Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Cheer up guys!

The guys in my class almost set the school on fire last week with their burning anger. Well, the gist is that our first semester result was released on Monday and the reason why they were angry is because girls came tops in all the courses. They were not comfortable because girls are taking lead, and worse, they felt some of the girls who failed to fail use what they have to ensure that they succeeded (in a nutshell, some girls sleeping with lecturers to get better grades). It is a hilarious that guys usually jump into this weak conclusion anytime ladies seems to perform better than them in any level or at any setting. “Well, its because she is a girl...”.

I still do not understand why it is part of the human nature to tie so much relevance to someone's gender each time an issue is raised. During this year's international youth day conference, the facilitator asked the youth participants if they believe women will be better leaders in Nigeria...and as usual, we had a good number of the ladies shouting “yes”, a better number of the guys shouting “no”, while the quiet voice of some guys said “yes”. Now I ask, what has gender got to do with leadership role? It is not in our place to tie any sentiment to giving women responsibilities just because they are that- women.

Prof. Dora Akunyili, Dr. Okonji Iweala and Obiageli Ezekwesili to mention but a few are respectable women in Nigeria going about their business and making great impact ...but I doubt that the level they have attained is as a result of their gender. They have paid the price of developing themselves (and still doing just that to keep up-to-date) and today, they are getting the result we would all get if we do the same. It is not all about “Because they are women!”

We need to unlearn the thinking that gender have more to do with how far we go in life, if not we will find ourselves being limited and become a more grumpy generation. Millennium Development Goal 3 states: Promote Gender equality and empower women. Period. Not, from hence forth, men should become threatened because women are rising to take the lead. I do not blame my classmates for being so angry because girls are taking the lead in class, however, I hope they don't dwell on that posture of bitterness for too long and fail to study, if not, come next exam, they will still be where they are while girls keep blazing the trail!
Our society need people who are ready to take up responsibility because of their ability to tackle issues and effect change, not empty vessels lauding they should be given a chance to show what people of their gender can do! The next time you meet someone feeling intimidated by their gender or gender of others, please pass on this message, “Cheer up, life goes beyond the nature of your thingy. It is more about the stuff you are made of!”.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Parent Abuse!

The campaign is set higher. More voices are raised against child abuse. A very important issue organisations like UNICEF hold close to heart. Although so much is being said and done about child abuse, no one dare claim that the issue is overflogged because obviously our society is yet to understand that no child deserves to be abused.

How about Parent abuse? Silence. Nobody is talking about parent abuse. Does it really exist? In everyone's lifetime (maybe not everyone?), there have been one or two occassions when we concoiusly or unconciously abuse our parents.

Example: when we disrespect our parents or delibrately disobey instructions they give us, this is parent abuse! There are cases where children insult and talk back rudely to their parents. Even worse, older children fight or physically maltreat their parents. Also, expecting parents to always buy the best gifts for us during our birthdays, christmas etc. and never returning such gestures is equal to parent abuse!

The calibre of people children hang out with contributes to the level of ways they abuse their parents. When some children see their peers dressed in the latest fashion, play with expensive toys and spend more money, they tend to come home and demand for more without considering their parent's capability. In cases where parents fail to meet up to their expectation, these children become resentful and bitter towards their parents, thus they start wishing someone else's parent was their parent.

In a nutshell, parent abuse occur when children abuse their space, demand for more without appreciation, rebel, disobey, insult or physically harm their parents causing them emotional pain or distress. It is imperative for every child to think well of himself and conciously adopt a positive attitude towards his parents and encourage their friends to do same.

Parents who fail to live up to their responsibility to train their children well and maintain a good parent-child relationship risk being abuse in future. Therefore, it is crucial that the 21st century parents rise above the norms, put their feet down and not spare the rod.

Sunday, August 12, 2007


A friend of mine once went for a programme where he happened to be the youngest participant, all the others were adults. After the first phase of the workshop, the facilitator asked if anyone had any comment or questions. My friend raised his hand but to his embarrassment, he was asked to put his hand down. “You are young, what do you know?” the facilitator asked laughably.

