Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Young Women Empowered



By: Nancy Lazaro

Many young women face a number of challenges including violence, discrimination, early pregnancy, child marriage and sexual violence and dropping out of school. In many communities young women have inadequate access to quality education, health services and little access and control over land. Bad cultural practices widen the inequality gap amongst young women and men.

The beauty, strength and wealth of each country can only be seen through the women it raises. Women have full potential and capacity to build countries and break the circle of poverty of which many of African families and communities are exposed to. When women are empowered, it is an assurance to families, communities and nations that development and growth are on the rise.

Africa needs to break the circle of poverty that has been transforming from one generation to the other, and this can only be possible through empowering young women, economically, politically and socially. The first step is through enhancing young women’s participation in decision making relating to matters that affects their lives directly or indirectly. Empowering young women and girls through education and economic activities influence their decision making at a household level up to the national level in all matters that affects women. Also, countries can only progress if both women and men are equally represented in parliaments, and they are being great leaders spearheading the growing economy of the countries.  Involving women in decision making process can only lead to political stability, accountability and transparency. There should be nothing about women without women involvement.

Nelson Mandela said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”. Many young women drop out of school because of child marriage, school fees, sexual violence, lack of sanitary facilities and early pregnancies. Their lack in proper and quality education only widens the gap for gender equality and accelerated poverty in families and communities. Educating a girl will eventually lead to breaking the circle of poverty as they will be able to marry later rather than earlier, raise health families, be part of decision making in issues that affect them, avoid early pregnancy amongst others. Our (Tanzania) First Lady, Mama Salma Kikwete always says, “If you educate a girl, you have educated the whole society.”

Culture is good, it gives us identity and shows others who we really are, our roots. Nevertheless, cultural practices that undermine women and girls and enlarge the inequality gap should be abolished. Young women across countries are victims of violence, abuse, exploitation, female genital mutilation, forced early marriage and all these expose them to the risk of contracting and spreading different diseases including the pandemic HIV/AIDS. Women rights are human rights, and when women’s rights are protected and promoted then a young woman can participate fully in the development of the society.

It is time to move beyond our bad cultural practices, and do things differently so we can get different positive results. That can lead to sustainable development in our countries. The future we want for Africa is to see positive socioeconomic transformation. It is time to re-write the history of Africa and raise a continent where young women are seen as equal to young men, young women are free from discrimination, have access to quality education, are involved in decision making of matters that affect their lives directly or indirectly and they are free from oppression, exploitation and violence. Thus, young women will be able to lead a healthy life, make healthy decisions and choices, accelerate growth and development in their families and communities hence building prosperous societies.

With youth unemployment rate on the rise, if not empowered, young women will still be embodied in wage gaps, economic insecurity, inadequate social protection, occupational segregation and over representation in the informal sector which have negative effect on Africa’s development and growth.


Governments, civil societies, public and private sector should ensure there is non-discrimination in schools and offices and gender is mainstreamed in in countries strategic plans from the district to the national level. Realizing that the future of Africa’s economy lies in the young women’s empowerment. Laws and policies that are in place and geared into promoting, protecting and upholding the rights of young women should be implemented.
  
As we envision a future where resources are optimized for the benefit all Africans, gender equality remains to be on top of the agenda. To realize gender equality as a reality in Africa, young women, who are prone to be poor and illiterate, must be empowered. There is a need to have increased access to quality education; non-discrimination; access to adequate health services; economic empowerment though supporting women to start and grow their businesses; and access and control over land and productive assets. There should be capacity building for young women in enhancing their leadership skills and widening their knowledge.

Young women are key to Africa’s development and growth. Together, women and men, can build the future we want for Africa.


Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Phenomenal l Extraordinary l Masterpiece

I never thought that happiness will ever be a part of me. Life seemed not to have a meaning. I looked at my friends and I envied their smiles, I wanted to be more like them. My days were darker than my nights. It was on Sunday morning when all I could hear was the sound of birds singing as I struggled to get out of bed. I stood in front of the mirror and my eyes were swollen because of the painful tears that were shed few hours before I slept.  I looked awful that I ended up breaking the mirror into pieces with an empty bottle of perfume that was at the dressing table. I moved to one corner of my bedroom, sat against the wall and broke down into tears. “I can’t take this no more, I cant. Why, Why Why???” I said in the midst of my tears. I spent at least twenty minutes on the floor and it did not bother me cause that was my daily routine.  I thought my dreams were over and all hard work I had put was in vain. As I was sitting down on the floor, I saw a piece of paper, pulled it out of many other papers and it was one of my poems that I had written four years ago:
I am shaken
But I am not broken
I am in pains
But I won’t let them keep me in chains
Like the star
I will shine in the dark
Like the sun
I will rise to a brighter day

