Monday, December 09, 2013

Download our new book, "Half a Loaf & a Bakery" via @Okadabooks

You can now download a free copy of "Half a Loaf & a Bakery" via OkadaBooks on your Android device.

Volunteerism. Education. Entrepreneurship & more!

Click the link to read the review: HALF A LOAF & A BAKERY

To buy your copies, please visit:

The Media Store (bookstore) at Silverbird Galleria Abuja.

Florence & Lambard Publisher and Booksellers 202-204 Ikorodu road, Palm Grove, Lagos.

Friday, December 06, 2013

Lead by serving!

When you liberate yourself, you are able to liberate others.

I celebrate Nelson Mandela, for not tiptoeing through life. And for living, but not just for himself. He made impact, for good.

They say he was not a straight T. For the best of men are still men, at best. But may his victories continue to inspire us, always!

In his words: "Sometimes it falls upon a generation to be great. You can be that great generation. Let your greatness blossom..."

Adieu Madiba Nelson Mandela!

Thank you for blossoming!

Monday, December 02, 2013

HIV and AIDS news coverage #IRP13

Some experts have identified the way forward in tackling the spread of HIV.
To be free from HIV in Nigeria, we must start with pregnant women and the pregnant women will have to be on treatment to prevent the transmission of HIV to their babies,” says one expert. The hope that the spread of HIV can be stopped when efforts are channelled towards pregnant women and nursing mothers was a reoccurring one during a recent coverage on HIV and AIDS in Nasarawa state, north central Nigeria.
What is the current situation?
According to UNAIDS, in 2012 an estimated 35.3 million people globally were living with HIV, 2.3 million people became newly infected with HIV while 1.6 million people died from AIDS-related illnesses.
 In Nigeria, there are over three million people living with HIV and Nasarawa state has one of the highest prevalence rate at 7.5%, according to a report by Nasarawa State AIDS Control Agency (NASACA).
In the face of these glooming statistics are inspiring stories. An example is the Nigerian lady living with HIV but who has a HIV-negative baby, thanks to the PMTCT services provided at her local healthcare.
Earlier this year, while addressing a group of female leaders in Abuja, President Goodluck Jonathan opined thatto end AIDS, we must first end poverty. From this, one can be led to draw a conclusion that poverty is a pedestal upon which AIDS is raised to thrive on. Maybe it is, maybe it is not.
However, in the same event, the President of Liberia reassured us that "HIV is no longer a death sentence." 
In a situation where a couple is living with HIV, they can both successfully give birth to HIV-negative children. But it has to take the cooperation of both parties to adhere to treatment. With the invention of new treatments, experts are certain that through PMTCT, we can protect future generations from HIV.” But what happens if babies are still born HIV-positive? 
 “We have seen tremendous political commitment and results to reduce mother-to-child transmission of HIV—but we are failing the children who become infected. We urgently need better diagnostic tools and child-friendly medicines—irrespective of the market size.” Says Mr Sidibe, the Executive Director of UNAIDS.
Meanwhile, as huge efforts are being put in place to tackle HIV/AIDS through PMTCT intervention, lack of adherence to treatment has been identified as a major barrier, second to lack of funds to sustain programs that will encourage nursing mothers and pregnant women to access treatment.
Some women are prevented from accessing treatment by their husbands. Thus, gender inequality as driver of HIV will remain a huge part of our conversation just as stakeholders will continue to advocate for an increase in awareness to curb the spread of other diseases such as hepatitis. 
As the world marked the International day of the Elderly, the coverage focus shifted to a unique angle-- what happens when older persons take the lead in HIV prevention in rural communityWe saw the efforts of older persons who took the lead in HIV prevention campaign in rural Nigeria.
In a recent report by UNAIDS, the need for attention to be directed towards adults aged 50 and over was raised.
An increasingly significant trend in the global HIV epidemic is the growing number of people aged 50 years and older, who are living with HIV. 
 Worldwide, an estimated 3.6 [3.2–3.9] million people aged 50 years and older are living with HIV.
This “aging” of the HIV epidemic is mainly due to three factors: the success of antiretroviral therapy in prolonging the lives of people living with HIV; decreasing HIV incidence among younger adults shifting the disease burden to older ages; and the often-unmeasured, and thus often overlooked, fact that people aged 50 years and older exhibit many of the risk behaviours also found among younger people. 
Well. Whether focusing on the unborn babies or the elderly, can the spread of HIV can be brought to a halt? Can we still get to zero?
 Let's keep pushing. Let's keep reporting!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

An HIV-free #Nigeria must start with pregnant women, says expert #IRP13

Gloria, early 30s, is a tailor by profession. She lives in Nassarawa, North central Nigeria. She is married, has one child and is expecting another.

