In preparation for the 2nd National planning conference, UNFPA invited selected young people to a 1day pre-youth conference on the 27th of November. The pre-youth conference is essentially a skill building workshop and it is expected to provide a platform where young people can be engaged so as to be able to participate meaningfully in the main conference through the impartation of knowledge and skills, especially as it relates to family. The opportunity also aimed to allow youth delegates could learn new strategies about contraceptives programming/family planning, network and share ideas and experiences.
I work full-time in a business environment as an accountant but I have had a couple of opportunities to participate/volunteer in several sustainable development projects by youth led organisations and this was bolstered with my membership at the then British Council learning and development hub, as an undergraduate. Being invited for the conference made me happy, I had a lot of expectations from the project and I’m glad to say they were not cut short.
The event began at 9:00am at Parkview hotel, Wuse 1 Abuja, I walked into the conference room with a beaming smile and a large heart, my heart grew larger when I began to see familiar faces. The early hours of the event felt like a family meeting- the room felt warm as we all introduced ourselves and made our groundrules for the event. We shared our concerns and expectations for the main conference. Afterwards was tea break!! Good meal were served, pleasantries never stop flying around.
The second part of the program was the interactive session on young people’s experiences on sexual and reproductive health programming, which was led by ARFH’s Oladeji Adeyemi, so this was the beginning of the day’s business. We were in divided into groups and then made group presentations afterwards. Each group discussed individual community development project carried out, the goals and objectives, the challenges and lessons learnt from the project, a total of four presentation were made and the best and the best two were chosen for detailed presentation. I was amazed at the extent to which young people go when driven by their passion for change, I also noticed some lapses as a result of lack of professionalism in running community development projects.
After lunch ARPH’s Sam Amade took on the concept of advocacy, he highlighted the meaning, qualities, steps and strategies of good advocacy; we also took time differentiate advocacy from other related terms like BCC and IEC.
Next was a presentation by Mr Oladeji on ARFH’s success stories in implementing advocacy for sexual and reproductive health education projects in Nigeria. It was an informative presentation which focused more on the challenges faced by ASFH in taking projects to the rural communities due to the religious and cultural sensitivity of the Nigeria environment and how those challenges where surmounted simply by understanding the needs the community.
There was also a presentation by Mckinley from EVA on the social media as a new opportunity for communicating sexual and reproductive health programme for young people. It was quite insightful too. As a trained photographer Mckinley brought in a lot of experiences to display how pictures tell a lot of stories more than mere words.
The Pre-youth conference was wrapped with reflections, summary and plans for the way forward (the main conference).
My day off from work was a fruitful one, I enjoyed the conference a lot mainly because of the programme content and no doubt the aim of the conference was met. It was a good networking opportunity for me as I had the chance to meet a couple of youths whom I have often seen/heard on social/traditional media like Mr. Jake Okechukwu Offoedu whom I listen to every Saturday morning on radio advocating for the prevention of HIV/AIDS amongst young Nigerians through a BBC sponsored program “flavar”.
I took away many lessons from the conference but one of them is the very reason for this article- a quote from Mr Oladeji advice to young people and co-incidentally repeated by Mckinley “feel free to share your story with world.”
Secondly I have heard that knowledge is power and what one doesn’t know supersedes him, as familiar as family planning sounds being at this conference is the closet I’ve come to knowing what it really entails.
In a country like ours where people are often culturally and religiously sensitive the topic is usually misinterpreted but I am glad and grateful to UNFPA for such an opportunity to be empowered with such knowledge.