I read that short poem more than three times. I picked up one of the broken piece of a mirror and saw my reflection. I asked myself, “Who are you?” I continues talking to myself, “This is not you, where are you?”
I am here
Look at my hair, my eyes
My physique, my genes
I am special and unique
I am a diamond
I am the sun
I am the moon
I am a star
Storms and thunders shouldn’t make me less of a star
I am Phenomenal, Extraordinary and a Masterpiece

 
I smiled. As I looked at myself through a broken piece of a mirror, I saw me, the inner me that needed to come out. I had put my life in the hands of people and my happiness relied on what they whispered in their living rooms, toilets, bus stands, restaurants or classrooms. I had put myself so low that I had to lift up my head to just see an ant. Little did I know that happiness lives within me.  

I smiled. As I looked at myself through a broken piece of a mirror I realized that I have been living the present as if it was the past. I lived in the past. Every morning I woke up with a heart full of regrets and a mind full of fear. The past had to happen only to make me stronger, to make me wiser and to allow me to grow and not to confine myself within these four walls. Every day is a day of new beginnings and a day of second chances. As the sun rises, my heart rise with joy, peace and hope for a brighter day. Yesterday was but today is and no matter what happened in the past that is my story in the making. I live my life as a story to inspire a generation and lift up those who are hopeless.  I chose to let go of the past and let it shape me to a better person.

I smiled. As I looked at myself through a broken piece of a mirror I saw the real me, strong woman and a survivor not a victim. I was ready to forgive, forgive myself for allowing situations to take away the best of me. I stayed stagnant for so long and time was not my best friend. I wanted to move on with my head held up high because I have survived pains. I chose not to be a victim. I chose to be a survivor. I chose to be the best I can be and lift myself from the core of the earth to the sky where the sun is shining by day and the moon by night while stars remain to be my family members, my inspiration. 

I am phenomenal, extraordinary and a masterpiece. 


Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Choose Your Direction

Life is how you make it, whether you decide to help the needy like mother Teresa, be a famous icon in sports like Michael Jordan, visionary leader like Mwalimu Nyerere, a famous painter like Picasso, a responsible parent, a well behaved child or be just another human being alive, have a clear vision for your life.

We have heard so many organizations, institutions having vision that guides their footsteps. The question is, do we take time to develop our personal vision statement? What do you want out of your life? Are you comfortable living as an ordinary individual or you want to put an extra into the ordinary? Albert Einsten said, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Dare to think different and act different, be the amazing creation that you were created to be and lead a life with a vision and a purpose.

Think of the one thing that drives you to do what you are doing, to act the way you act and to talk the way you do. That one thing guides your footsteps and your personal vision in life is created around it. There are seven billion people in the world and you are among them, so it time to ask ourselves, what is the added value of our lives? Are we living according to the routine or are we stepping up and stepping out to make positive difference to the communities we are in and the world at large.

Most of us get contented in the comfort zone, when we can take care of ourselves and the immediate family. What happened to the world being one big family? Life does not end in the four walls we confine ourselves into. It is time to break out of the bubble, get out of the shell and live beyond the comfort zone, grab opportunities, share ideas, speak out your thought, be a leader, inspire and motivate others, be a blessing and be a friend to someone else. Zig Zaglar said, “Lack of direction, not lack of time, is the problem. We all have twenty-four hour days"

Sometimes we spend most of the time living other people’s lives. We get lost in the shadows and we forget the reality that we are to stand for. In her book, The Language of Letting Go, Melody Beattie said “I used to spend so much time reacting and responding to everyone else that my life had no direction. Other people's lives, problems, and wants set the course for my life. Once I realized it was okay for me to think about and identify what I wanted, remarkable things began to take place in my life.”
                                                                                                                  
Developing a personal vision statement is a step towards a journey of personal development. Your personal vision statement is what gives meaning to your sweat and tears, to your trials and triumph, to your daily hustles and bustles.  Your vision statement is what makes you get out of bed when it’s still dark, when you still want to sleep in, is what gives meaning to every sunrise that you get to witness. Your vision should guide your choices, decisions, engagements and commitment.