Gloria also serves as a mentor-mother at the tertiary Hospital in her community. As a mentor-mother, she coordinates the support group created for women living with HIV who access treatment at the health center. Drawing from her experience living with HIV and successfully adhering to the Prevention of Mother To Child Transmission (PMTCT) treatment, Gloria mentors other women on how to go about it.

Living with HIV“I found out that [I’m] HIV positive in 2003,” Gloria says. A persistent fever and leg pain had forced Gloria’s family to take her to hospital for a confirmatory test. After several other tests, a doctor asked her permission to test for HIV. Gloria accepted. “So after the test he came and told me that I’m HIV positive,” she says. “He asked me if I [want] him to tell my parents. I said yes but that he should just tell my mother first.” She added.

The doctor advised Gloria to start her treatment immediately. He referred her to a tertiary Healthcare centre in a neighboring state due to the unavailability of Anti-Retroviral (ARV) drugs in her state. “On reaching there, they declared the drugs free,” she says. This made treatment affordable for her. But prior to her starting on ARV, she says her brother had initially blamed her condition on witchcraft and other estranged family members.

He placed her forcefully on herbal treatment but when she refused to take it, he stopped paying her hospital bills.

According to UNAIDS, in 2012 an estimated 35.3 million people globally were living with HIV, 2.3 million people became newly infected with HIV while 1.6 million people died from AIDS-related illnesses.

In Nigeria, there are over three million people living with HIV and Nasarawa state has one of the highest prevalence rate at 7.5%, according to a report by Nasarawa State AIDS Control Agency (NASACA). In Nassarawa-Eggon where Gloria lives, between January and August 2013, out of about two thousand people who tested for HIV, about three hundred were HIV positive, reveals a recent report by the Local AIDS Control Agency (LACA).

Nassarawa-Eggon, comprising of urban and rural inhabitants, is a local government area with an estimated population of one hundred and eighty three people, according to a 2006 statistics by National Population Commission (NPC).

Although there are eighty-six public health facilities and twelve private facilities in the area, only twenty-three are offering HIV Counselling and Testing (HCT) with treatment sites. However, an increased awareness about HIV and AIDS has contributed to people accessing treatment irrespective of their religious background, says a nurse at the Antiretroviral Treatment (ART) centre of one of the health facilities.

To tackle the spread of HIV and AIDS in Nasarawa state, different organizations are supporting the state government in carrying out various intervention programmes. According to a recent report by LACA, Enhancing Nigeria’s Response (ENR), Institute of Human Virology Nigeria (IHVN) and SOLINA health have trained communicators to create awareness about HIV/AIDS through drama and use of flipchart presentations; run comprehensive treatment of HIV/AIDS in tertiary and primary health centers as PMTCT sites; and offer PMTCT service, respectively.
A staff of IHVN says the organization, which has its headquarter in Abuja, has been working in collaboration with Nasarawa state government since 2006 to strengthen the work towards sustainability of HIV prevention in the state.

“What we do here is we are providing treatment, care and support for people living with HIV/AIDS and we also emphasis on mother-to-child transmission prevention,” she says.

“To be free from HIV in Nigeria, we must start with pregnant women and the pregnant women will have to be on treatment to prevent the transmission of HIV to their babies,” the IHVN staff says.
Coping with stigmatization
Access to treatment has enabled Gloria, her husband and their HIV-negative child maintain a healthy living. But she says it was not all rosy at the beginning. There was a high rate of stigmatization in her community. “If I drink water and use cup even my mother was afraid then. She’ll tell my brothers they should not use it.” She says. Her neighbours also forbade their children from eating the food she cooked. “If I’m passing, people will be calling me ‘HIV, AIDS, HIV, AIDS’. I’ll pretend as if I did not hear.”

Earlier this year, the Nasarawa state government passed the HIV and AIDS Anti-stigma Bill into Law to protect people infected and affected by AIDS. But not many people know about the existence of this law.

In 2004, Gloria joined a support group organized by a local Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) in her community. “I was committed there,” she says. It was at this programme she met her husband. “I [don’t even hope] someone will say this woman I like you but it takes the grace of God.” She says. Gloria said she was surprised. “After the workshop he visited her family,” she says. That marked the beginning of a relationship between them. In 2007, they got married.

Championing support group for women living with HIV
Gloria started her Prevention of Mother To Child Transmission (PMTCT) treatment in 2008. “My first baby is four years,” she says. The child is HIV negative. In her opinion, the PMTCT programme is successful because it has enabled many women who are living with HIV give birth to HIV negative babies.

