MTV Staying Alive young leader, Mallah Tabot, awarded Queen’s Young Leaders Award
I come from Cameroon, a country where there are still many taboos. In 2015 people still fear to talk openly about sex, to have a nice polite conversation about women being able to make their own decisions about their own bodies, or for couples being able to make their own choices.
For many women, sex is still something that is done non-consensually, without the ability to say “Yes I like it” or “This is how I like it” or “No I don’t want it”.
Sex is not something that’s a mutual decision but something that is rather done unto another. For the most part, there is no separation of pleasure from procreation and young women have to bear the burden of unwanted pregnancies, laying down their own lives as collateral damage in the process.
Men are hardly involved in maternal health issues or family planning and women tend to bear the burden of pregnancies and childbirth.
Young people still die of HIV/AIDS in horrifying numbers and matters related to their sexuality are either completely ignored or not addressed properly.
I’m a feminist, blogger, journalist, and women`s rights activist who very strongly believes that women and girls’ and young people’s access to sexual and reproductive health is a basic right and in June I’ll be receiving the Queens Young Leaders Award for my commitment to addressing the sexual and reproductive health needs of young people in my community.
This didn’t happen by chance. Over the years I have led campaigns to end early and forced marriages in villages in the Akwaya subdivision of Cameroon, coordinated a youth-centered HIV/AIDS program thanks to the MTV Staying Alive Foundation, designed a program that has involved more men in maternal health issues, educated women on the importance of birth control, and I’m currently drafting an initiative that would give young women greater control and knowledge about their sexuality.
I’m pinching myself. I still can’t believe that I’m going to be meeting Her Majesty The Queen. But I will dedicate my award to all the individuals and organisations that have believed in me.
The MTV Staying Alive Foundation awarded me a grant in 2010 when very few organizations believed in or even trusted young people to implement strong sustainable HIV/AIDS programs.
MTV Staying Alive’s support didn’t just end with a grant. They trained me and taught me how to make my HIV/AIDS project a success. My initial encounter with MTV Staying Alive marked a starting point in the visibility of my work and pushed my enthusiasm further to use my passion as a tool for social change.
Indeed young people are not helpless groups that governments need deliver services to. We are not a threat to the status quo. We are the solution and the future. We are a resource that when tapped in to the right way can exceed potential.
Click here to find our more about Mallah’s work with MTV Staying Alive.