Restless Development was in Johannesburg last week, leading a Regional Consultation on Youth-Led Accountability powered by The United Nations Popular Fund and She Decides with 23 young leaders from East and Southern Africa who are experts in sexual reproductive health and rights campaigning and advocacy. Muleta Kapatiso took part in the event.
My name is Muleta Kapatiso, I am the 21st child of my father from a total of 22 children. I come from a village background, and challenged myself against all odds to get an education and be where I am today, ready for the future.
Coming from such a big family meant I had less resources to enable me to complete my higher education. However although it was the toughest and roughest journey of my life, I strived to do odd jobs and with the support from friends and family managed to complete a Bachelor of Laws degree from the University of Lusaka.
While in University I joined a Youth Network of activists which lead me to begin advocating for Youth participation in governance processes and politics and advocating Sexual Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR).
My strong opinions on respect for human rights and SRHR led me to another challenge in my activism work when I was called to be a Global Fund accountability Champion. This training and coalition role came as a response to misappropriation of funds and health product’s meant for SRHR services in Zambia, and strategy towards Youth led accountability work.
I became part of the team that held the government accountable for missing product’s and fund’s made for the health sector. Our advocacy and meeting with duty bearers led to several high ranking officials in the health sector losing job’s and others suspended pending investigations.
I went back to my village community in the western part of Zambia to give sessions with fellow youths on SRHR. These sessions encouraged them to amplify their voices to demand Youth friendly sexual and reproductive health services.
I describe myself mostly as a man of audacity.
My willingness to take bold risks for what I believe is right speaks for itself. As a young Law graduate, I work with a human rights organization that prioritizes the defense of the rights of Juveniles in conflict with the Law. My work varies between being in prison to get client information and being at Court to follow up on cases or make appeals or submissions on behalf of our client’s.
Being a human rights defender and working in prisons introduced another challenge to my SRHR work. I discovered that women and girl’s in prison were not covered by the facility for their menstrual health. I saw inmates with mental health issues kept in terrible conditons.
This motivated me to champion the rights of Inmates so I joined an organization called Friends of Inmates Zambia. I encouraged friends to support the organizations. Through our own contributions, we were able to donate sanatry products to the female section of the facility. We also held meetings to address some of the bitter experiences Inmates go through.
The detention of one does not entail the incarceration of their human rights. A woman or girl does not stop her menstruation once held in detention and inmates like each one of us are global citizens, their lives are as sacred and important as everyone else.
The Sustainable Development Goal states that no one should be left behind, inmates included.
I have learnt that if we have a mind to work we can do anything, anywhere and anyhow! That is a starting point for realizing our dreams and goals. Then we can position ourselves so that the resources needed both human and financial, can be available to turn ideas into realities.
Being part of the Restless Development led Consultation on Youth Led accountability powered by UNFPA South Africa this December 2018 was very educational. It was an exhibition of African innovation for great world impact. Each day was full of lessons that Youths have power to change themselves, influence society and change the world. The consultation was not just an innovation lab but a platform for capacity building in my SRHR work.
Doing SRHR work in prison is far from easy, especially without any project financial support. What keeps me strong to not give up on defending the rights of Inmates is the fact that I gain courage out of vulnerability to stand up again and again until I can see progress.
I recommend that every SRHR advocate is aware of what influences the purpose and courage of their work because that is how to keeps brilliant ideas alive.
Keep standing, keep knocking, keep hoping, keep taking deliberate steps towards the goals. We can do this!
I hope someone somewhere will be inspired and stand up for sexual and reproductive health rights.