The staff at IHVN agrees with Gloria. She says women are responsive to PMTCT.
“We have mother-to-mother support group where they meet once a month and talk to each other,” says IHVN staff. “We have mentor-mothers. These mentor-mothers are people that have passed through PMTCT,” she adds.
For anyone to qualify to be a mentor-mother she must have adhered to antiretroviral treatment and followed all the regulatory of PMTCT services. These mentor-mothers guide younger women to adhere to treatment and live a positive life.

Gloria’s dedication to ensuring other women living with HIV have access to treatment and are given necessary support led her in 2010 to join the mother-to-mother support group initiated by Institute of Human Virology Nigeria (IHVN). She presently serves as a mentor-mother. But she says women are not as responsive to the programme as expected. “Women are not responding because they are ashamed,” she says. Most women are still ashamed about their HIV status. The support group was created to change this.

The IHVN staff says when women living with HIV enroll in the PMTCT treatment programme, that is when they are placed in a support group. “They come together on monthly basis to encourage each other,” says the official. Adding, “We also have some kind of incentive like transport that would support them to come for the meeting and learn from each other.”

Many women turn up for the group meetings when they are given incentives for attending. Gloria says some of the women are more interested in what they will be given for attending. “If they come this month, you give them something, next month if you did not give them, that is how they will be reducing,” she says.

The staff at IHVN says women living with HIV receive different types of incentives. “We give them free drugs, free test, lab investigations are free and we provide them with care and support packages,” she says.

The IHVN staff says the only thing is for the women to be encouraged to access treatment. “The services are there and available and they are free,” she says.

Gloria says she has to keep encouraging them to attend the support group whether or not they are given incentives. “The support group is helping me a lot.” Gloria says. “We have health talk. We discuss about personal hygiene and how they can take care of their [baby].” After the meeting, they visit one another to provide home-care support.

It is important for women to visit their clinic often, to know the state of their health. “My advice is that if a woman discovers she is HIV positive, she should visit the clinic. If she [visit] the clinic and started her drugs, they will tell her more, especially if she is pregnant,” Gloria says. The medical team will tell her to start her PMTCT immediately.

In addition, Gloria advice the government to provide economic empowerment programme for women living with HIV to enable them contribute positively to development of their community. “So many of them have children and they are not working,” says Gloria. “A woman needs to be economically empowered to take care of her children.”

The reporter:

Jennifer Ehidiamen is a 2013 IRP New Media Fellow for International Reporting Project (IRP). She is reporting on issues of global health and development in Nigeria.

This story was also published on HeathNewsNG.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Nigerian emerge Commonwealth Youth Council Chair

By Ayokunle Oloye

A Nigerian, Ahmed Adamu has emerged the chairperson of the Commonwealth Youth Council (CYC) at a keenly contested election.

Adamu  will chair the new body, which will be the recognised voice of the 1.2 billion young people of the Commonwealth, and a framework for youth-led development initiatives.   

Ahmed Adamu from Kastina State is a graduate of Bayero University Kano with a PhD in Economics, from Newcastle University, United Kingdom.

He is the Founder and Pioneer President, Youth Participation for Progressive Development Initiative, member, Katsina State Executive Council Committee on youth restiveness and Unemployment, December, 2011 and Secretary, Constitutional review Committee, Katsina Central Constituency, 2012.

Five other Nigerian youths were among the fifty-three candidates from 21 countries standing for nine executive posts including Chairperson, Vice Chairpersons, regional and special interests representatives of the Commonwealth Youth Council. Over the past two days at the Commonwealth Youth Forum  in Hambantota, Sri Lanka, candidates from national youth bodies across the 53 countries of the Commonwealth have been campaigning for the right to lead the CYC.

Ayokunle is a blogger @

Full Press Release below:

Commonwealth youth delegates elect inaugural Commonwealth Youth Council Executive

