Saturday, December 29, 2012

May we never forget...

Thank God. Thank you @Omolere and @GraceIheji. It was a good day. May we never forget to praise God that @BankoleTaiwo lived life (

May we never forget to live life and be thankful.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Looking Beyond Money

"A professional who sees his work primarily as a means of earning money runs out of meaning very soon. After you've achieved basic comfort, the quest for material success actually erodes selfworth. It becomes most pronounced in the later part of one's life. Many among us begin to suffer from a sense emptiness that becomes difficult to decode... At a certain stage in one's career, it is peer recognition that sustains us. But beyond all that, the ones who last the longest in the race are those who have given something back to their profession. These are professionals who are driven be a sense of legacy. There is no sustenance bigger than the power to build an intellectual and emotional inheritance.

Many midcareer professionals nurse an empty desire to do something beneficial for a larger common good. "I want to make a difference to society" is often just false piety. Do small things on a sustained basis; do things for your own profession; do things that make a difference to you, your family, your friends, your neighbours and your colleagues; do not worry about changing the world.

The day you feel empty, shift the attention from yourself to others- go and spend time with a bunch of colleagues who have just joined the organisation, help an intern with her work, write a series of how-to articles based on your experiences, take on probono work with your industry association. See how the pitcher of emptiness begins to fill again."

Culled from: The professional (defining the new standard of excellence at work), by Subroto Bagchi.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012


"Don't be afraid to shut a door when that season has ended- God already has a better one opened for you!" Paula White.

Alright! 2012 is not ended yet... but I remember one of the goals I set to achieve this year was to have fun, I think!! How did that go? Did I really just relax, as I aimed to? Well, it has been a mix of working harder and playing hard :-) I totally love how the year started- with a big challenge of learning to close some doors and just say a blunt NO to many things. Yup, it was hard, but also a good skill to learn. Sometimes, saying no is not as easy as its spelling- even when it is the right thing to do. Anyway, looking back, it has been an interesting year of growing and learning. I caught myself complaining once in a while....but all the stress, I'm thankful for.

More of it come 2013! 

God have been gracious to me, family and friends- and colleagues at work. 

Talking about work... with all the challenges they brought o.... seriously...I'm thankful to and for everyone who gave me an opportunity to learn by doing- gave me the space to practice leadership and explore Africa (online :p). Dis Generation column in the Nation newspaper gave me a platform to speak up for youth development. UNAIDS' opened up a unique global opportunity to lead by serving. taught me how exciting it is to build from scratch, focus, work hard and be paid for what you do. My Oga there was very finicky about little errors so I did learn to embrace an excellent work culture too. Aside the above mentioned, there were a lot of other opportunities here and there.... But I pitched my tent at GPI, yup the work-culture has won me over.

So, ni agbara Olorun, I'm going to stick to GPI for a long time :-) I love my boss and colleagues. The work culture rocks! And yes, it is DEVELOPMENT JOURNALISM! I've learned a lot these past months and definitely look forward to learning more and be productive! It is not going to be easy... but is anything easy these days?

I hope this post does not sound too good to be true. I mean, it has not been all rosy. I failed here and there. Was financially broke. Disappointed some people. Fell ill. I face the usual challenge people face. But in all of it, I think I'm still very well excited and alive!

On education and the rest of us, I did finish strong at NIJ. Combining full time education with full time job is a hard nut to crack :-) But I survived, by God's grace. One of the price I paid was becoming very anti-social for a while... but that is changing now- hopefully. It is very important to just relax- eat well, love deeply and pray fervently.

I lost a very dear friend this year. I was shocked. Devastated. Angry. Discouraged. And became afraid. 

But in all of it, I found comfort in God's word- the same words of comfort in three places- Psalm 42:5, Psalm 42:11, Psalm 43:5:
Why are you down in the dumps, dear soul? Why are you crying the blues? Fix my eyes on God— soon I'll be praising again. He puts a smile on my face. He's my God.    (Psalm 42:5,11 Psalm 43:5.)

God is not a secret to be kept.

