Stories of Empowerment by Mutale Chanda – Zambia

Date: 02 August 2011

I was introduced to the YMCA nine years ago, at a turbulent time in my life. My cousin who’d been a member for a number of years encouraged me to join, and I took her advice.  As part of my healing process from a painful and traumatic event in my life, I joined Kabwe YMCA in Zambia. The death of a very close friend had driven me to a life of unhappiness and my self esteem was nothing worth talking about. Struggling with the challenges of unemployment at the time did not make my life any easier as I could not afford to independently acquire even the most simplest of items I desired. However, the emotional and psychological support from my family coupled with YMCA activities, provided a support system I will forever be grateful for.

Because of the fellowship through Bible study, camps, picnics, youth leadership training seminars and workshops and other social events organized by the YMCA, I was able to find myself again. The events and programmes I attended had the kind of impact on me such that I was able to and at the some point was willing to look within myself and decide to change my situation at the time. Gradually, I also realized that my “total” transformation was also going to be possible if issues or the world around me was also “captured” in this change. With this realization, I decided to be part of the leadership process in my Y as I discovered most decisions affecting young people in the movement were made in the committees and Boards. I stood for a position on my Local Association Youth Committee as a start, and was later over time elected to and held various positions in my local Y and also National Movement, seeing me to now serving on the continental Executive Committee.

The empowerment process of a young person in my opinion, especially in the context that I’m familiar with, the African context, cannot be complete if that young person is not able to express him or herself effectively or freely, be it on governance issues, the economic sphere, issues relating to climate justice, etc. In short, young people must be given the possibility to dream, and be supported to achieve that vision! They should be allowed to find their own personal niche whilst being given space as equal partners.

I am very glad that as a Movement we have the from “Subject to Citizen” Programme which with vigorous implementation will be a catalyzing agent in ensuring the holistic empowerment of young people that will lead the process of change as responsible global citizens.

My experience in the YMCA is still one of my most cherished accomplishments. From a shy not so sure young woman I am now able to represent my business, other young people and the YMCA in fora I never ever imagined would be possible for me. Indeed, I now believe I came to the Y at the right time because God’s time is always the right time.