“I always wondered how people got into the positions they had,” Christabel Mwango says, recalling her early interest in civil society.
Now a programs coordinator at the Alliance for Accountability Advocates Zambia, a nonprofit aimed at promoting youth-, citizen-, and community-led accountability, Christabel is working to educate young leaders about the importance of information sharing in maintaining civil liberties.
“When the media documents a story well, it is easy for citizens to hold duty bearers to account as custodians of resources on behalf of the public,” Christabel says.
But in her work with young adults, Christabel has observed a general detachment among the youth from matters of civic import, and she attributes the dispassion to limited resources.
“Not all young people are interested in governance issues, not because they do not want to be interested, but because the information they need is not easily accessible,” she says.
As she sees it, young leaders can’t hold those in power to account if they themselves don’t have access to information; rather, Christabel advocates for a well-informed generation, one both capable of identifying wrongdoing and emboldened to speak out against it.
“So many young adults don’t realize that the information they have or should have is a very powerful tool that can be and should be used for advocacy.
“They don’t realize that the nation in so many ways depends on them to make decisions,” says Christabel.
Christabel advises others interested in holding their leaders to account to first learn as much as they can about the world around them, fostering a culture of information sharing.
“Young adults have to continue learning new skills, they have to learn the laws of the land.
“They also need to be aggressive at times, lobbying for information from all sources,” Christabel says. “They should be good researchers.”
Christabel urges young leaders, as they do this, to look outside their field of interest and to engage with actors across the state, with each connection setting the stage for a better-informed community.
“I learned from my work that you need to be consistent and courageous to pursue social accountability matters,” she says.
For Christabel, a perfect world is one where people “don’t have to fight for what’s theirs. It’s a world of peace.”
Today, Christabel is working to expose the truth and to get other young leaders to do the same because, as she sees it, that’s what leadership is.
“It’s being responsible for one and for all,” Christabel says.
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