November 12, 2013 at 4:47pm
12 November
Following yesterday's formal establishment of the new Commonwealth Youth Council (CYC), official delegates to the 9thCommonwealth Youth Forum (CYF) today elected the Council's inaugural nine-member Executive. 
Ahmed Adamu from Nigeria will chair the new body, which will be the recognised voice of the 1.2 billion young people of the Commonwealth, and a framework for youth-led development initiatives.   
Youth leaders have invested great amounts of time and passion on the formation of a CYC constitution and structure since the concept was first mooted in 2010 and endorsed by Heads of Government in Perth, Australia, in 2011. Over the past two days at the CYF in Hambantota, Sri Lanka, candidates from national youth bodies across the 53 countries of the Commonwealth have been campaigning for the right to lead the CYC.
The inaugural Executive of the Commonwealth Youth Council, who will serve a two year term until the next CYC General Assembly in Mauritius in 2015, are:
Chairperson: Ahmed Adamu from Nigeria
Vice Chairperson (Policy, Advocacy & Projects): Sudharshana Lakshmi from India
Vice Chairperson (Partnerships & Resources): Sadham Zarjahan from Sri Lanka
Vice Chairperson (Inclusion & Engagement): Mohamed Husni from Sri Lanka
Regional Representative – Africa & Europe: Kiziah Philbert from Kenya
Regional Representative – Asia: Tharika Dileepani from Sri Lanka
Regional Representative – Caribbean & Americas: Royden Beharry from Grenada
Regional Representative – Pacific: Harry James from Solomon Islands
Representative – Special Interest Groups: Wathsala Samarakoon from Sri Lanka
With the CYC elections as an exciting backdrop, the CYF has also continued with expert presentations and policy working group sessions on the sub themes 'Gender Equality', 'Generating Quality Youth Employment' and 'Reconciliation and Social Cohesion'.  Delegates are aiming to shape national and Commonwealth agendas on topics of particular interest to young people under the theme 'Inclusive Development- Stronger Together!'. The sessions engendered lively debate and strong recommendations, which will inform the youth leaders' meeting with Heads of Government at CHOGM later in the week.
Speaking on youth employment, Ms Barbara Kasumu from Elevations Network said  
"Vocational and technical training qualifications need to be valued at the same level as traditional academic routes. Education alone does not guarantee employment outcomes and more must be done to ensure that work experience is fully integrated into a young person's learning experience."
Delegate Racheal Kalaba from Zambia, who attended the session, said
"I was very impressed with the philosophy of the young speaker Ravi Theja Muthu from India, who told us that if we can't get out of the box that restricts our entrepreneurial endeavors, then we should destroy the box and think in new ways."
At the end of a long but fruitful day, delegates took part in a cultural performance,with an amazing show of diverse traditions and talent.  The young people collaborated on a regional basis to demonstrate the CYF themes through dance, song and traditional instruments.

Friday, October 04, 2013

How Technology Is Fostering Good Governance In Nigeria #IRP13

As Nigeria marks its 53rd year since independence from the British on October 1st 1960, techies in the oil-rich West African country have come a long way from queueing at public cafes, to creating a multitude of web and mobile platforms to track activities of the government, and hold leaders accountable. With increased access to mobile phones, Nigeria is witnessing increased participation in governance through social media platforms. Good governance fosters social and economic development. Social media users say with the freedom of information law and advent of technology, Nigerians have the opportunity to access previously inaccessible government data. It also provides an opportunity for increased participation in addressing health challenges, such as the AIDS response. The inability to take action beyond online discussion and debates serve as a threat to social media relevance.

Accessing ‘previously inaccessible’ data
The Freedom of Information (FOI) bill, which allows the public to have access to information held by the government, was signed into law in Nigeria in 2011. This has enabled many Nigerians seek out information that was not previously in the public domain.

Mr Japeth Omojuwa, the founder of and one of Nigeria’s top social media activists with over 70,000 followers on Twitter, describes the ability of Nigerians to access previously inaccessible government reports as phenomenal.

“Data is everything and it is much more [readily available] today than ever before,” he says, “There are a lot of platforms making data from public and private institutions and these are [generating intense] discussions on social media.”

Web and mobile app innovations
With the advent of social media, web developers and tech savvy youths have developed several web and mobile applications to propagate the information and make their findings public knowledge. “There is a big information gap,” says Oluseun Onigbinde, scrolling through his company profile on his laptop referring to the data available and the awareness and usage of this data among the general public.

Onigbinde is the team leader at BudgIT [] an online platform that acts as intermediary between the government leaders and the governed in Nigeria.

He says BudgIT was launched in 2011, with support from a founding partner and Co-creation Hub, a technology-focused workspace located in Lagos. The goal was to simplify the Nigerian budget so that the ordinary man on the street can understand.

“Budget should be of common knowledge,” he says. While the leaders prepare budget on how to spend the public resources, the people at the grassroots should understand what the money is being spent on, Onigbinde says.

The budget analysis website,, targets the urban youth, civil society organizations and government institutions.

Their website help individuals and organizations track government approved projects in their states to reduce corruption and identify cases of abandoned projects.

BudgIT present the national budget in form of infrographics, interactive application or quick data access in order to make data analysis self-revealing and enable users ask clear questions about government spending.

“We also publish a bi-annual policy document on improving the budget processes, institutions and transparency,” Onigbinde says, “our approach is to bring forth human angle stories by converting stack information to moving narrative that drives a sense of ownership in the user.”

Prior to starting up, Onigbinde says he worked at one of the Banks in Nigeria. “I was in the public finance team,” he says. They analyzed the annual budget for the bank. The experience at the bank inspired him in his activism.

