Skip to main content

It's all about speaking with the heart

Sodfa Daaji Afrika Youth Movement
  • 28 Dec 2019
  • 4 min

On the margins of the 63rd Commission on the Status of Women, UNGEI co-hosted a panel event entitled ‘Improving educational outcomes for women and girls on the move’ with the African Union Centre for Girls’ in Africa (AU/CIEFFA) in partnership with the governments of Norway, Canada, UNICEF and Education Cannot. The panel focused on strategies for improving educational outcomes for girls and women.

Sodfa Daaji, a women’s rights activist and Afrika Youth Movement coordinator brought passion to the panel as she spoke of the most pressing issues for migrant, refugee and displaced girls and women across the world. She shared the story of Shakiba, a young woman from Iran, “one of a million stories of resilience.” She highlighted the importance of quality and inclusive education, curricula that address gender norms and safe spaces. Young refugee women and girls are self-organizing and their voices need to be nurtured.

The day I was invited to join a panel with high level speakers, I felt intimidated. I was not sure what the right thing to say would be, and for the first time ever I planned to write down my contribution.

I am not used to preparing speeches, as what I normally do is just speak from the heart. As a young person, I recognize how the narrative around youth is about failure, struggle and being the next generation, rather than being the present organizers with powerful voices. That is why every time I join a discussion, from an informal conversation to a panel, I just speak what my heart tells me.

I have been blessed to have connected with thousands of youth in recent years, and I absorbed their determination, resilience and desire for a better world. Each gifted to me the passion that I have as an activist for the rights of women, migrants, refugees, displaced people and youth. I joined the panel with one overarching aim to connect with every person in the audience through these stories.

Left to right: Nyaradzari Gumbonzvanda, Dag-Inge Ulstein, Rita Bissoonauth, Yasemine Sherif & Sodfa Daaji.
Left to right: Nyaradzari Gumbonzvanda, Dag-Inge Ulstein, Rita Bissoonauth, Yasemine Sherif & Sodfa Daaji.

My experience far exceeded my expectations, the memory of which I will hold close for a long time. Firstly, I appreciated that I was invited to open the panel. To be honest, it is rare to see young people speaking first, especially at such a high level event. With my hands trembling, I tried my best to relax and speak from the heart. My contribution focused on stories, experiences, ideas and a call for humanity. This is what activists do, right?

The overwhelming response to the panel gave me the energy and positivity I receive every time I meet with young people or women’s rights activists. Afterwards, when participants came to hug me, it struck me: it’s all about speaking with the heart.

The fight for quality education for refugee girls is not about technical expertise, but rather it’s about girls with names, stories and dreams.

To UNGEI, I give my gratitude for the incredible work that the partnership is leading, and for actively involving young people in this work. Above all, I thank you for allowing me to speak with my heart.