Wednesday, December 24, 2014

I Wish Us Well

It has been a great year of learning,
falling,
rising
and dreaming.

Still,
there is room for growth.

I praise God for His faithfulness towards me and my family. For it is by His Mercy and Grace that we are still standing.

Dear friends,
May this Christmas be merry for you & your family.
And may the New Year usher in good tidings and joy, indescribable.
Ni agbara Jesu! Amin.

I appreciate everyone,
for the role you played in my life this year.
I appreciate me for still believing,
even when it rained on my parade.
My faith is strengthened,
I have a Wonderful Counsellor.

Is there any sick among us?
May you find complete healing this season.
May your oil of gladness not dry up.
May the hurting be restored,
and made whole.
May the lost come to themselves
like the prodigal son did,
and remember the way home.
May the cursed draw to Jesus Christ,
the original curse breaker.
Nothing is unredeemable, with Him.

Heaven wants to see a smile upon your face,
Every thing else matters not at all.

Laugh.

Live love!

Shalom.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Edo Girls Who Rock: Isimeme Ejodame

With a passionate vision to build a society where there is effective communication between parents and daughters and help young girls know their rights, Isimeme Ejodame a graduate of Micro-biology at the University of Benin joined forces with her friend to set up the Young Girls' foundation (YGF), Nigeria in 2004. This young lady from Edo State who has been stereotyped by people who have the notion that young people from Edo state are either involved in Advanced fee fraud, popularly known as 419, Sex trafficking and drugs was one of the twenty youths selected by the British council to participate in the Belongings Project.

Perhaps, it was the desire to change the wrong perspective about Edo state that motivated Isimeme to participate in the British Council's Belongings Project, which brings together young people from different culture to broaden their international views and enable them to promote and communicate the relevance of their cultural experiences to others.

On how she heard about the programme, she said "I saw the advert in the newspaper and applied". Her application was short listed and she was afterwards invited for interview. The Belongings project brought together young people from different parts of Nigeria and U.K to live with for two weeks in Nigeria and another two weeks in U.K. This was to help the participants develop leadership skills while exploring culture and identity to promote intercultural dialogue and generate shared understanding between individuals and communities where they come from.

For Isimeme, not only has her leadership and networking skills been improved, the project has enabled her meet other young persons working for a positive change. She says she has been inspired by the experience. She commended the organisers of the programme, British Council and urged them to involve the government for sustainability. She also advised other Nigerian youths to discover their potentials and look for opportunities to bring out their best, "dream big, set goals and seek possibility". She added that young people need to read newspapers and shun the attitude of underestimating opportunities they find.

One of her British counterparts on the Belongings project, Bridget who works with Jump, a charity organisation in the U.K also said that the programme has helped her learn more things about herself. She explained that her time in Nigeria has given her boldness while watching her Nigerian counterparts' passionate commitment to strive towards leadership. However, she confessed that the way of life in Nigeria is not similar to what she is used to. Lack of electricity and water are some of the problems she faced during her stay in Nigeria. "Everyone in Lagos is so security conscious" she noted.

Steven Oguntoyinbo, another Nigerian participant from Ogun State went to the United Kingdom with a chewing stick and Adire material which were part of the items he displayed as unique things from his culture. For him, the project has ignited in him a desire to learn more about his heritage, culture and identity. "The experience has cleared the wrong perspective I use to have about British culture" he said.

Belongings is one of British council's five regional projects that together constitute Africa 2007, a three-year regional programme in East, West and Southern Africa. The Programme aims to explore notions of culture and identity to generate fresh ideas and create new understandings between individuals and communities in Africa and the U.K.

Category:Advocacy | Date:2007-12-30
Belongings Project empowers youths as change agents
By Jennifer Ehidiamen
http://www.thenationonlineng.net/archive2/tblnews_Detail.php?id=41348

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Africa My Pride by Bothlale Boikanyo [Video]



There is hope in our future--there is a future in our hope!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Chime Asonye Presents #Songs4Change

With Nigeria's elections drawing closer, a new initiative has begun that seeks to harness the power of music to encourage those who believe in a better future for Nigeria and Africa. 