Tony Dungy, former football player and coach once said, “The first step toward creating an improved future is developing the ability to envision it. Vision will ignite the fire of passion that fuels our commitment to do whatever it takes to achieve excellence. Only vision allows us to transform dreams of greatness into the reality of achievement through human action. Vision has no boundaries and knows no limits. Our vision is what we become in life. ”

You are responsible for the outcome of your life. If you do not step up and step out, no one will do it for you. If you do not claim greatness and work towards achieving it, all you will ever have will be dreams. It’s a good thing to dream but it brings too much satisfaction to see your dream (vision) come to pass.

Get in touch with yourself. Think positive.

Till then,

-NL-


Quote For the Day

“I've learned that no matter what happens, or how bad it seems today, life does go on, and it will be better tomorrow. I've learned that you can tell a lot about a person by the way he/she handles these three things: a rainy day, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas tree lights. I've learned that regardless of your relationship with your parents, you'll miss them when they're gone from your life. I've learned that making a "living" is not the same thing as making a "life." I've learned that life sometimes gives you a second chance. I've learned that you shouldn't go through life with a catcher's mitt on both hands; you need to be able to throw something back. I've learned that whenever I decide something with an open heart, I usually make the right decision. I've learned that even when I have pains, I don't have to be one. I've learned that every day you should reach out and touch someone. People love a warm hug, or just a friendly pat on the back. I've learned that I still have a lot to learn. I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
Maya Angelou


Friday, July 18, 2014

Nelson Mandela: The Pride of Afrika


Today I remember Mandela. The leader of leaders, the pride of Africa. He made me believe that whatever you put your mind into, you can surely achieve. Madiba, a hero whose legacy brings hope and walks us through the oath of our dreams. He reminds me that giving up is never an option no matter the situation as he said, "It always seem impossible until it's done". He was a leader whose thoughts are still leading majority of leaders. Whenever I think of him, I think of many other great leaders who took the stand for their countries. I think of Mwalimu Julius K. Nyerere, Patrice Lumumba, Jomo Kenyata, Samora Machel, and many others, who gave us back our home, our motherland, our Africa.

These great leaders always remind me that leadership is not a piece of cake, it is about sacrifice; taking responsibilities; servanthood; standing for what you believe in and what's good for the people; being fearless; and mostly, leadership is about putting the needs of others first before your own. One thing that our visionaries had in common is education. They used education as a tool for liberation. Mandela said, "Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world." They did change the world, our world. It breaks my heart when girls and boys drop out of school. They need to realize that education will allow them to be exposed to a world of limitless opportunities and become a great leader and a changemaker. We should all embrace education, formal and informal. 

I believe that young people, girls and boys, are the next generation of leaders and changemakers. We have the obligation to nurture their talents and potential, ensuring they bring the best out of themselves. Together with the young people, we need to be in the forefront advocating for better communities, good health systems, quality education and good governance. It is our responsibility to ensure that every community is a better community with no segregation, discrimination or inequality. Mandela said, "A fundamental concern for others in our individual and community lives would go a long way in making the world the better place we so passionately dreamt of."  We are the voice to the voiceless and power to the powerless. 

If you were to write the story of your life, what would you write about? Why would people want to read your story? Is it a positive story that speaks volumes to a reader or is it just another story? In his own words, Mandela said, "There is no passion to be found playing small – in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living." I believe we are all here to serve a greater purpose than ourselves. We are called to serve locally and globally, with one aim of making the world a better place. What is your story about? Is it hidden in playing small or are you exploring all that has been invested in you by investing in other people and being an agent of positive change?

Nelson Mandela has been a source of hope and strength to us all. Through him we learn that there is no excuse to reaching out to your goals in life. He said, "Everyone can rise above their circumstances and achieve success if they are dedicated to and passionate about what they do."

Till then,

-NL-


Sunday, July 13, 2014

Believe in Yourself


Believe that you are placed in this earth for a reason. You are here to serve a purpose greater than yourself and God trusted that you will deliver. You do not want to let Him down just because you cannot believe in yourself. Believe that your hands can do miracles and the particles in your brain have all you need for the tasks ahead of you. Believe in yourself and live a purpose driven life.