While working at the bank he experienced first-hand the gaps in the budget analysis sector and wondered how it be better simplified. He envisioned applying his knowledge to make the Nigerian budget more transparent, accessible and understandable for Nigerians.

During the January 2012 Fuel subsidy protest in Nigeria, played an instrumental role in ensuring a re-adjustment in the Nigerian budget. The team created a budget cut application during the Occupy Nigeria Movement, a protest instigated by an increment in price of fuel. The application helped start an engagement on national budget among users.

“We did a budget cut application that made them readjust the Nigerian budget and it was mind blowing,” Onigbinde says. The application had over 4,000 daily visits by users.

Some of the information released by BudgIT has gone viral; the most prominent example was an analysis of the Nigerian budget, which showed the President was allocated one billion naira for food allowance. Young Nigerians shared the information on their different social network accounts. With over 9,500 followers on Twitter, BudgIT has recorded over 4million web hits and has processed over 4,000 data requests. For them, the social media is an active platform for engaging users and initiating action. But Onigbinde does not regard it as a platform that should primarily be used to oppose the government. “It is not like it is a war out there,” he says. Thus, the weaknesses of the Nigeria’s legislative office provided BudgIT co-founders an opportunity to serve as consultants to help improve the system.

Through a funding provided by Department for International Development (DFID), the team at BudgIT recently launched an institution-focused project at the National Assembly budget and research office. They built mapping software, which arranged the Nigerian capital projects according to their locations.

According to the information on their website, the Nigerian budget now re-arranged by BudgIT according to locations has been accessed by over 150 civil society organisations. Onigbide says the project resonates with their goal to provide institutional support to ensure national budget in Nigeria is understandable.

Like, other social media tools that have come into limelight include, a web repository that documents corruption practices in Nigeria. The website was launched in June this year by WANGONET, a coalition of NGOs in Nigeria, with funding from Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA).

‘Seun Akinfolarin, one of the creators of says the website aggregates information around corruption in governance and initiate action. “It allows people take action on corruption case,” he says, “So you don’t find someone convicted for crime 10 years ago coming out to run for office ten years after because people have forgotten.”

In addition to the existing portals is, another example of website created to foster good governance in Nigeria. The website provides information about elections in Nigeria. These include election malpractice, profile of candidates, polling stations and real time reports on election incidences.

Social media as an enabler
According to the data published on Internet users, population and Facebook statistics for Africa 2012 by, while the world currently has a 37.7 percent Internet penetration, Africa has a 15.6 percent with an estimated 167million Internet users on the continent.

Nigeria, with a population of about 170 million and Gross National Income per capital of US 1,200 (WorldBank 2011) has an estimated 48 million Internet users, with 28.4 percent Internet penetration. As at December 2012, over 6.6 million Nigerians were registered Facebook users.

The emergence of social media has contributed immensely to expand the frontiers of good governance. From open government data as noted by Omojuwa, and citizen reporting on government abuses, it has also provided a medium to connect citizens with one another and empower them to hold government accountable which some also call Citizen reporting, says Adeola Austin Oyinlade, a lawyer and President of the Constitutional Rights Awareness and Liberty Initiative.

“Social media essentially is people in the end,” says Akinfolarin, “From my own personal experience, by connecting people to a cause and getting them to work for that cause, I’ve been able to access even greater amount of information.”

Meanwhile, Onigbinde says social media has a crucial role to play in ensuring Nigerian leaders are held accountable. Akinforlarin says social media takes users a step further in interrogating the system. “That has been the power of social media.”

Highlighting the contributions of social media use in Nigeria, Oyinlade says it has made governance more efficient by reducing transaction costs. For example, mobile phones and Internet make it less expensive to provide government data, monitor elections, inform citizens about government activities or services. “Apart from efficiency, technology has transformed workings of government and how citizens interact,” he says.

Social media has also helped activists organize. And Governments have used its emergence to monitor protest and public opinion on its policies. Citizens now quickly report crime to the law enforcement agencies.

But amidst the optimism, Onigbinde and Akinfolarin point out some of the downsides of social media activism.

“One challenge I still have is the offline network,” Onigbinde says. He advocates for Nigerians active on social media not to limit their activism to dazzling over topics without a follow-up away from the keyboards.

“It looks like we are just talking,” Onigbinde says, “I think we need an offline structure.” He says this will ensure issues raised online are followed through offline.

Recently, the team at BudgIT took their online activities to the grassroots by distributing hard copies simplified budget documents they usually upload on their website for those at the grassroots to have access instead of being disconnected from the discussion.

“We need to strike a balance,” says Onigbinde. Akinfolarin agrees, “One thing we have to do is to be deliberate about what we want,” Akinfolarin says, “We are not deliberate enough, everything just happens more or less by chance.”