 

The project, titled Chime Asonye presents #Songs4Change, is a weekly dose of revolutionary music to inspire social progress in Nigeria and Africa more broadly. The songs – a mixture of old and new – advocate for positive change and awareness of important issues such as malaria, epileptic power, and domestic violence, amongst others. The initiative will feature primarily African artists but will occasionally include songs from others who promote social advancement and political consciousness. "I believe knowledge is created, not just by words on a page, but in fluid and dynamic ways," said Asonye, a development practitioner and social commentator, when describing why he started #Songs4Change. "Ever since I was young, I was shaped by politics shared in creative spaces like spoken word, debate, dance and theater. Music was always a constant fixture in these spheres and could touch people uniquely. Drawing on music to create critical consciousness in Nigeria borrows from my personal experiences that often combined art and politics."

 

The goals for #Songs4Change include but are not limited to, (1) increase dialogue on important development concerns using the hashtag #Songs4Change, (2) provide inspiration and encourage activism in and around Nigeria and Africa, and (3) stimulate the creation of progressive music from entertainers and upcoming artist. As a generation passionate about the change we want to see, it is imperative that we begin to challenge the status quo and require more from our entertainers and ourselves.

 

Africans have consistently unified and connected through music. Historically, it has been used to provide a source of inspiration and draw attention to important concerns on the continent. As the late great Afrobeat legend, Fela Kuti said, "As far as Africa is concerned, music cannot be for enjoyment. Music has to be for revolution."  #Songs4Change will be partnering with YNaija 2015,Jaguda.comGidilounge, AmeyawDebrah.comOmojuwa.comNigeriansTalk, Amplified Radio, NaijaDC, The ScoopNGand Tribex Marketing Group to help spread these songs all over Africa and the Diaspora. 


"We look forward to a growing list of media partners as our message reaches more people," Asonye said. "I believe these songs can become this generation's soundtrack for revolution."

 

For all things #Songs4Change, visit http://bit.ly/songs4change or subscribe here to receive weekly updateshttp://bit.ly/s4csubscribe. For more information, contact Chime Asonye at Songs4ChangeNG@gmail.com. 


#End#




Thursday, December 11, 2014

Year 2015: The Year That Entrepreneurship Will Boom

We have heard that 2015 is the year for entrepreneurs and small businesses. While James Caan, a serial entrepreneur and investor summed it up as the year to shine, Tony Elumelu, CON, a Nigerian entrepreneur and philanthropist in his article, "The Rise of Africapitalism" predicts that 2015 will be the year where African entrepreneurs will take their place on global stage.

Do you share in this high doze of optimism? What is your prediction for 2015?

If you are still taking stock for the year 2014, this might also be a good time to look in the mirror and do some serious personal and organizational reflection.

I spent ample time chronicling stories of entrepreneurs this past week and I found two issues dominating the conversations with them – the need for mentorship and an enabling business environment.

For the wanna-be entrepreneurs, before you quit your job and run after the dream that has been tugging at you since kindergarten, it might be worth considering other possible ways to position yourself in the booming entrepreneurial space—dip one foot in to test the water as suppose to diving in with your whole body, one entrepreneur advised.

When I asked them what their major challenge was in running a business– funding is not what jumped on the list—surprisingly so. Most of the young entrepreneurs said that funding is the least challenge. As a matter of fact, one shared how he had all the money he needed to run his business but a few wrong decisions left him cashless and broke. This would have been avoided if he had the right mentors or network.

Mentorship is the key that opens key doors. Seek a mentor, one advised. Don't underestimate the power of business mentorship. Until you find a right mentor, keep searching.

An enabling business environment would include- stable power supply, good road network, favorable policies etc. These of course, are currently limited in supply.

But—not to shut down on the optimism, as we all position ourselves to leverage on the opportunities 2015 will bring to the business eco-system—here is raising a glass to all entrepreneurs bootstrapping their ideas to the next level.

