Ending Gender-Based Violence and harmful traditional practices is what Kidest, a She Leads Advocate, is strongly advocating for in her community. After taking part in several community conversation groups in school, Kidest took up the responsibility to sensitise her family, friends, schoolmates and community members on issues concerning GYW empowerment, and prevention of GBV and harmful traditional practices.
Kidest,16 years old, lives with her parents and eight siblings in Goshye Kebele, Ethiopia. Before learning about the She Leads programme, she did not participate in any discussions on issues affecting girls and young women in school or in her village. She was a shy girl and rarely spoke openly with her friends about any issues.
In November 2021, she was selected to participate in the She Leads community conversation group at her school and she agreed to take up the opportunity. “When I joined She Leads, I was shy, I did not have good communication skills, I was not assertive to negotiate on different issues and didn’t participate in issues concerning myself,” Kidest explains.
Gradually, as she attended the sessions, Kidest got to learn more about She Leads and the programmeś role in shifting perceptions on gender norms and advocating for the rights of girls and young women. She learnt more about the impact of harmful traditional practices and gender-based violence and how to advocate for GYW rights. After some time, her confidence grew as she shared knowledge and engaged more people in the deeply rooted conversations affecting young girls and women in her community.
Kidest was among the She Leads advocates who participated in the 16 Days of Activism campaign whose main goal was to create more awareness of the severity of GBV and its consequences on women’s health, psycho-social and future lives. She took part in the marching and GBV awareness creation in the village market. She was actively sharing powerful messages on ending violence against women, the protection of GYW rights and the need for all community members to protect girls and women from violence. By the end of the campaign, community members were more aware about GBV and agreed to work closely with She Leads and various stakeholders to end GBV in their communities.
Kidest still continues with her advocacy work both in school and also in her village. ¨I am involved in different awareness creation events in my school as well as in youth groups back home. I inform them about GYW empowerment, the need for prevention of HTPs and Gender-Based Violence.“ she narrates. ¨I developed the confidence to express myself with others, talk about gender issues, HTPs, and other issues concerning GYW empowerment,” she adds.
Speaking about the positive change she has seen so far, she says ´I have seen community members speaking openly about the prevention of Harmful Traditional Practices and tackling of negative social norms in the community followed by the empowerment of GYW.´ She has also managed to convince most of her schoolmates who developed a negative attitude towards her involvement in She Leads, to consider advocating for their own rights and to empower themselves. She encourages girls to participate in Girls Clubs, Mini Media and boys in other school activities and events. She also invites them to participate in awareness-creation events and discussions to promote GYW empowerment and advocate for the prevention of harmful traditional practices.
Kidest proposes that awareness creation activities should also be extended to decision-makers and there should be continuous promotion on the prevention of HTPs/GBV in more communities. Speaking about her future aspirations, she said, ¨My dream is to bring equality between men and women and to end harmful traditional practices.