The year 2012 is not ended yet, but I'm thankful to everyone who has impacted my life, directly and indirectly. With all its challenges, we still have more than a thousand reasons to PRAISE GOD! Don't let the devil steal your joy. As I read on a friend's facebook update recently, "Think back on what God has done for you and praise Him in a new way."

No matter how broke or broken we are, there is always a reason to PRAISE God! Don't settle for being down in the dumps! Arise, yes arise and let God's glory shine through you! His love is not a secret to be kept.

Year 2013, the year of more LOVE. And, yes love is a verb. I've learned the hard way.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Goodbye already, cousin mi?

I'm still in shock, dazed by the message about your demise, cousin mi atata (my dear cousin).
When I first saw Bode's tweet, I hoped there might have been a mix up.
I'm afraid Taiwo.
How can you be gone so soon? You, who loved life? Who dreamt BIG? who always showed up and offered yourself so selflessly for a good cause?
Ahn ahn, Lavidarica nko? the rich life?
This was not part of the plan.  There was going to be the group trip, many more "hangouts" and visionary meetings. There was the many weddings of your siblings you spoke so fondly of. And the business ideas you and Bode were polishing. How about the big one with Ayo? You wanted us to revamp BeforeGraduation together. But I was too slow, not as audacious as you are in pursuing what you believed in.
Just a couple of days ago you said pray with me maam. That line is right in my face now. I didn't understand. I was too exhausted to ask for more details, too consumed by my own selfish pursuits to have the long chats we usually have. When you said you were going to be with Gbenga Sesan this week, I thought ok... but now it is not okay.
That was where you were heading right? To serve, selflessly.
You always stood up to be counted. Never one to say no..  always willing to help... You always showed up...even though it was a last minute notice, you always made sure you showed up. All these I took for granted.
Ah Taiwo. Can I dare ask God why?
I'm so devastated. I sought to find relief blogging tonight. But the more I write, the more pain I feel.
I thank God for giving me the privilege to have known you. I just didn't know the last time I would see you would be at the airport. I was on my way to Addis. You said you would come visit. You and Bode. I still remember you, my mum and I sitting at that cafeteria. We were like family. You were closer than family. No wonder the rumour started long ago- people wanted to know if we were dating. Again, you were closer than a date. We didn't even have to venture there because what we shared had more value!
God knows how many times I smiled this year, grateful for best friends like you and Chioma, for being exceptionally patient with me. Now I wish I had called, tweeted, sent you many messages just to say "thank you" for being there.
You always showed up. You never held a grudge. You were so lovable. Ah! All past tense already?
I thank God for the opportunity and privilege to have known you, laughed with you, danced with you, Bode and Layide, traveled around Lagos with you, dreamt with you and many more. It was too short. But thank you.
May you, Ogunyemi Bankole Taiwo, find rest in God.
Goodbye cousin mi atata. I'm so sad... we lost a young gem to a failed system in Nigeria. Our government leaders steal all the resources and tell many lies instead of building good roads and all.
Goodbye cousin mi atata. May God comfort your family. You'll be greatly missed. That is an understatement.

Saturday, December 08, 2012


Happy Weekend! A colleague sent this to me and asked to help pass it on! Hope you find it useful!! Please share with all the techies (tech-savvy) you know!!

Singularity University and our founding partners are sponsoring a contest designed to identify innovative thinkers and their projects. This contest is open to academics, scientists, and entrepreneurs from Nigeria, who are ready to transform their innovative ideas into reality. This is an exciting opportunity to present your ideas for the future.

The prize: A scholarship to the 2013 Graduate Studies Program (GSP13) at Singularity University in California worth $30,000. This ten-week interdisciplinary program brings together entrepreneurial leaders and top graduate and postgraduate students from around the globe to explore solutions aimed at solving some of the world's most pressing challenges.

The deadline for entries is January 21, 2012.

Assess Official Contest Rules Here:


At least 50 submissions will be submitted
At least 12 submissions will pass the screening stage


Please read carefully through these terms. Refusal or delay in providing relevant documentation regarding these criteria may result in disqualification.


The contest is intended for new, independent ventures and innovations.

