Through her work in radio broadcast and public speaking, Victoria Quaynor is on a mission. As a Youth Leaders Fellow with UNFPA Ghana, Victoria gives young people an opportunity to be heard. Victoria challenges existing policies and norms, spearheading social action initiatives to empower the next generation using the power of media and youth-led action,
Tell us about your roots- where did you grow up and what prompted you to enter the world of activism?
I grew up in two communities: Amasaman and Abelenkpe. In these communities, I saw many of the young people get pregnant at an early age. This was normalized, although for me it didn't seem right. But I thought that I couldn't do anything about it. This was until one time I was listening to the radio. I heard a group of young people talking about their rights and the topic of teenage pregnancy. At first, I wondered if those young people were from rich homes because I hadn't seen or heard any young person speak boldly about their rights, like this, especially on national broadcast radio. In general, Africans and Ghanaians can be rather conservative and in some homes and places in Ghana, it is very difficult for young people to speak up; they tag that young person as disrespectful. Despite this, I called in to the radio program and was invited to go to the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation. There, I joined the group of young people I had heard and realized for the first time that I had rights as a young person. Also, I was exposed to more of the issues faced by young people in Ghana, such as young people dropping out of school because of having little to no information about their reproductive health and rights. This was the point where my interest in advocacy was ignited and I was poised to be a change for my community and my nation.
Much of your activism is focused on the issue of child neglect in disadvantaged communities in Africa. What makes the situation in African communities distinct?
After my experiences in working with activism and awareness, I understand that there are many factors and effects that go beyond the central issue. The part that I am most concerned about it is that many of these young people are exposed to lots of harm and abuses because they are neglected.
As a result, they wander on the streets and communities. In many cases, it is because the parents expect the government to provide them with shelter or food for their children. It is very difficult to see some children go to school barefooted, wearing torn clothing, and without food because they and their parents have heard or seen that the government will be providing them with that. Children are suffering because of the mistakes and irresponsible behaviors of some adults. Children deserve better.
Would you say child neglect then, is an intersectional issue?
This is an intersectional issue because when they are neglected and are not educated, many end up engaging in social vices. Not only are the children’s health at risk, the country will have a lower literacy rate and that will have a direct impact on the efforts of the SDGs.
How did you overcome your obstacles, especially in the beginning?
I always live by this mantra: life is not just about making income, but making impact.
When I began, people felt what I was doing should be bringing in money - which wasn't happening - so I had lots of people saying I should stop and not waste my time. Others also felt I was too young to engage in advocacy. All that I did was to just thank them for their advice and keep working. I was, and still am, very passionate about what I do.
What makes media a powerful tool for advocacy, and in your experience, how can one use media so that it is the most effective tool?
Joining the youth in broadcasting at Curious Minds gave me the opportunity to advocate for the large masses. What made it more effective was that we could have parents and policy makers call in during programs to voice their views, comment, and also take action. Aside from that, because Curious Minds aired from a national station, we could reach a wide audience. In my personal experience, my community members became cautious of the things they did to people, especially to young people. They started even reporting those that were doing bad things to me because they felt I had the means to bring about some change.
Social media is also effective. Now, more than ever, campaigns are organized through media platforms and then the next moment, change happens! I’ve realized that social media is an effective tool if you want to engage the government and its agencies. They are eager to respond to posts or tweets, and this direct link that is formed between the people and government is the power of the media.
Do you have a dream for future generations?
I hope that we young people will join forces and synergies to address the issues that we are confronted with. I believe that we have the solutions to our own problems; let's start shining lights in our little corners, nobody can do it for us.
My dream for future generations, especially girls, is to have confidence in themselves. To be assertive, to have their dreams and hopes alive, to work towards it, to pray to whatever entity they believe in, and finally, to trust the process.
THANK YOU FOR YOUR CONTINUED SUPPORT. WE LOOK FORWARD TO BRINGING YOU THE VOICE OF MORE INSPIRING ARTISTS AND CHANGEMAKERS IN 2021.
Interview conducted and written by Naomi Segal