Unami Masego Moatswi is a highly ambitious 24 year old young woman from Botswana. Unami’s story is very unique, particularly because of her rough childhood and her subsequent struggle through Primary to Tertiary education. She recounts quite emotionally, the times when she had neither school uniforms nor transport fare to get to school and had to be helped by Social Welfare, as her sick mother earned too little to shoulder all the expenses. Despite these hurdles in the way of her education, our Super Girl sustained her passion for learning.
Unami recalls many nights of sleeping with soft porridge and having to ask neighbours to take her to school the next morning. At some point, she had to move into the home of her mother’s friend – which was closer to the junior school she attended at that time. She stayed with the family in a house that wasn’t electrified and had to wake up at 5am daily to chop wood and warm some water by the fire. It was quite tough but she made it! Even when Unami sought admission into the university, she could not afford the $20 application fee, until her cousin (Simon) came to her aid. She refers to him as the one person that played a big role in her breakthrough, as she can only imagine what life could have been like if she didn’t get that chance.
In the course of studying at the University of Botswana, Unami became a mother to an adorable boy, who is now two years old. This did not deter her from successfully graduating with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Social Sciences last year. Interestingly, Unami ascribes her doggedness and ability to surmount life’s challenges to her wonderful name, which translates in English to “Emmanuel” – “God is with us”. Apart from her loving mother, she strongly believes that God is the source of her strength and fortitude.
Unami had her share of low self esteem and body image issues while growing up. As a chubby kid, she looked older than her peers, who never ceased to taunt her as “fat and ugly”. For a very long time this made her perceive herself as ugly and she never dated until she got into the University. When she finally built courage and positive self perception before turning 21, Unami was sexually assaulted. She never spoke up because of the many stereotypes associated with date rape and the fear of being blamed for the ordeal. Now that she knows better, she regrets her silence and encourages victims of rape to speak up and get justice. After the traumatizing experience, Unami found her voice again through the Young Women’s Leadership Club (YWLC) on campus. At YWLC, she began to actively engage in advocacy and research on issues of sexuality and gender based violence on campus. Up till her graduation year, she jointly lobbied for a Sexual Harassment Policy at the University. Enveloped in her new found passion for service, Unami also became an active volunteer with the student welfare office, serving for 3 years as a Peer Orientation Officer as well as a Living & Learning Communities Ambassador.
With her formidable experience,Unami went on to co-found an Organization – “Young Love” early in 2014. For the past 18 months she has advocated for evidence based solutions to address issues of teenage pregnancy and HIV in 4 regions of Botswana on the platform of Young Love. In the course of her advocacy work, Unami became an active member of the East & Southern Africa (ESA) Ministerial commitment and National Aids Coordinating Agency (NACA) Youth Sector Technical Working Groups. Through these platforms she advocated for Young Love to be granted access to work with over 45000 students in Kgatleng, Kweneng, South and Southern regions of Botswana in 2014/2015. Super Girl Unami also submitted proposals and managed grants received from Standard chartered Bank, MTV Staying Alive Foundation and NACA for implementation of Month of Youth Against Aids (MYAA 2015) activities in North Botswana. As a passionate SRH activist Unami has made it her personal mission to see girls and young women have access to comprehensive sexuality education, support and services in languages they understand and at places near where they live. She was actively involved in the “Condomize” 2014 campaign, which sought to destigmatize condoms as a lifesaving resource for young people, decreasing their vulnerability to STDs and early/unwanted pregnancy.
Currently, Unami Moatswi is a 2015 Mandela Washington fellow – the youngest member of the “lucky 13” cohort from Botswana. She is also a Women Deliver Young Leader – one of the 200 outstanding global advocates for the health, rights and well being of girls/women. Recently, she became a recepient of the Chevening Scholarship, to study towards bagging an MSc in Development Studies from SOAS, University of London. In the next 5 years, Ms Moatswi wants to be addressed as “Dr Moatswi”, while working as a shrewd Policy Analyst, towards the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals. She also wants to serve her country Botswana, as the first female Permanent Secretary to the President. Unami strongly believes that the world needs confident women to impact positively in development. She encourages girls to aspire towards greater heights, cultivate the habit of taking risks, leave their comfort zones, leave the past and press forward.
Girl Pride Circle is super proud of Unami Moatswi. We wish her greater heights and a more formidable voice.