To really fight for women’s rights – focus on the solutions: An interview with Jackline Chami
Jackline Chami is a dedicated and passionate activist fighting for women and girls’ rights. Alana Christopher sat down with her to talk about the pervasive challenges that affect young women and girls across the world, as well as the innovative solutions that young people are implementing to address them.
Read the article , or listen to the full interview below;
Economies of equality
Jackline, who grew up in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, knows that young people are a powerful force for change. Jackline has been working with Restless Development since 2018 to address the issues that affect women and girls in her community, such as lack of economic opportunity and barriers to sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR). Jackline stressed the importance of approaching these issues holistically. She says that addressing the linkage between SRHR and livelihoods is essential, because for girls and young women to be able to realise their rights, they also often need to have economic independence.
“It’s not always about not knowing how to use condoms, or not knowing how to make her own decisions. Once you educate her, she still has something behind her: she has economic needs… So we facilitate these girls on livelihood activities.”
As a national Young Leader with Mabinti, Tushike Hatamu or “Girls, Let’s be Leaders,” Jackline managed 3 Young Leaders and 53 changemakers, provided capacity building for young girls, compiled reports, acted as a link between the project and her community, and coordinated activities and events relating to SRHR education and awareness. She then spent some time as a Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning Intern at an NGO that focuses on understanding and improving young people’s skills and their awareness of their rights. This was a great opportunity to learn about surveying and data collection, however Jackline realised that she wanted to find a way to return to working directly with young people. That’s why she decided to spend three months in Nepal as a NOREC volunteer with Restless Development’s Youth Take the Lead Program.
“Opportunities like this are very rare, where you’re given a chance to learn and work at the same time… So when Youth Take the Lead came along, I was like, ‘this is the one.’ I would like to learn what other young people are doing in other countries as well as contribute my skills, because creativity and innovation comes with seeing the world.”
Nepali women and Tanzanian women fighting for women’s rights
When she heard she would be placed in Nepal, Jackline was excited. Even though she would be working in a city thousands of miles away from Dar es Salaam, she noticed a lot of similarities in the challenges that girls face in Tanzania and in Nepal. One example is the Nepali cultural practice of Chhaupadi, where menstruating girls and women are considered impure and excluded from society.
“Girls on their periods in my country are not allowed to go pluck vegetables simply because people believe that’s dirtiness and that it will cause other vegetables to shrink. Since I saw the great work that Nepal has been doing to address these challenges, I was like, ‘this is definitely where I want to go.”
At Restless Development Nepal, Jackline and her Youth Take the Lead partner spent their time, engaging, interviewing and compiling the stories of Young Leaders, and developing communications materials to better understand and explain the work that these young people were doing.
Having the opportunity to interview and speak to young people in Nepal was a powerful experience for Jackline. She felt that her work sharing youth-led and youth-driven solutions was important.
“Talking to people has taught me a lot. People are facing different types of challenges, but they’re also great people trying to solve those challenges.
They’re not dwelling in the problems but rather in the solutions. So I think that’s what I’ve enjoyed to do, talk to people, write their stories, share it, and then once someone reads it they’re like ‘wow, this is great’ so you see, you’re able to bring greatness out of people.”
Look to the future
Now Jackline is returning to Tanzania and turning her attention to environmental conservation because of its local, national and global importance. She told me how important the sort of Youth Leadership she’d seen in Nepal would be to tackling this huge issue. And that guiding all her work is a commitment to promoting opportunities for young people. Collecting the stories of impactful young people and visiting a youth-led organisation where everyone on the leadership team was under the age of 30 added to Jackline’s conviction that young people can have a real impact in their communities.
“Youth were the ones who created it, youth are the ones who are leading it, and they are approaching to solve problems that their fellow youth are facing… So I’d love to take that with me. And so many other things.”
She wants to cascade the knowledge and skills she’s gained to make her organization and the young people she works with stronger and fight for women’s rights.
“I’d love to share [my knowledge] with those who don’t know how, because at the end of the day if I am away, that person can do the same work that I can do.”
That’s why Jackline wants to start a blog to share youth experiences and the perspectives of other young people.
“I want to write a blog and interview different people who can give advice to people through their experiences and I feel like once youth will be able to use this blog, they’ll be able to get motivated and start the initiatives they want.”
Her advice to all young people that want to get involved is to be a part of the solution instead of the problem.
“The community is facing so many challenges. Instead of focusing on the problem, we can focus on the solutions. And how to focus on the solutions, we are the key drivers of those solutions.”
Alana is a Communications & Partnerships Intern at Restless Development Nepal. She's a master's student studying International Humanitarian Action, with a focus on girls' access to education in emergencies.