Take five: “We need to have a common vision and ideology to advocate for the rights of all women and girls with one voice”


UN Women Representative in Tanzania Hodan Addou shakes hands with youth advocate Gertrude Mligo.   Photo: UN Women/Tsitsi Matope
UN Women Representative in Tanzania Hodan Addou shakes hands with youth advocate Gertrude Mligo. Photo: UN Women/Tsitsi Matope

Getrude Mligo, 23, was born two years after the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. As a high school student in Songea region of Tanzania, the gender inequalities she saw in her community, especially child marriages that forced girls out of school, prompted her to look back to the 1995 blueprint and begin asking questions. In 2020, Mligo participated in a UN Women mentorship programme as part of UN Women’s Generation Equality campaign, in partnership with Plan International, which paired her with UN Women Representative in Tanzania, Hodan Addou. In this interview, Mligo shares what it means to be a champion for Generation Equality.

What first inspired you to study the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and become an advocate for women and girls? 

I was looking for an instrument I could use to challenge what I saw happening to fellow girls.

It is wrong to marry off a child, so I wondered why it was happening in the first place. I wanted to find out if the world was doing anything about it. There are a lot of efforts underway, and the Government of Tanzania has shown commitment to the Beijing Platform for Action and the empowerment of women and girls.

What can be done to prevent early and child marriage?

One powerful solution would be the insistence on girls’ education, [and keeping them in school] until they complete their tertiary education. For that to happen, all social norms that push back girls’ education should be removed, and that means interventions should target the parents, guardians, schools, communities and leaders to change attitudes.

There are great benefits that come from educating girls. I have educated sisters, and they are a pillar of support in my family. When you educate a girl, you educate a nation! The benefits are far-reaching and incomparable to the bride price paid when girls are married in most African countries.

How can mentorship by women in leadership benefit young women and girls?

Mentorship should be a key part of the Generation Equality campaign, because we, as women,need each other for significant progress to be made in gender equality. We are looking at us as women, all age groups, from both rural and urban areas, and saying: “How can we get it right, [and] get there?”

I think one area where we are falling short is valuing the wealth of knowledge and wisdom that the Beijing Platform for Action pioneers have acquired over the years. We can tap into this and combine it with what the young generation bring to the table, to strengthen the movement.

While mentorship provides an effective type of knowledge transfer, we need ‘a hybrid’ set of strategies that reflect intergenerational ideas.

The Generation Equality campaign essentially presents such opportunities to discuss how we can rally together and ensure we leave no one behind.

How did mentorship by UN Women Representative in Tanzania Hodan Addou inspire you?

Receiving mentorship from Ms. Addou was a turning point in my life, in terms of how I now appreciate the value of women’s leadership. It came at a time when I needed it most, after my university graduation. I got the chance to ask questions and learnt a lot from her leadership and management style.

I learned more about the rights of women and girls and how to lead and work with others, and the importance of listening. I was also able to use the skills I gained. I attended high-level meetings with the Representative, including one at the old Parliament in Dar es Salaam.

The fact that I had a real experience made me realize the importance of mentorship by a woman who has been there and has seen it all.But I also came to understand that, despite being so important for young women to learn from the giants, such opportunities are rare.

What’s your advice for all women?

As women, we need to have a common vision and ideology to advocate for the rights of all women and girls with one voice. It does not matter who you are, where you are, or the language you speak, as long as you are a woman, the message should be the same – equal opportunities for gender parity!

The issues affecting women and girls in the remote areas of Mara region are also issues for women in the urban areas. We all need each another and should own the strategies and drive the change wherever we are. Interventions should not always be about funded programmes but can also be about individuals championing women’s rights.