3rd June 2016
You are never too young to love and be loved,
You are never too young to learn,
You are never too young to participate and contribute,
You are never too young to obtain and use the contraceptive option of your choice,
But you can be too young to die…
Yesterday was a sad day, as 11,000 kilometres away in Lusaka, in Zambia – my second home -- my friend and fellow youth activist Tata Edford G. Mutuma was buried. He passed away unexpectedly on Monday morning.
Edford and I first met in July 2004 in Dakar, when I was part of the Youth Coalition team that worked together with dedicated youth sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) activists from various African countries to set up a strong and vibrant African youth chapter. Edford was, together with his twin brother Amos, one of the leading forces behind the success of a focused advocacy strategy for young people’s SRHR and youth participation in the ICPD+10 review meeting for the Africa Region. Many of these young leaders remained active in the SRHR field, within their countries, but also at international level. As “older youth”, Edford, Amos and I met several times during my time in Lusaka, discussing SRHR topics and youth participation, but also to have a beer and to party, as “pipo should celebrate life,” Edford would say. I was pleasantly surprised to meet both my brothers again at the RHSC membership meetings in Delhi, Mexico and Oslo, all of us still active with the topics so close to our hearts, but now as “mature youth” with partners, children, and paid jobs.
Edford was my age, and he leaves behind a smart wife, a large extended family, and judging from the outpouring of messages and pictures on Facebook, he has left many, many friends and colleagues devastated. Edford inspired many people around him, young and older. He was a brother to many, an uncle to our kids, and a friend across country and language boundaries. Edford proved to be a leader with vision and great compassion. As one of his comrades wrote: “Today a giant is being laid to rest. He is gone but never will be forgotten. I am one of many who benefited from his immense knowledge, kindness and leadership.”
Rest in peace, my friend and fellow advocate.
The Coalition is grateful for Edford’s tireless work and passionate dedication to our shared cause. We send our heartfelt condolences to his family.