Akinfolarin advocates for the need for Non-Governmental organizations (NGOs) and other activists to create simple goals and get young people to collaborate in achieving these goals.

He says, “once people have confidence on social media, they’ll trust it as their source of information and tool for organization.”

The popularity of some of these websites has little impact among Nigerians. Akinfolarin says that although has recorded about 80,000 daily visits, people do not use them as much as expected. “The impact is greater but the manifestation of that impact is not just known yet,” he says.

Increased Internet penetration
Nigeria’s Internet sector has been hindered by poor infrastructure over the past years, but as new technologies that deliver wireless broadband access continue to flood the country, Nigerians are able to improve on their connectivity and Internet access.

According to a report published by the punch newspaper, about 32 million Nigerians are accessing the Internet through telecommunication networks, while other users depend on other Internet Service Providers.

“IT gained more traction in the last five to seven years. The usage is small but usefulness is much,” Akinfolarin says, “Technology will revolutionize governance in the end.”

Akinfolarin points out the need for people to be patient while awaiting the outcome of their deliberate use of social media. “Young people have to be introduced early enough, it has to be part of their civic responsibility in a way,” he says, as this will ensure an accurate use of the medium.

As Tech continuous to take deeper root in the Nigerian society, social media activists unanimously agree on its ability to shape good governance through increased transparency and access to information.

“With technology we can create an open governance process that brings everything to the fore,” says Omojuwa. The use of technology exposes lapses in the government operations.

He points out how during Mr. Nuhu Ribadu’s era, the Economic Financial Crime Commission could track every major flow of money within Nigeria and outflows from Nigeria.

“This went a long way in tracking illicit money and all forms of corrupt activities,” Omojuwa says, “This process can translate to every form of governance. We can use technology to deliver the dividends of good governance and technology can level the social space and bridge the gap between the governors and the governed.”

Social media and AIDS response
Social media has also played an instrumental role in opening up conversations about different health issues, especially the AIDS response.

“Opportunity abound for technology in AIDS response,” says Paul Adepoju, Managing Editor at Adepoju says social media has contributed to increased awareness, which is an important prevention measure on the health challenge.

“Many people tweet and share on social media,” he says. “But are those actually getting to the right people?” To ensure news updates reach the right audience and curb the transitory nature of information flow, Adepoju launched the health-focused news website “We saw that tweets and Facebook posts are easily forgotten once they are off the timeline,” he says.

According to Adepoju, social media can also be used as a tool of mobilization for social change. “A good example was the CrowdOutAIDS initiative,” he says. In 2011, the UNAIDS engaged over 5,000 young people across the world in crowdsourcing a new strategy document that will ensure youths are better engaged in the AIDS response. The recommendations made by the participants are currently being implemented into the UNAIDS programmes, and adapted by other local organizations. CrowdOutAIDS was the first ever crowdsourced document in UN history and an online process facilitated the process.

However, to ensure young people at the grassroots were carried along, youth volunteers replicated the online process in their various communities. With a guide provided by UNAIDS, the youth volunteers engaged their peers who have no Internet access in the same discussions. The report of their offline forum was uploaded online, in form of blog posts, for other participants to view.

“We’ve been able to cover a wide range of distance with just a simple click to disseminate powerful information and strategies on how young people could access HIV/STI prevention tools, treatment, care and support,” says Gabriel Adeyemo, one of the CrowdOutAIDS participant and mobilizers in Nigeria.

Despite the different recorded success in the use of social media to increase AIDS response, some users say a lot of opportunities are still being overlooked.

“There are a wider range of opportunities that can be tapped into in the AIDS response that are not being explored,” says Kikelomo Taiwo, a youth volunteer at HIV/AIDS Anti-stigma Bill Campaign project Education as a Vaccine (EVA), a local NGO based in Abuja Nigeria.

Taiwo says disseminating information through the use of mobile technology should be explored more. “Young people who are the most vulnerable and affected population need to be reached with information that is timely, accurate and non-judgemental,” she says.

To further encourage active youth participation in AIDS response, Taiwo advocates for an increased youth engagement in monitoring the effective implementation of policies and programs. “This can be done by asking young people to share their experiences concerning HIV health services they received or issues they are dealing with,” she says.

Adepoju is optimistic that using social media to increase participation in the AIDS response is a step in the right direction.

“As far as I’m concern, with my wealth of experience in health journalism, technology coverage and HIV care in Africa, we may not cure AIDS in the next 10 years,” says Adepoju, “But we can stop the spread of the virus within five years if we properly channel technology tools.”

Increased participation in governance through social media
Although some public officials in Nigeria have expressed displeasure over the growing use of different social network sites as platforms for debating government policies, Nigerian activists consider it an enabler for fostering good governance.

