I am Generation Equality: Lydia Charles, champion, motivator and advocate for girls and young women in Tanzania

Billions of people across the world stand on the right side of history every day. They speak up, take a stand, mobilize, and take big and small actions to advance women’s rights. This is Generation Equality.


I am Generation Equality
Photo caption: Lydia Charles. Photo: Her Initiative.
Lydia Charles. Photo: Her Initiative.

Three things you can do to become part of Generation Equality:

  • Recognize that sustainable development can only be achieved when we realize the rights of women.
  • Create an enabling the environment for young women and girls to unleash their full potential.
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  • Girls, your success lies in your hands. Believe that you can achieve your dreams and can beat all challenges to make it to greater heights.

I am Generation Equality because…

One morning as I was travelling to a remote district in 2019, I stopped by a bar to have some breakfast. A few minutes later, the sound of empty bottles caught my attention. As I looked across the counter where the noise was coming from, I was shocked to see a young girl packing beer bottles into crates. The bottles were from a show that had ended in the early hours, I guessed. I could not stop wondering why she was not in school that morning. Talking to her, I learnt that she was 16 years old and that she had dropped out of school two years ago. She had to work to look after her sick mother and siblings. I gave her my number and promised to help through our organization, Her Initiative. Her story inspired us to develop a new economic empowerment program for out-of-school girls. Later in 2019, we enrolled her into our out-of-school project, which provides training on rights and economic empowerment as well as seed-funding to help girls start small businesses while saving money to go back to school. I cannot imagine what could have happened to her had she continued working in that bar, considering the risks she was exposed to.

Why should everyone be a women’s rights activist?

Through my work, I have the opportunity to meet many girls in difficult circumstances, including survivors of gender-based violence. I have come to realize how fortunate I am to support girls and young women to keep their dreams alive. Whenever I speak to women and girls who need help to go back to school or get out of an abusive early or forced marriage, it leaves me feeling how incriminating it is to live in a society where, despite our individual capabilities, as organizations and as a nation we continue to fail so many of them.

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“Solutions to ending gender-based violence and ensure girls and young women realize their dream lie with all of us.”

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At Her Initiative, the organization I founded in 2017, we believe that solutions to ending gender-based violence and ensure that girls and young women realize their dreams lie with all of us. When we fail to safeguard the rights of girls and women, we also deny them the opportunity to contribute to the development of Tanzania, and Africa as a whole. The biggest game changer is our ability to recognize that sustainable development can only be achieved when we realize the rights of women and invest in ensuring they can access their social-economic rights. A gender-equal and safe Tanzania is possible!

 What is your advice to young people on actions they can take?

I strongly believe that together we can strengthen the architecture of our social protection programs, laws and policies to ensure that all girls are safe from gender-based violence and harmful practices and stay in school, while safeguarding the wellbeing of their poor families.

My advice to young women and girls is to organize and work collectively to support each other. You need to lobby your local and national governments for the realization of the rights of women and girls. Consider taking career paths that will put you in a position to help other young women and girls to stay in school. Together, it is our duty to ensure that the young women and girls exert their rights and to teach them that they can push back anyone who wishes to limit or curtail their rights. To all the girls everywhere in the world, look at your hands and believe that anything you want to achieve lies in your hands, despite all the challenges, You Can Do It!

Lydia Charles is a champion, motivator and advocate for a gender-equal future who actively contributes to the Generation Equality Campaign Conversations led by UN Women. She is also the founder and Executive Director of Her Initiative, a non-governmental organization that empowers girls and young women in Tanzania and helps them break the cycle of poverty in pursuit of gender equality and inclusive economic growth.