The contest is intended for individuals or teams.
A candidate cannot be a member in more than one team.
Team size is unlimited, though teams of 2-4 are recommended.
A team may have professional advisors, consultants, entrepreneurs, or business professionals with relevant expertise. This individual will not participate in the presentation of the plan nor shall in any way win the award or the prize.
A Team must designate a Team leader. The Team leader will be the presenter of the team throughout the contest. In case a Team wins the contest, only the Team leader will receive the SU scholarship. A team leader must meet all Singularity terms and conditions. The team leader will be regarded hereby as "the candidate".
The candidate must be a citizen of Nigeria and must show evidence that he/she is currently resident in Nigeria and has been resident in Nigeria for the last 20 months until the time of submission of the contest application.
The candidate should be a graduate or postgraduate student or entrepreneur.
It is recommended to have a valid US entry permit (Visa) for at least one year. Although this criterion is not required to participate in the contest, the candidate must arrange for a US entry permit in order to receive the SU scholarship prize (SU will provide recommendation/sponsorship letters for Visa interviews )

Concept and Project Types

A project outcome will change for the good the lives of 10,000,000 people in a time period of no more than 5 years from project commence.
A project should be social or scientific and should be about harnessing technology to achieve such a goal.
The project must be original, novel, or otherwise a completely new product or service.
The project must be submitted according to the contest rules and by the submission date.
Late submissions will be disqualified.


Participation in the contest requires competitors to register on the contest website.
In case of a team, a designated Leader will register him/herself and create a team.
Individual team members will register at the contest website and be added to their team by the team leader.
Registered users agree to receive updates regarding the competition, messages, and other communications through the provided email address and phone number entered in the registration process.
Information on registration can be found on the website.
No late submissions will be accepted
Documents must be written in English
A 3 minute video of the project is required as submission for the competition.
Submission of the video and other documentation as specified indicates completion of the registration process.


The judging process of the contest is comprised of 3 separate stages.

Stage 1 – Screening
All submitted projects will be reviewed by two (2) judging committee delegates to evaluate the quality and innovation of the propositions. During this stage no more than 20 projects will be selected to continue to the next stage – Semi Finals.

Stage 2 – Semi Finals
The candidates who qualified the screening stage will be invited to present their project in front of the Judging Committee.

Each candidate will have up to 10 minutes to present the project.
This will be followed by 10 minutes for Q&A by the jury panel.
Presentation will be in English.

Review and Ranking Process
Judges will be asked to review the following criteria, ranked from 1 (low) to 5 (high):

Originality and innovation
Technology – intellectual property issues, novelty, etc.
The Feasibility to impact the Nigerian  society (10,000,000 / 5 years)
Personal obligation and ability to realize the initiative
Candidate personality, skills and record.

The judges will calculate the average in each measurement.
The judges will deliberate on the judging day (while the candidates wait) on the initiatives which received the highest score in at least one measurement.

Candidates will be  informed if they have passed to the next stage.
If a candidate did not pass, the panel will provide constructive criticism.

Candidates who passed to the next stage will be encouraged as the judges see fit, to strive for certain goals until the announcement of the winners. This encouragement comes as suggestions and does not ensure a win.

Six final projects will be uploaded on our website for peer review/comments/votes by registered participants.

Stage 3 – Contest finals event
In the presence of the jury panel  and distinguished representatives, the candidates will present their projects to showcase:

The initiative and its high and positive impact on the national/international level
Any achievements that have been made to promote the initiative
Future plans towards the fulfillment of the project's vision
Enable the contestants to  call for cooperation from the stage, to different groups and/or the general public

The judges will each have three "star tokens": "1 star of initiative", "2 stars of initiative" and "3 stars of initiative" which they will grant to different candidates. The project which receives the most "star tokens" will be announced as the winner, and its representative will receive the prize from a panel of distinguished guests.


Open for Registration – December 6th 2012:

The registration portal will be open for applications. candidates should follow the instructions on the form, fill out the text form and load other documents as required.

Final Submission of Initiatives – January 21st 2013

Final date of submission of online applications.

Screening and Publication of 1st 20 Projects –  February 1st 2013

The best 20 projects will be selected and published on the website. These projects will then move to the Semi Final stage. Registered users will be able to vote on these projects and also comment on how to improve on them.