Is the syndrome of “young people should be seen and not heard” still in existence in this generation? Young people have valuable contributions to make to our society and must be given a voice that should be respected and incorporated into policies that affect the youths. In words of Kofi Anan, the former UN Secretary-General, a society that cuts itself from its youth serves its lifeline, but a society that engages their interest, enlists their talents and librates their energies bring hope to the entire world.

To be able to act effectively, young people need to be more sensitive to their environment and actively participate in activities that would develop their skills. Perhaps, if only the facilitator earlier mentioned had known that young people know a lot of things, he would not have restricted the young participant from sharing his views.

To let the youths be heard, we must not stop at only recognizing their freedom of speech or expression; it also includes giving them opportunities to participate in decision-making processes that affect them at all levels- home, school, government etc. and creating the forum, trust and responsibility to take action as a way of expressing their passion and dream for the future. Some youths who engage in frivolous activities such as internet scam, aristo and other delinquency do just that because they have nothing else they can engage their time fruitfully.

So much work still needs to be done in re-orientating our youths. The introduction of youth development ministry is a good way of starting up; having a youth development fund is a bonus that must be applauded. However, real action needs to be taken! Our education system needs to be refurbished, young people need to be given more opportunities to grow and have reasons to trust the government and the society they live in...

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

IYD 2007...Don't be left out!

All over the world, young people will be organizing different events to mark this year’s international youth day. Some will be organizing rallies, others will lobby parliament, sign petition, and some will make it entertainment event with sensible message, while others will take it all to God in prayer! The theme for this year’s celebration is “Be seen, be heard: Youth Participation for development”. So what plans have you made for August 12? Being a day declared as international youth day (IYD) by UN General Assembly, it is recommended that public information activities be organized to promote better awareness of youth development issues.
The first IYD was commemorated on 12 August 2000 . Former Secretary-General Kofi Anan called for governments to become more responsive to the aspirations of youth for a better world. Also in his message that day, Kofi Anan pointed out that in order for youth to deal effectively with the impact of globalization on their lives; they must start preparing for the future immediately and not wait for Governments to tell them what to do.
This means, we shouldn’t just raise issues we want government to respond to but also be looking out how we as young people can contribute to solving these issues. We are to look into directing our passion and dream for the future into being relevant and critically analyzing our role and maximizing our problem solving skills.
Talking about skills, do you know you can also acquire new ones just by taking part in the event? For instance, last year, I joined some of youth volunteers and young leaders in organising a two-days event to mark the day...with the support of British Council and Voluntary Service Overseas of course. The theme was "Tackling Poverty together" and the event focused on giving youths practical skills in tackling poverty through lectures, idea sharing and skill acquisition session. It was during one of the lectures that I learnt that majority of Nigerians are not really poor, they just suffer from poverty of the mind!
It is amazing how much I learnt just by getting involved. The responsibilities bestowed on us as youth organisers was overwhelming, but with the sincere support and encouragement for our adult partners, it was worthwhile burning out sweat over a fruitful course. So as we acted and didn't allow ourselves to be acted upon, we sharperned our organising and facilitation skills. We also were able to Network with key stakeholders and other youths from all over Nigeria . Some of those who were at the event were really impacted, at least, I know one person who will be marking this year's IYD in his community as a result of what he learnt during IYD 2006.
This year’s international youth day will give youths in a thousand and one opportunities to reflect and take action on issues that they are most passionate about. You shouldn’t allow the norms to suppress your enthusiasm, use your voice appropriately, be seen and be heard. If you haven’t decided how to celebrate the day, team up with others who have, join local youth groups in your community to take action, after all collaboration is a sure way to affect a significant change!