Early this year, an online newspaper, Premium Times, reported that the federal government awarded a $40 million Internet surveillance contract to Elbit Systems an Israeli company, to monitor computer, Internet communication by Nigerians. This raised a lot of debate around the freedom of expression.

“I don’t think there is a need for social media regulation,” says Oyinlade.

The Lawyer emphasizes right to use social media can be traced to the universal right freedom of expression or Freedom of the Press on other jurisdiction.

“The freedom of expression is provided for under international treaties, charters, covenants such Universal Declaration of Human Rights, International Convention on Civil and Political Rights and Regional instruments like African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights” he says. “These have been signed, ratified and transformed into national law by many member states of the United Nations, African Union among other international bodies.”

In Nigeria, Freedom of Expression is enshrined under section 39 of the 1999 Constitution as amended. Print, online and electronic media operations derive their existence from the fundamental right called freedom of expression. Freedom of Expression, which includes right to speak, tweet, write and publish, does not permit a person to defame another.

“I don’t see an essence of enacting a social media specific law to regulate what people express on social media. Freedom of expression has a wider scope, which covers the social media activities,” Oyinlade says, “Calls for its regulation or social media specific law is an attempt to use law as an instrument of fraud and by denying people on this inalienable right.”

In an article, “Social Media may yet change governance in Africa,” the former Vice President of Nigeria, Atiku Abubakar, acknowledge this new platform as the space where young Nigerians gather “to share their thoughts, often venting their frustrations with the inefficiencies of the country.”

He recognized social media “as a powerful organizing tool in protecting our democracy moving forward. It also allows me an opportunity to listen to diverse uncensored views of the people.”

The former Vice President of Nigeria advocates for government officials to see social media as an opportunity to listen to their constituency. He described the platform as “gold mine of data and reference for performance.”

The advent of the use of social media in Nigeria to debate issues around government policies has increased participation.

“We might not have a mass protest that sparked off from Facebook but we must understand that the Arab spring did not come from Twitter, it was just an enabler,” says Akinfolarin, “so when there is a need for that movement, we’ll be able to use this Social Media platform to organize.”

2013 IRP New Media Fellow for International Reporting Project. Reporting on Global Health and Development.

Story also featured Ventures AfricaCOA and AFK

Friday, September 27, 2013

Have you checked out @LeapAfrica's Social Innovators Programme for Youths Age 18-29?

Social Innovators Programme and Awards 2013
Advocacy, Training & Support for Replicable and Scalable Community Projects

The Social Innovators Programme (SIP) will support talented youth between the ages of 18 and 29, whose ideas and initiatives offer effective solutions to challenges in local communities across Nigeria, with the necessary training, funding, advocacy and network support required to strengthen their existing initiatives and enhance their sustainability and impact. Through the programme’s partnership with the International Youth Foundation’s YouthActionNet® programme (, young innovators will become members of a global network of over 880 change-makers from 70+ countries. Over three months, LEAP will provide selected youth with training and support based on YouthActionNet’s curriculum focused on the “Six Dimensions of Leadership” (Personal, Visionary, Collaborative, Political, Organizational, and Societal).

 The Social Innovators Programme and Awards Launch will hold on Monday, November 11, 2013 at Shell Hall, MUSON Centre, Onikan Lagos. The distinguished speaker at this event is Mr. Rick Little, Founder, International Youth Foundation (IYF). The IYF is a global non-profit organization dedicated to preparing young people to become healthy, productive and engaged citizens and has supported LEAP Africa since 2004.

  Do you qualify for the SIP? Applicants must meet the following entry requirement to be considered for the programme. They must be:
  • Nigerians resident in Nigeria (not Nigerians in the Diaspora).
  • Between ages 18 – 29 years.
  • Initiators# of such projects/initiatives/organisations that are positively impacting local communities and lives of Nigerians particularly in achieving the MDGs through their creativity and innovation.
  • Able to document and prove their work, benefits and some level of sustenance amongst communities and Nigeria for a minimum of 12 months prior to date of application for the SIP.
Twenty (20) social innovators will be enrolled into the programme. Participants will undergo two different 5-day trainings within a 6 month interval. The SIP will be offered free of charge and the programme covers cost of accommodation, road travel, feeding and daily stipends.

  Steps to Applying 1. Like our page on facebook,
  1. Follow us on twitter, or @leapafrica & mention the programme you are applying for – with a #tag (e.g Chike Adeyemi Abu/#SIP2013).
  2. Visit to download the application forms and email to sipa@leapafrica.
Application deadline is October 7th, 2013.

  Programme Details

 Location: Lagos State

 Interested applicants are encouraged to contact the SIP team at or call 012706541/2, 07011081954 if you have any questions or concerns.