Understand that everyone has their opinion on something and respect their opinion but do not let their opinion take away your dreams and make you not be at peace with yourself. Failure begins when you start pleasing other people, so live your life. It's not easy to believe in yourself especially when there is too much noise around you and that is where strength comes in and your vision revealed. Believe in yourself when no one believes in you, and if you are a dreamer like me, most of the time people will not believe in you. In her book, Isabel’s Hand Me Down Dreams, Isabel Lopez says, “If you can’t believe in miracles, then believe in yourself. When you want something bad enough, let that drive push you to make it happen. Sometimes you’ll run into brick walls that are put there to test you. Find a way around them and stay focused on your dream. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.”

There are some people who will always think they are right and you are wrong. You need to be careful with these people. Sometimes they are even older than you, thus you may think they are right because they are older than you and maybe they have seen more than you, you are wrong. Believe in yourself. Listen to the soft voice inside you. Everyone has their own path, their own destiny, their own purpose in this earth. Live yours.

Sometimes we choose others over ourselves, it's not a bad thing if you go hungry in order to feed the poor, but it is bad when you throw your dreams because somebody said something and it got you disappointed. If you let your decisions and choices be affected by other people all the time, then you are living or on the path to living someone else's dream. Steve Jobs said, “Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma - which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of other's opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

So, how can one learn how to believe in her/himself? Here are some ideas;

  1. ALWAYS, think positive.  Thoughts are powerful, feed your brain with positive ones.
  2. Be authentic and realize that it is okay to make mistakes.
  3. Discover your strength and focus on developing your talents.
  4. Surround yourself with positive people who add to your growth and development.
  5. Have a vision and work towards achieving it.

Keep in touch with yourself,

-NL-

Victory: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow

What about the unsung heroes who sacrificed their lives so we can sing and dance today?
What about the mothers and fathers who all they thought of was us, this generation?
Are we going to remember them only during independence?
Is our presence complement their absence or is it an excuse to over dependence?
Are we seeking to influence and make positive difference or are seeing our existence is just another occurrence that leads to impotence?
Are we going to be part of the audience or hold the mic to fight emotional violence?

We talk about change and we forget
The initiators
Social innovators
Back in the 50s
Running through the 60s

Are we only gonna fight through their tears
And hide in our shells because of our fears
Are we gonna make them turn around in the graves
Or sleep in peace as we put together the pieces
To fit perfectly with their vision
Positive change our mission

Let's keep running cause the ghost is just behind us
It's disastrous and it's so obvious
This race 
has no face
It has a heart that got to beat on its pace

See,
Our fathers and mothers gave us a place to call home
They invested and the return is what we become
Tell me, how is your story talk about history
Of your country and all who brought victory?
Think about it.

© Nancy Lazaro

Reach for the Sky


This is for the girls whose childhood was snatched right out of their fingertips
For the pain and confusion that they came through
This is for the girls whose purity, innocence was taken away by a father, a neighbour
a friend, a teacher, a stranger
This is for the tears than were never seen
For the secrets that were never released
And for the heartbeats that lost the beat to life
This is for the silence, lost confidence
Get loud, let the world hear the voices in your heart

Let go, live and let live
The future is bright, just believe
Spread your wings and fly
Aim high and reach for the sky

This is for the heartbroken
For the weak at heart
For those who are shaken 
Forgetting that sorrow comes with strength
This is for those who live only to exist
Cause they believe suicide is sin
So they will just be
This is for those who are silenced by the fears of the unknown

Let go, live and let live
The future is bright, just believe
Spread your wings and fly
Aim high and reach for the sky

This is for her, whose stomach cannot hold a life
This is for the empty promises that was made
For the housewives and midwives
For those who dodged death but not punches and knives
Thrown by the one they called soul-mates
This is for single mothers working night and day to make ends meet
For the powerful women
Whose strength is seen in the tears and sacrifices

Let go, live and let live
The future is bright, just believe
Spread your wings and fly
Aim high and reach for the sky

This is for the words that choked her, strangled her
This is for the memory that covers the lens of her eyes, all she sees is the bitter past and not that bright future
This is for the love that has been so hard to give because he hurt you 
and him too
This is for the one whose hands are tied with thick chains
Freedom is yours to have, embrace it, break free
This is for the butterfly who doesn't recognize the beauty of her own colors
This is for those who were told they will amount to nothing
And now they are a bunch of something

Let go, live and let live
The future is bright, just believe
Spread your wings and fly
Aim high and reach for the sky

This is for the tears than were never seen
For the secrets that were never released
And for the heartbeats that lost the beat to life
Spread your wings and fly
Aim high and reach for the sky

©Nancy Lazaro