Street talk: Youths and HIV/AIDS

The Millennium Development goal six, which is to combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases, targets to have halted by 2015, and begin to reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS. How can this be fully achieved if a great number of young people at risk are still being left alone to swim in the ocean of ignorance? There is a vital need for organizations to begin to recognize that the best and most effective way of reaching out to young people is to train some young people and empower them by providing adequate skills and resources necessary to reach their peers.
Since the HIV and AIDS epidemic began, over 60 million people have been infected with HIV and more than 20 million have died of AIDS. Despite wide-ranging interventions to curtail its further spread and to mitigate the impact of its effects, there are around 16 000 new infections each day and at the crux of the epidemic are young people, accounting for over 50% of this daily toll. That is why young people are and must be at the centre of action on HIV/AIDS1. Quoting The UN secretary-general Kofi Anan: Young people are the key to the fight against AIDS. By giving them the support they need, we can empower them to protect themselves against the virus. By giving them honest and straightforward information, we can break the circle of silence across all society. By creating effective campaigns for education and prevention, we can turn young people’s enthusiasm, drive and dreams for the future into powerful tools for tackling the epidemic.
Young People must make themselves available for capacity building opportunities that will enable them take positive action in mitigating the impact of HIV in their community. Today, several organizations like Journalists Against AIDS, a media resource centre on HIV/AIDS in Nigeria have set-up Youth Internship Programme to empower youths to take up the leading role in the fight against HIV and AIDS and commit themselves to engaging in activities that will contribute to the emergence of a HIV free youth population.
Young people are at greater risk when:
v Access to clear and non-judgmental information about sexually transmitted disease is difficult and restricted.
v Confidential HIV testing and counseling to find out if they are infected are unavailable or not adapted.
v They lack the power to refuse unwanted or unprotected sex, within and outside marriage
v Sexual orientation or behaviour is concealed as a result of social, cultural, religious or legal prohibitions
v Local communities reject people living with HIV and AIDS and as a result secrecy becomes the norm2

A-Z of HIV and AIDS for Young People

A: Avoid pre-marital/casual sex
B: Be faithful to your spouse
C: Consistent condom use with your partner
D: Don’t share Sharp Objects like razors, Clippers, Needles, and syringes etc.
E: Encourage and care for People Living with HIV and AIDS
F: Feasible HIV campaign ideas should be shared with the right people and not shun
G: Get tested and know your HIV status
H: HIV does not kill
I: Insist on sterilized clippers and other sharp objects if you must share
J: Just don’t ignore simple safety measures
K: Kick against stigmatizing people living with HIV (PLWH)
L: Learn how to live happily and stay alive even if you are HIV positive
M: Make HIV treatment available and affordable for PLWH by advocating for them
N: No knowledge is a waste; learn new facts about HIV today.
O: Operating an “I don’t care attitude” puts you at risk of being infected
P: Protect yourself and protect others by living responsibly.
Q: Question HIV issues and policy is you are in doubt
R: Remember HIV and AIDS are two different things
S: Sex education is a topic you must never shy away from
T: Talk to a trained and experienced counselor for more information about HIV
U: Underestimating your chances of contracting HIV with risk behaviour is risky
V: Verify your first HIV test result by taking another test
W: With media support, accurate information about HIV can be effectively disseminated
X: Xerox A-Z of HIV and AIDS to other young people
Y: Yes! We can have an emergence of a HIV free youth population if we work together
Z: Zipping up is still the most effective & reliable way of Protecting yourself from HIV.
In the fight against HIV and AIDS, Young people should not fold their hands and seat back to watch the future move on without them. They should get involve and self-develop themselves by keying into the numerous positive opportunities and wide range of information made available locally and internationally.

