A confident 18-year-old Zambian woman on Monday stunned world leaders and got a standing ovation for her passionate appeal for youths to be given a say on the governance of their countries.
Natasha Mwansa was part of the opening plenary at the Women Deliver 2019 Conference in Vancouver, Canada, alongside Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and his Ethiopian counterpart Sahle-Work Zewde.
Mwansa, who recently became the youngest to ever receive the World Health Organisation Global Award, insisted on delivering her speech whilst standing, saying she felt more powerful that way.
She said called for youth inclusivity in governance and the need for gender equality to reflect in national priorities.
“Key messages that I have for every leader that’s out here today, do not do anything for us, without us because we need young people on key positions of power. There’s no way you can be making decisions about young people’s health, young people’s education and you just let them be beneficiaries. We are not going to be beneficiaries, that is not happening anymore, it is 2019 so give us power, we need positions of power,” Mwansa demanded.
Mwansa also spoke against child marriages.
“It’s (not) enough that you can promise us that there will be gender equality, we need this reflected. You can’t have a national budget and adolescent health is amounting to 0.1 per cent, that’s not working! We need increased budgetary allocation to things that have to do with young people, increased budgetary allocation when it comes to gender equality and female empowerment. I hate that we call this thing child marriages, that’s pedophilia, it is inhumane. These things have to be worked on and they have to be fought. We can’t have girls getting married off, we can’t have girls not accessing education, we can’t have girls failing to take care of themselves every time of the month simply because of stereotypical behavior, no! We need gender equality and we need these reflected in national priorities,” Mwansa said, getting a standing ovation from everyone, including the Heads of State.
Mwansa called for better mechanisms to hold leaders accountable so that they were not just making false promises.
“I want to live in a world where I am not just watching the news and the President assumes what I want as a young person. I want to tell him what I want and I want him to promise me that he is going to provide those needs. We need to bridge the gap between what we want and what he is actually providing and what is promised and what is actually done. Politicians can talk guys, but action! We need to be able to hold them accountable. We need proper mechanisms to hold our leaders accountable. Action is what we need right now, not talk. Let’s hold these people accountable, they owe this to us,” said Mwansa.