I am Generation Equality: Christie Banda, youth activist fighting gender-based violence in Malawi
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.
Date: Monday, March 1, 2021
Three things you can do to become part of Generation Equality:
- Denounce gender-based violence in all forms.
- Get more men and boys to champion the cause.
- Focus on education: Education is key to stop the violence.
I am Generation Equality because…
When I was a little girl, I watched my aunt being constantly physically and verbally abused by her husband. I really wanted to help her, but I didn’t know how because I was only 9 years old. I watched my cousin get pregnant and married at the age of 15. She told me she wanted to escape what was going on in the family. I still remember the trauma, the constant fear growing up, and the helplessness. No girl should grow up like that, no one should go through battering and misery. That is why I am an activist against gender-based violence. In my work with Foundation for Civic Education and Social Empowerment, a young women-led youth organization), I engage with chiefs on ending violence in their communities. I work with boys and men on how they can stop abuse. I host safe spaces for survivors while giving them tailoring skills and loans to start small businesses.
What are the most urgent issues of our time?
As cases of Covid-19 continue to escalate in our areas, we have seen an increase in cases of sexual gender-based violence. With school closures in Malawi, many girls have become pregnant and some of our friends are getting married. Unfortunately, access to sexual reproductive health in rural areas is very limited. As the country focuses on the COVID-19 response, issues concerning women’s health are not being prioritized. Women and girls need information and services for the prevention and response to gender-based violence.
I believe that education, economic empowerment and women’s decision-making in households are essential to empower vulnerable women and adolescent girls to exercise their rights and improve their lives. We need to provide economic opportunities for girls and women to address the inequalities that lead to their vulnerabilities and marginalization.
“As young people we must have one voice to fight inequality in any form”
What’s your advice to young people on actions they can take?
We need more young people to actively engage on issues that affect them. As young people we must have one voice to fight inequality in any form. We need to create a platform and demand an audience. We must raise awareness on the negative impact of gender-based violence, sharing real-life stories and experiences while also focusing on education, as education is key to success. We must sit at the tables where decisions are being made on issues impacting us.
What can everyone do to stop gender-based violence?
We all must be agents of change who denounce gender-based violence in all forms. Chiefs, religious leaders, men and boys, police, courts, girls and women, all have a role to play in the fight against gender-based violence. We need more men and boys to champion the cause. Men should teach and influence each other to use their strength to fight for women and not against women. Importantly, we need more women in leadership positions to lead this battle against gender-based violence.
Christie Banda, 28-year-old activist against gender-based violence, heads the Foundation for Civic Education and Social Empowerment organization (FOCESE), a key ally of the global Spotlight Initiative (the EU-UN partnership to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls by 2030) in Malawi. As part of Spotlight, UN Women Malawi works with partners like FOCESE to build powerful alliances at the community level and change attitudes and behaviors related to gender-based violence and harmful practices.