An original article:
First published on Enterprise54.com: http://enterprise54.com/year-2015-the-year-that-entrepreneurship-will-boom/

Monday, December 08, 2014

#Youth Mentorship Panel [Video] [#DiasporaCamp]

Did you miss the #GhanaThink Diaspora Youth Mentorship hangout? Here is a recorded version of the session.

Enjoy and please share with your network.

Thank you.


Sunday, December 07, 2014

Queenola Kalu To That Cunning Young Man



To: That cunning young man,
I want to let you know that this time.....

YOU HAVE PICKED ON THE WRONG GIRL
You charmer,
With eyes lit by moonbeams,
You are every maiden's dream
Your perfect smile makes hearts leap,
But I've strapped myself so i don't trip

You deceiver,
You sing to me rhymes you haven't heard
You paint for me pictures you can't even see
Your vile intentions now glaring
Flashes of lust, so easy to tell
Flee far from you, I would
Clinging to The One who wishes me well

You destroyer,
Your words are smooth as butter,
But as ready as Fire -
Ready to wipe out everything in sight
Ready to leave the land desolate
Ready to bring pain and tears
But I'll run, I'll run before it's too late

You brewer of lies,
Your sugar coated tongue produces foul scents,
Packaged in attractive candy wraps
I certainly will not BUY THEM
For within lie dangerous traps
As I was told by my father,
What is sweet in the mouth becomes, in the belly, bitter

You giver,
I want not your BBs please
You say it's just a blackberry
But i know your ways,
You'll give much more
A Big Belly and a Bastard Baby,
What else do you have in store?

Spare me the floods of sweet forged messages,
Spare me those clichés "sugar in my tea",
Spare me those precious gifts in pretty packages
Spare me, I beg, and let me be

I'm sorry for you, my dear
I hope that quickly you realize,
All efforts are futile, move on
Go and pick on someone your own SIZE!

-QUEENOLA

Friday, December 05, 2014

Celebrating A Decade Of #Volunteering [Video]




Happy International Volunteers Day [IVD]!

For this year, I thought I should share this short video-- actually it was an interview for "On The Street", a youth program aired on TVC.

I hope you will encourage young people around you to start early? For more insight on how it might work with combining full time education and volunteering, you can read a copy of my new book "Half a Loaf and a Bakery." You can also download it from Okadabooks app on your android device or buy copies from Terra Kulture Bookstore Lagos, Florence and Lambard bookstore Lagos, or the Media Store, Silverbird Galleria, Abuja. The book covers youth volunteering, education, entrepreneurship and transitioning.

I am excited about today and tomorrow! On how the non-volunteer journey has been so far since... you can see the second video below:





For anyone who might have failed while attempting something this year, hey, cheer up! Failure is a good opportunity to do something differently in an improved way next time.

Here is wishing you all a Merry Christmas and a lovely 2015 of magical thinking and fruitful exploits!

There is a God.


Monday, December 01, 2014

Hairvolution: Young Nigerian Sculptor Explores Hair, Her African Roots

[VOA] - The young Nigerian sculptor scanned the gallery with satisfaction. Drinks and snacks were laid out neatly on a corner table while her works of sculpture lit up the white walls of the gallery like art on a canvas. Her solo exhibition was about to open and she expected guests from all over Lagos.

Taiye Idahor had mounted her three-week exhibition at WhiteSpace in Ikoyi Lagos Nigeria to display her own exploration of the themes of reincarnation, culture and identity. She used her hair as a navigator to find her roots and her voice, and to bring back memories. So, she called the show Hairvolution.

“I got it from the word evolution, to evolve,” the artist said. “The idea of hair being my point of departure from the beginning of the project.”

But the project really isn’t about hair.

“It led me into thinking about memory,” she says, “and how we -- as people -- should value the memories that we have and we make, especially our parents. Because this project was also based on the memory of my dad and my mum,” said Taiye.

Her own hair is long and wavy, unlike the usual short and kinky-haired Nigerians are known for. So she drew from her personal experience of being continually asked about the origin of her hair. Taiye explored her family history and the possibility that she was a reincarnation of her paternal grandmother, Ayie, who is said to be a Caucasian.

