On October 30 this year, the African Union Commission appointed Ms Petrider Paul, 24, a girl's rights activist from Tanzania, as board member of the AU Youth Advisory Board to represent East Africa in advocating on youth development issues.
In this interview with The Citizen reporter Khalifa Said, Ms Paul expounds her new role and what the East African youth should expect from her appointment.
QUESTION. Congratulations on your recent appointment as the AU Youth Advisory Board member. What was your reaction when you first heard of the news?
ANSWER. When I received an email from the African Union Commission, notifying me of the appointment I was surprised. I had dealt with the AU before but I had no idea that I would be appointed to the Advisory Board. So, yes, the appointment to me was indeed a surprise.
The youth, especially young women have very high expectations with your appointment, how do you assure them that your appointment has a meaning?
I have one major priority in my appointment and that is to ensure girls and women's rights are upheld. And my role will have other cross-cutting functions that have to do with youth development which.
I'll strive to ensure that young people from Tanzania and the East African region as a whole whom I serve and the overall African youth have the ability to position themselves well in order that they ca be the agents of change.
Given your experience in fighting for the girls' rights in Tanzania, what can the Youth Advisory Board expect from you in as far as the girls and their welfares are concerned?
Girls' rights advocacy is my passion and I intend to further it at an African level by working with other young people from across the continent. How I interlink gender issues in the AU conversation with my fellows will not limit me from enhancing youth employment, governance and how they can create avenues for economic development.
Will you mind sharing with us your areas of priorities as an adviser to the Board? What issues will you be concentrating yourself much on?
My priority is to promote gender equality. Ensuring the rights of children, girls and women are given the right attention they deserve. This will involve working to advise the AU Youth Envoy who is luckily also a feminist. So I believe our work will complement each other, while other sub priorities is youth engagement in development, peace and security.
What is your general assessment of a typical Tanzanian girl in such areas as education, human rights and general welfare?
A typical Tanzanian girl has a vision, smart and capable to transform society if given the proper avenues and ensuring her rights to climb through the ladders of leadership are not infringed upon. Unfortunately, that is what has been happening to date as most girls in Tanzania live in fear, especially those in rural settings. They are smart, have big dreams but cannot fulfill them because of many barriers in relation to gender-based violence and other.
When looking back at your fight for girl's rights in the country, what are your accomplishments?
I have achieved a lot but as a girls' rights advocate and a change maker it is not the accolades we seek it is the ability to transform someone's life and ensure they are safe and protected. I have influenced about 200 young people in Tanzania and many more. But is it the numbers that matter? No. It is statements that you receive when someone says because of you or what you shared with us I have decided to impact change in my community or the likes that is more valuable and sustainable.
Fighting for human rights is no joke, there are intimidation and all sort of things that can bring one down and stop the fight at once. Can you share with us some of the challenges that you have been encountering with as you go along with your advocacy works?
It seems intimidating to most people who are not ready to accept change. Others have a misconceived notion of the word feminist who associate it with connotation of hate of all men.
This is a false and misleading conception. In fact a feminist is defined as a woman who is politically, socially and economically empowered so that she can take initiatives that can make communities and the world better for tomorrow. As an advocate I wish to help everyone or reach everyone but this is not a realistic goal, for it can be very challenging. However, the best way to overcome the challenges is working with other young people to have a multiplying effect.
That's very interesting Petrider, but I would like you to expand more on that aspect and share with me how exactly have you been dealing with these challenges and what has been pushing your spirit to move forward amidst them?
Seeking advice, learning and also some meditation have been helpful all these days in my advocacy works. They help to create a relief and increase more ideas for solutions. On what boosts my spirit, well, I can say that we all have our mantra that keeps our spirit moving.
Most of all my family members, friends and the amazing network of influencers especially in Tanzania and other countries have been a motivating factor for me.