Children’s Corner with PANIC CHILUFYA
IN 2015, Natasha Mwanza, then only aged 14 years old, put up a brilliant performance during the first-ever Junior President competition where she emerged as runner-up. The experience was a boost to her confidence as it gave her immense exposure, and as a young leader, it opened many doors that most young people of her age can only dream of.
Natasha is now a youth representative at the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). She is a member of the African Union Advisory Board of young people from 23 countries in Africa. She is a youth leader at Women Deliver, a Young Leaders Programme which provides opportunities for youth advocates, as well as a member of Southern Africa HIV and AIDS Information Dissemination Service (SAfAIDS), where she has the responsibility to ensure the organisation follows through on its promises pertaining to sexual and health rights of young people.
Natasha, a 17-year-old Christian, describes her character as complex. She does not put limit to what she can achieve; she is unpredictable because she does what she wants to do. She’s an amazing young girl who is determined to create change in whatever way possible because she believes there is always something that can be done to change the world, no matter how insignificant it might seem.
Natasha believes that it would be unrealistic for her to state that she can change the world; because it is not possible. However, she is confident that she can be of positive influence, especially amongst her peers.
She is grateful for her voice, which is a powerful tool and the most amazing gift she possesses. “Every single day, I praise God for my powerful voice. God says there is power in the tongue to speak as it can cause life or death. And I know that whatever I say has an impact on the world; no matter how insignificant it might seem, it has the ability to influence some kind of change in someone’s life”.
It was after being constantly bullied at school in Livingstone that Natasha discovered the ability to speak out and defend herself. Being the youngest in her class and the most intelligent, she was often picked on, but she could not defend herself. To make matters worse, she had no one to protect her because her mother was often working out of town, and her father was also busy while her older brother was unable to help her either.
She realised only she could change her situation, and by watching American talk show host Oprah Winfrey, Natasha was motivated to use her voice to speak out and fight for her rights. With this acquired skill, she was bold enough to tell off pupils who wanted to pick on her.
“One morning during assembly, everyone was shocked to see me, as a young girl, tell off someone who was older than I was, to the extent of making that person cry!” Although she defended herself, Natasha was not pleased with her behaviour because she realised she was no different from those who had been bullying her and making life miserable; and so, she made a conscious decision to use the power of her voice positively.
To enhance this, she began to look up influential people that had changed the world. Through Encarta Kids, a digital multimedia data bank that her dad bought for her, she learnt about icons like World Boxing champion Muhammad Ali, American civil rights activist Martin Luther King and America’s 26th president Theodore Roosevelt. However, her biggest influence was child rights and women’s activist Malala Yousafzai from Pakistan. At only 11 years old, Malala began to blog for BBC to advocate for girls’ education, which resulted in the Taliban issuing a death threat against her. In 2012, Malala was shot in the head by a Taliban gunman but fortunately, she survived. In 2013, she gave a speech to the United Nations and published her first book, I Am Malala. And in 2014, she became the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize.
The fact that Malala had no money or means, but she still had a profound effect on the world, motivated Natasha to speak out and she eventually joined the Children’s Network Agency (CNA), through the Media Network on Child Rights and Development (MNCRD). She was trained with media skills, public speaking and children’s rights. Natasha realised that a lot of children in communities are suffering because they do not know how to speak out and are unable to claim their rights.
Natasha, who has been accepted at the University of Zambia (UNZA) to study Mass Communications for the next academic year, urges other young people to work hard, keep up with current affairs, have role models, be patient, passionate and always persevere in what they choose to do, because sometimes life can be frustrating and intimidating.
Remember, children are our future. Until next week, take care.
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Children’s Corner with PANIC CHILUFYA