Discovering the fragility of memory

A guest reading the introduction
Taiye never met Ayie. She questioned her parents for clues and answers to help her form what has now become her first solo exhibition- a collection of self-portraits on tracing papers titled Shut Cut, a photo-collage tagged Odowa, a sculpture of a face with exaggerated long hair made from newsprint. “Somehow, it is a material that has been consistent in my work since 2010 when I started working professionally,” says the artist. She plans to continue using the material.

By showing faces with long hair in repetitive form, Taiye expressed her identity intertwined with that of her grandmother. She grew up hearing her father say she is Ayie reincarnate.

In the course of building on the year-long project, Taiye was confronted with the fragility of memory itself. She also sees the disappearing cultures of Africa as people embrace modernity in all its form.

Dressed in silky Iro and Buba -- a traditional outfit popular among Yoruba women -- the young artist’s slim figure moves hurriedly around the gallery. Her fragile look contradicts the strength of conviction it took for her to pull off this exhibition.

The viewer who is struck by her strength of purpose is tempted to ask if the fragility of the newsprint reminds her of her own body -- fragile yet able to produce a quality of strength.

Young artists of Lagos

Taiye [is from Benin], a city in Edo state in southern Nigeria, but she grew up in Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial hub and a thriving center of creativity. She graduated from Yaba College of Technology, a Lagos polytechnic, in 2007. When she began her career in art, she found a small, young and vibrant community of supporters.
Guests at the exhibition
“We also have a lot of young people who are beginning to collect arts which is good and encouraging,” she said. “Because most of the older collectors are very strict on the kind of work they collect because they’ve been exposed to mostly paintings and sculpture.”

As Taiye talks, one of the first guests to enter the gallery is the Lagos painter, Kelani Abass. He is very impressed and as he examines her work he tells her the work is very strong in terms of “medium and materials, and again the theme of the artist.”

Abass is familiar with the other young Lagos artists experimenting with materials and ideas. He thinks Taiye’s Hairvolution is unique. “I like what I’m seeing.”

But many Nigerians still find it difficult to embrace the arts. Even a young photographer, Bola Oguntade, says so. “I have a funny opinion about art. Sometimes I find it difficult seeing that thing people really stare at … I just try to wonder what is this thing that they are in awe of.”

But he looks at the walls of Taiye’s exhibition and says, “When you look at what she has done… you can appreciate it for aesthetics. You can appreciate it for the message.”

Looking for support
Young artists struggle to find audience in a city where permanent galleries are few. Taiye says, “We don’t have enough standard galleries who are able to work with artists and represent artists. Art is not something that people collect all the time- it has its season.” When the season ends, buyers are few and young artists facing lack of sales are tempted by other work that pays the bills.

“We need more institutions,” Taiye says, “more galleries, proper galleries who represent artists -- because for now all we do is go from gallery to gallery,” says Taiye.

If Taiye had a gallery to represent her work regularly, she could more easily curate shows, find sponsors and look for other exhibition space and the refreshments for shows like this one. “Even up to the refreshment, I paid for it myself so it is a lot of responsibility on the young person.”

Some of the city’s young artists are joining a collective created by visual and performance artist Wura Ogunji, who wants to gather young talent who will support one another with constructive criticism.

“You look at a person walking down the street here and they are totally pushing boundaries and experimenting,” said Ogunji. However, you also see established artists whose work stifles creativity “which is ironic because artists are the ones that should be experimenting and pushing boundaries and risk-taking.

“I think that the most important thing is to continue to make work and to trust your own vision and not worry about anyone,” she said.

Whitespace is a private venture that survives on a percentage of the sales of the works of the artists they recruit to show there. The gallery offers what one of the coordinators Malaika Toyo calls “concept space,” a blank canvas for the artist and the buyer.

“We look for young people that are talented people that have been undiscovered and we give them visibility,” Toyo said. “Art is something that never dies,” she said. “The more you do it, the better you get at it.”