***Applicant must be a founder or co-founder of the project/organization which has been running for not less than one (1) year. The founder or co-founder is defined as the person who, either alone or as part of a team, conceiving and establishing the project/organization.

About LEAP Africa
 Leadership, Effectiveness, Accountability and Professionalism (LEAP) Africa is a non-profit organization committed to developing dynamic, innovative and principled African leaders. Since 2002, through its core Youth Leadership Programme (YLP) and Annual Nigerian Youth Leadership Awards (ANYLA), LEAP has advanced the cause of youth-led community consciousness for development in Nigeria.

 Watch a recap of LEAP’s video on CNN Inside Africa: Or on 

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[Photos]: Older Persons Are Taking the Lead in HIV Prevention Through VCT in Rural Community

Agunji, a community in Nassarawa Eggon, woke up last week Thursday to an announcement of the town crier (Public Relations Officer). They were called to converge under the mango tree opposite the only Primary Health Center in the village for a medical outreach.

Although the news was announced in the early hours of the morning, many people did not turn up until about 11.00am due to their busy farming activities.

"The people here are majorly farmers," says Anthony Adzo, the village’s town crier (i.e. PRO).

Adzo is in his 50s. He says he went round the different houses located within the community to inform the people of the medical outreach that was scheduled to take place that day.

Adzo held a small gong and a stick, the tools he used for his announcement. He sounded his gong to get the people’s attention as he walked through the village, and then spoke to the people in Eggon, the local language.

Adzo says there are about 1,000 people, including women and children, in Agunji village. He assured the medical team from the General Hospital secondary health centre that the people would amass for the HIV awareness campaign.

According to one of the members of the medical team, the purpose of the Agunji medical outreach sponsored by an international organization was to raise awareness about HIV and AIDS. The team planned to provide free Voluntary Counseling and Testing (VCT) for the people while also informing them about the anti-stigma bill that has been passed into law in Nasarawa state. The law seeks to protect people affected by or living with HIV/AIDS in Nasarawa state from stigma and discrimination.

There are about eighty thousand (80,000) people living with HIV in the state, according to statistics released by the Nasarawa State AIDS Control Agency (NASACA). With a 7.5% prevalence rate, the state currently has one of the highest rates in Nigeria. Medical outreach in rural areas is one of the strategies set up by the state to fight the spread of the virus.

When the one-day HIV awareness campaign kicked off in Agunji that morning, only older persons in the community came to the venue. The villagers said they were suspicious of the intentions of the medical team. After deliberating among themselves, the older men concluded that the government could not possibly have sent the medical staffs to inject them with what will kill them. After a while, the younger age group in the village joined the volunteers to take part in the outreach.

Photo report:

The only Primary Health Centre in Agunji village

Aya Achuku, 70, is among the older persons who volunteered to be tested and counseled. 

Achuku says he missed the opening lecture. Without prior knowledge about HIV and AIDS, he was happy to know his HIV status that day, he said.

When the campaign kicked off, only older persons in the community came to the venue. The villagers said they were suspicious of the intentions of the medical team.

Hadiza Malaimi, 50, taking the test. HIV and AIDS awareness is important for older persons because they can actively participate in passing on the knowledge to their family and positively influence a healthy lifestyle.

Mariama Usman, early 60s, registering for the VCT session after the lecture.

Usman, being led to the queue for HIV test

Usman waiting her turn at the testing session     
Usman is being tested for HIV 

   Usman, during the post-HIV test counseling.

A man re-assuring the medical team of the villagers’ receptiveness towards the outreach.

Merasa James, 15, taking her HIV test. The younger generation were encouraged by the presence of the older ones.

People in Agunji often blame health challenges on witchcraft. The outreach educated the people on ways HIV can be transmitted and measures on how to prevent it.

Medical lab technician, Felix Joseph and Idris Mbawa, tested about seventy (70) people before running out of testing kits. None of those tested were HIV positive.

The Anti-Retroviral Treatment centre at Nasawara state’s secondary health centre has a mandate to carryout medical outreach in rural areas to ensure the people in villages are not left out in the fight against HIV/AIDS.

 Felix Emmanuel, 30, came for the HIV test with his daughter. However, he was the only one tested because the medical team had exhausted all the testing kits.

Although there is no electricity in Agunji, some of the youths have mobile access for communication.

About five minutes drive from Agunji is this modern health center built in 2008 in a village called Kagbu. But the hospital is still under lock and key.

The health centre was built as part of MDGs’ quickwins project in 2008. When the health center is eventually opened, people in neighboring villages like Agunji will have access to better health facilities.

Also on: HealthNewsNG

About the writer
Jennifer Ehidiamen is a 2013 New Media Fellow for International Reporting Project She reports on Global Health and Development in Nigeria.