From Birmingham to Jos, Youths unite against AIDS

September 19th 2005 , nine young Nigerians and a supervisor flew to the United Kingdom with so much excitement brewing within them. For all of them, being a part of the Global Xchange was a rare opportunity they counted themselves privilege to be part of, having successfully passed the thorough selection process and pre-departure training exercise held in Abuja prior to their traveling.
The purpose of their Journey was to take part in an international Volunteering programme organized by the Volunteering Service Oversea (VSO) in partnership with British Council and Life Vanguard. An exchange designed to bring together young people from different cultures and backgrounds to make a practical contribution to local communities. Young people from different countries ( Nigeria and United Kingdom ) are given a rare and unique opportunity to work together, to develop and share valuable skills.
The nine young Nigerians on arriving Birmingham met other nine British counterparts. After being given an in-country orientation by the country management team, they were introduced to their host home in pair. The weeks that followed saw the young volunteers actively engaging themselves in series of training and activities with a close supervision of their two Adult supervisors (1 Nigerian and 1 British). In counterpart pair, the global xchange team spent three months in Birmingham living in different host homes, working in different organizations such as AB+, Terrence Higgins Trust (THT), Omincare, St Basils, Time Bank, Freshwinds, ACCR, BRAP, Birmingham Focus on Blindness, and Groundwork. They also carried out some community activity work on theme of HIV/AIDS.
Although the experience was filled with a lot of hard work, the volunteers also had so much fun living and working in Birmingham and learning about each other’s culture. They made out time to take part in the Black History month in Liverpool, participated in the Trade Union’s mass lobby where they met and spoke with some of their counterparts’ MPs on the issue of Trade Justice. They also organized a car-wash fund raising event where they raised 600 pounds for the Asian earthquake victims. Another very significant event that took place during the Xchange was the World AIDS day. Global Xchange Volunteers working in HIV organizations created a forum where other volunteers could actively participate in helping out to organize the event. High schools and colleges were contacted for permission to distribute IEC materials and inform students about HIV and AIDS. This did not come off easily though as out of 30 schools contacted, only 3 responded (strict rules guiding sexual health talk in High schools in U.K?).
December 1, the city centre of Birmingham witnessed an interruption as volunteers spread themselves across the street. While some busied themselves giving out red ribbons, others took a bold step to stop people to give a little talk about World AIDS day and HIV and AIDS. At around 6pm, people assembled at the cathedral to join in the candle light vigil organized by HIV organizations and world AIDS day committee in Birmingham to honour people living with HIV who have passed on and encourage those living with the Virus. True stories and experiences were shared in the course of the evening. It was a packed filled event.
December 12th 2005, the eighteen young volunteers found themselves in Abuja (not really, they actually flew British Airways). Another round of In-country Orientation was given by the Nigerian Management team to wake the Nigerians volunteers about the fact that they were back home and relief the British volunteers of any culture shock they might be having.
Jos was their primary place of assignment, so with a welcome party held at the Gbong gwom’s palace (in U.K the welcome party was at the Mayor’s), everyone settle into their respective host homes, ready to have a reciprocal phase in Nigeria, Still on the theme of HIV and AIDS. Volunteers spent about 8 hours a day working in organizations like PRTV, YARAC, OPTIONAIDS, SPRINGS OF LIFE, FAITH ALIVE, INTER GENDER, INTERCEPT and MASSHIAH FOUNDATION.
The community impact in the Nigeria phase was massive, as community activities included a HIV rally, a road safety seminar followed by a rally, a dormitory painting project in an orphanage on Zaria road, a HIV drama organized by some volunteers in collaboration with Jos Prison Inmates and Jos prison officers/controller, a skill acquisition session with the female inmates (they were taught how to make candle, batik etc), recognizing the need for young people not to be left to swim in the ocean of ignorance, they did an educational project which reached about 300 students in secondary schools who were encouraged to take action on issues that are of major concern to them, teaching them step by step plans on how to go about it.
The programme enabled the young volunteers to gain valuable skills and experience, while achieving international understanding and inter-cultural awareness. The beauty and pain in working in a team (eighteen people) was well felt by Volunteers. Life long friends were made within the team, host home, work placements and host communities. Careers were changed as some volunteers developed a keen interest in volunteerism, community development work and related issues.
Most importantly the city of Birmingham and Jos will never be the same again due to the little drops of significant impact the Global Xchange Youths made during the six-months volunteering programme through project initiatives. While living in Nigeria, some of the British volunteers confessed that Nigeria was a lot better-off than they anticipated as one of them thought Nigeria was all rural, likewise the Nigerians discovered U.K to be as organized as they expected (thanks to the fact that their government care about the least in the society) but was shocked to see it was not all rosy and honey. The Global Xchange 2 as they are fondly called indeed rounded up their activities with a debrief session after which the British volunteers flew back to the U.K and the Nigerian volunteers went back to their different communities, all with a different mind-set; better informed global citizens committed to working for a positive change.
Nigerian youth participation should be encouraged in all organisations. As only empowered youths can make a positive difference.