Tikhala Itaye, Co-Founder, Her Liberty

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Meet Tikhala Itaye, a fierce women’s rights activist from Malawi, co-founder of Her Liberty, SheDecides Youth Champion and member of the governing body. As a young woman who has had her worth repeatedly questioned just because she is a woman, Tihkala reflects on one of such experiences—when an older man approached her in a workshop for sexual favours, claiming that it was how she worked her way into leading such meetings. "I felt disgusted and so vulnerable. The reason I was at that meeting is because I had the expertise, I had the qualification and capability to lead on the set agenda of that meeting. I was speechless and I walked away feeling so inferior. I couldn't believe how this old man who I thought I would look up to, to mentor me, guide me as the only young person or young girl in the room sought sexual favours like I was worthless and just a tool to play around with."

"I have faced many more instances like this when I was in university when a Lecturer threatened to fail me if I didn’t do what he said I should do...The fear of Standing Up Speaking Out and reporting such cases drove me to co-found an NGO called Her Liberty, that sought to empower young girls and women to be confident to SPEAK OUT! Because for far too long women and girls have been silenced, suppressed and I dedicated myself to change this status quo."

Read her full interview below.

 

1.       Tell us briefly why you are passionate about being involved with SheDecides?

I am passionate about SheDecides because I am the "She" in SheDecides who lives everyday working hard to seek those opportunities, education, great health and wellbeing in order to fulfil my potential. SheDecides gives me that boldness to step up, Stand Up and Speak Out on the rights of every girl and woman. We have mothers, aunts, sisters and nieces who we care about and we want to see live healthy and empowered lives but because we live in a world that has made that such a challenge, I am passionate about my involvement in a movement that triggers action for the betterment of women and girls.

2.       What is the biggest challenge facing women and girls?

The biggest challenge is that millions of women and girls all over the world do not have the right to decide what to do with their own lives. Many girls and women have been hindered by patriarchal societies that have defined who they should be and what they can do, what they can say and to whom. Young girls have been forced into early marriages because they didn’t have the right to stay in or go to school or the right to choose because of social, cultural and economic circumstances. 

3.       Tell us a story of a moment that drives you to do what you do every day.

I remember a time when a man, 30 years older than me at a meeting I had attended came up to me and asked me for my number and if I was free in the evening to go to his room. I told him, "No." He looked at me and said, "the only reason you are where you are I am sure is because you slept with one of the organisers of the meetings." I felt disgusted and so vulnerable. The reason I was at that meeting is because I had the expertise, I had the qualification and capability to lead on the set agenda of that meeting.  I was speechless and I walked away feeling so inferior. I couldn't believe how this old man who I thought I would look up to, to mentor me, guide me as the only young person or young girl in the room sought sexual favours like I was worthless and just a tool to play around with. I have faced many more instances like this when I was in university when a Lecturer threatened to fail me if I didn’t do what he said I should do...The fear of Standing Up Speaking Out and reporting such cases drove me to co-found an NGO called Her Liberty, that sought to empower young girls and women to be confident to SPEAK OUT! Because for far too long women and girls have been silenced, suppressed and I dedicated myself to change this status quo.

4.       How are we going to get to a future where SheDecides, without question?

Only when every girl and young women can freely decide what they want to do with they lives. When resources in our respective countries are directed to improving the social wellbeing of girls and young women. When individual mind sets all over the world truly value the life of every girl and woman and treat them as equal citizens in society.

5.       Anything else you would love to add?

The is a "He" in "She" Decides so this is not only about girls and women but men and young boys need to part of this movement and we need equal empowerment of young people (girls and boys) to ensure that we create a future where they are equal partners in the work place, at home, and in leadership. Only then will SheDecide