhala Facebook: Tikhala Itaye Website http://herlibertyna.blogspot.co.uk/ http://youthleadglobal.org/afriyan/ Organisation/Affiliations Her Liberty- I am currently the Co-Founder of Her liberty, a non-governmental youth-led organisation that mentors and empowers socially disadvantaged young women and girls. AfriYAN- I am currently the President of the African Youth and Adolescent Network on Population and Development in East and Southern Region, which is affiliated with the United Nations Population Fund and Southern African AIDS Trust. Adolescent and Youth Constituency under the Partnership of Maternal, Newborn and Child Health (PMNCH)- I am currently a board member under the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health. Tell us a little about yourself. I am a young, dynamic woman, aged 27. I was born in Malawi but have resided in South Africa, Zimbabwe, and Namibia – which oftentimes confuses people as to where I’m from. I am a lawyer by profession, and a global youth health advocate who is passionate about social justice and development, and I am particularly committed to the continuum of care for the health of women, children, and adolescents. I am a vibrant youth leader whose voice seeks out to advance and advocate for the needs of young people at regional, national and global-level dialogues as a co-founder Her Liberty, a youth-led organisation that demands accountability for the needs of socially-disadvantaged young women and girls. Under my leadership as President of the African Youth and Adolescent Network (AfriYAN), I co-ordinate 21 youth country networks that embody different youth-led organisations. I’m the Chairperson of a national campaign in Malawi called “Timvereni”, which means “Hear Us”, which seeks to facilitate dialogue between the Youth and Leaders on achieving the SDGs, African Youth Charter and Agenda2063. I’m also a member of the African Regional Think Tank Committee on Social Justice and a board member of the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health (PMNCH). I’ve produced a TV drama series about HIV and gender-based violence entitled “Don’t Kiss and Tell,” which aims to positively change behaviour patterns and attitudes in relation to romantic and sexual behaviors of young people. Furthermore, I have been the Country Director in Malawi for the Global Fund under the Key Population (KP REACH) regional programme. Despite losing both my parents at a young age, I have never let hardship keep me from achieving what I long to achieve. I have grown up seeking to make a positive difference in the lives of others and have found it incredibly fulfilling to know that I am being part of the change that I want to see in the world. There are so many problems globally in terms of human wellbeing and opportunity, and I cannot just sit and watch when I know that we all have the ability to transform our respective society and communities. What moves me each and every day is to be someone that “speaks for the voiceless…and...pleads the cause of the poor and needy.” (Proverbs 31:9 in the Bible) What is your area of work? My area of work focuses on youth developmental work and human rights. I represent youth rights and needs on different national, regional and international platforms and have a keen interest in media, which had led me to produce a TV series in 2015. My work involves coming up with programms, advocacy campaigns and strategies to tackle the social and economic ills facing young people, particularly in terms of health. My work also has a core component in advancing the needs of girls and young women. I recently partnered with a TV station in Malawi, to host a Youth TV talk show called “21st Generation” that serves as an instrument for young people aged between 10-35 years of age to discuss issues such as health, unemployment, education, governance, poverty and leadership as an accountability mechanism to the policies and commitments the various lined ministries have developed for the young people. What issues do you consider to be the most prevalent to women and young people in your country? There are 5 key areas I consider to be important and most prevalent to women and young people in Malawi, they are: Health Education Employment Protection Participation. Looking at issues such as high fertility rates, teenage pregnancy, child marriage, and gender-based violence; it is disproportionately girls and women who are mostly affected by this. Lack of youth-friendly health services and quality comprehensive sexuality education has been a profound challenge to reduce the HIV/AIDS prevalence rate among young people and secure their bodily autonomy. Beyond the health spectrum, young people face educational inequalities and lack of opportunity for skills development that would otherwise prepare them for the labour market. Meaningful participation of young people in policy development and implementation would most likely curb the issues at hand, but young people are still seldom consulted on issues. Existing consultation practices usually skew towards tokenism in terms of youth engagement, and young people are usually not involved as key implementing partners beyond the consultative process. What programmes are currently operational in your country and do you think they are working? There are a lot of programmes being led by several civil society organisations and government ministries in Malawi, such as the National Youth Policy. This policy seeks to ensure that youth meaningfully participate in the social, economic and political life of the nation and contribute to growth and sustained development of the country. However, young people’s participation has been limited to receiving invitation to one-off meetings or events. There is a need to meaningfully capacitate young people, professionalise their efforts, and involve them in the different processes beyond this limited engagement. What do you think is the biggest obstacle that needs to be overcome in the field of International Development? There are too many commitments but not enough implementation and accountability mechanisms in place. Many international meetings and conferences occur only annually and do not foster enough action-oriented impact thereafter. I feel great efforts need to be placed at national-level interventions, because I have observed a huge gap between global commitments and national enforceability of such commitments. What do you think are some solutions to these problems? Accountability systems need to be established at country level and there is a need to have collaborative and multi-sectoral efforts towards growth and sustainable development in our respective countries. Furthermore, the work of youth leaders and youth-led organisations needs to professionalised. What makes this sector so special for you? I am like any ordinary youth with dreams and aspirations, but these can only be achieved if the world - and the respective countries within the global framework - respond to the needs of young people. Investing in the potential of young people to fulfil their desired career paths and skills is important. Young people make up the labour productivity that will drive economic growth in the years to come, and without youth development, we lose out from future economic gains. The International Development sector is so special to me because I have personally lost friends and family members to preventable social ills, and the work that I do has the capacity to actually change the system for the better. What future progress in International Development – regionally, across the continent, or even within your individual future – excites you the most? 10-15 years ago, the involvement and participation of young people in high-level meetings was unheard of but there has since been great progress. The recognition that young people are key stakeholders in International Development has been harnessed. I do not think I would be where I am today if not for institutions such as the United Nations Population Fund, Southern African AIDS Trust, and the Partnership on Maternal, Newborn and Child Health, all of which believed and invested in my abilities and capabilities. I am so excited that in the future, we will see more young people at the front and center of decision-making spaces that inform policy-making and implementation. I am excited to work with my fellow young people across the world, all of whom never cease to inspire and support each other. As youth leaders representing different sectors and spaces, it is always so interesting to imagine where we will all be in in 20 years from now… perhaps Heads of State in our own respective countries!