Finalist Conference and Shortlist of Final 6 Projects – February 15th 2013

In this stage the best six (6) projects from the 20 Top projects will be selected for the finals. The 'Finalists' projects will be published on our website and registered users on our website will be able to vote on and comment on them.

Conclusion of Publication and Voting for Finalists – February 28th 2013

All comments and online voting will be concluded on this date.

 Final Winner Announcement – March 3rd 2013

The final winners will be announced on our web site and also in media houses.

 GSP 13 at Singularity University June  3rd, 2013

The winner attends the GSP13 program at Singularity University, NASA AMES, Moffet Field California USA

Friday, December 07, 2012

Family Planning and Young People

“feel free to share your story with world”  

By Chioma Chukwuneta 
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.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Celebrate Volunteering!

"Founded on the values of solidarity and mutual trust, volunteerism transcends all cultural, linguistic, and geographic boundaries. By giving their time and skills without expectation of material reward, volunteers themselves are lifted by singular sense of purpose." Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

Happy International Volunteer Day! Yeah... it is a day worth celebrating- celebrating the boys, girls, men and women who contribute awesomely to economic and social development through volunteerism :-) I think it should be celebrated everyday!!

I am thankful for the years of volunteering opportunities I got in my teens and early 20s... and yes, I do my best to still keep up the culture of volunteering. I think I have recovered from the volunteer fatigue I experienced late last year. Now back to the present!! What are girls doing these days?

Yep, the GPI-EEEP-GirlHub/NikeFoundation Yegna Girl Ambassadors got their very first news up on GPI news wire today!! Woot! Woot!! An exciting read... check it out below:

Woman Embraces Entrepreneurship, Redefines Gender Roles in Ethiopia

A local entrepreneur has become the first woman to own and drive a horse-drawn cart in her town. Her family is redefining gender roles here, as her husband handles the domestic duties so she can help support the family with her income... read more:

 Stay inspired!!

Monday, December 03, 2012

World Aids Day from an African perspective (@crowdoutaids)

December 1st  is an opportunity to celebrate achievement, remember those we have lost and to renew our commitment in the fight against HIV/AIDS.

AIDS has claimed thirty million lives, most of them from the global south. Africa carries the highest burden. Of the 34 million PLHIV in the world, 23.5 million of them live in sub-Saharan Africa. 15 million children have been orphaned by the pandemic. Beyond these figures are human faces, human stories and human sufferings. AIDS is a health and development crisis for us. It affects whole communities, disrupting systems, impacting on financial revenues. We all know or hear of children forced to leave school after a parent has died.

There is hope. With great technological advancements and new research outcomes, treatment has improved lives significantly, reducing the risks of both horizontal and vertical transmission. Promising vaccine trials and new prevention systems are being developed. Recent figures from UNAIDS show the world has moved a long way, but amidst that optimism we Africans need to remember a lot still needs to be done. Many of our brothers and sisters living with the disease are still waiting for treatment, and the stigma associated with AIDS is a serious infingement of human rights, particularly for women in impoverished areas. Efforts to increase the availability of condoms have been met with resistance, while many young Africans continue to indulge in high-risk behaviour. Even if the number of AIDS related deaths has decreased, sub-Saharan Africa still accounts for 70% of all people dying from AIDS.

For the last 3 years the theme has been zero new infection, zero discrimination and zero aids related death. But the main threat to its achievement in Africa is the dependency of our countries on foreign aid. A common proverb from Burkina goes like this: 'sleeping on someone else's bed comes to sleeping on the floor'. Yes, African countries have been sleeping on someone's else bed for two long. Most of our prevention and treatment programs have been funded externally but there are strong signs this aid will no longer be available. Africans need to be very concerned about such a consequence. 

As we celebrate World Aids Day, we plead with our governments to increase their own resources  on AIDS…..but we also say at individual, community and national level we need to take action. Africa can achieve these zero objectives but it is imperative we continue to educate, inform, empower and care TOGETHER.

My zero is to work for a greater access to affordable and quality treatment for all PLHIV. What is yours?

Benedicte Kouassi

Chair of the Publications and Communications Committee, NAYD Steering Group