By Lydia Chen
“You are a leader and you have to make an impact in your country and the world. You can be born poor; you cannot change your yesterday, but your today and future.”– Pastor Chris Oyakilome of Christ Embassy
Those are the words that inspire Rose Sakala, a global youth ambassador from Malawi who recently won the Future African Leader 2015 award.
Rose Sakala strongly advocates for girls’ rights, the end of world hunger, and the economic empowerment of youths. Her social justice campaigns have taken her to the global stage, where she has been able to influence policy and further impact lives. Sakala was given an opportunity to speak at World Food Day, which the United Nations Secretary General and other world leaders attended. Her passionate speech inspired the United Nations to pledge several thousand metric tons of maize to Malawi.
One of Sakala’s most cherished memories was representing girls around the world at a conference organized by Save the Children Italy. Save The Children is an organization that focuses strongly on prevention, education and health programs and develops lending and reinvestment projects for young women. “Starting from girls: they are the source to trigger a change!” is an event promoted by Save The Children as part of the WE-Women For Expo program, in collaboration with Italy’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation and with the Arnoldo and Alberto Mondadori Foundation
“Education is really, really important. If you educate one child, you educate the whole nation”, Sakala explained, “But if children don’t have enough to eat, the risk of them leaving school increases because no one can study on an empty stomach…Women for Expo is an excellent initiative, because it encourages women to unite, and whenever women unite for a common cause, they find a solution.”
Sakala strives to support girls in their quest for education and empower them to become what they want to be. She has asked men to look after young girls and not force them into early marriages. “The rise in population can be reduced if girls spend much of their time in school and once married they would have a better decision to make on the number of children they want to have…As of now we want to ask government if possible to remove tax on sanitary pads so that girls can manage to buy and use [them], so that they cannot fail to attend classes when they are doing menstruation,” she said.
After writing my last post on Gertrude Mutharika, First Lady of Malawi, I became very interested in Malawi’s gender divisions. I learned that many girls are forced into child marriages, and a government tax on sanitary pads prevents many girls from attending school. I also read articles about the efforts institutions and people in Malawi are taking to address these issues. That is where I came upon the story of Rose Sakala. She became an orphan at age 16 and had to work from the streets in order to take care of her 10 siblings during a period of homelessness. Despite the challenges she faced, Sakala has managed to accomplish more than many will accomplish in a lifetime. She serves as a role model to me and surely as a role model to the rest of Malawi’s female population.