Saving African memory in art
The artist Taiye IdahorTaiye’s first day of the exhibition was a success. An environmentalist and enthusiast for the arts, Kofo Adeleke, was struck by what she saw. “I am so pleased that I got here now and everything is sold out. I think that is absolutely fantastic. The fact that all of her work got sold out so quickly shows you the kind of impact she has had.”

Taiye did experience impressive sales, however she pointed out that not everything sold. But Adeleke is optimistic about Taiye’s future. She said Taiye’s work is going to appeal to a larger market.

“I think this is going to have a much wider audience in Nigeria and outside Nigeria. I think what she is starting to do is very, very interesting and I love her honesty and I love her bravery.”

“The work is about her hair,” said Ogunji, “but it is also about her relationship with her family and her grandmother. It is not so explicit but it is also embedded in the conversation about herself. What she represents. Then she uses her own face in repetition. Then her face becomes her hair. And also a language of this drawing that she is making.”

Despite the flattery of the crowd at the gallery that day, the artist continues to focus on her core message of memory and culture. That the African continent save and pass on its culture as the young generation becomes increasingly mobile and breaks with the older generation who hold the undocumented history in their memories.

“Everything I used to make this body of work is based on things my parents told me based on their memories, the experiences they had and things they heard,” Taiye says.

“Art is my own way of recording a memory, fixing or lets say reviving a memory that otherwise could die with them when they age and pass away.”

Photo credit: Bola Oguntade         SourceVOA News

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Is There An Economic Cost Of Gender-based/Domestic Violence? [#16daysofactivism]

The U.S Consulate General Lagos in collaboration with ACTS Generation Organization and Women Arise held a one day workshop yesterday on Domestic Violence and Abuse tagged, “From Peace in the Home to Peace in the World,” with focus on the intersections of gender based Violence and Militarism.
The public affairs officer, Dehab Ghebreab, gave an overview of the trend of gender-based and domestic violence around the world. She reiterated that the purpose of the workshop was to increase awareness of the devastating impact of gender-based violence on our world.
In response to the current #16DaysofActivism, she said 16 days is not enough. It should be an everyday affair.
The floor was opened up to different speakers and activists.
Dr. Joe Odumakin, the founder of Women Arise for Change Initiative, gave an intense presentation. With vivid examples of some past and current cases of gender-based and domestic violence, she put a face [faces] to the discussion.
Since the organization’s inception in 2003, she has recorded about 11,000 cases of gender-based and domestic violence. So far in 2014, about 2,000 cases have been recorded. Out of the 2,000, only two cases of violence against men were reported. More women suffer from gender-based and domestic violence.
Meanwhile, Miss Titi Akosa, pointed out the difficulty involved in gathering data on gender-based and domestic violence. Different organizations and government institutions handle their own cases, thus no synergy in data collation.
Miss Akosa is currently working on determining the economic cost of domestic violence. She wants to find out how much it will cost to help victims in order to be able to better crowd fund support.
Data is very key, she says. We should be able to tell donors how much it will cost to support one victim of a domestic violence. Or know how many victims there are to determine the kind of shelter to build, while we await government interventions.
In Nigeria, only six out of 36 states have laws that prohibit gender-based and domestic violence, said. Mrs Grace Kelefe, the deputy director of Women Advocate Research and Documentation Centre.
This is disturbing. Does it mean our lawmakers don’t understand the implication of having no legal protection for victims? Or laid out punishment for perpetrators?
Some members of Golden Movie Ambassadors from Nollywood were present at the event. Saheed Balogun, an actor, while making a remark emphasized the need for advocates and activists to hold female leaders more accountable. They can use their position to influence support on the issue, he said.
Mr. Balogun also pointed out the need for visual messages in local context to be used for campaign messages, for greater impact.
In the words of one of the later speakers, we cannot say enough, we cannot do enough about gender-based violence.
As the event came to an end, I began to mull over a few things—first the need for Nigerian NGOs to collaborate more. Tackling an issue as complicated as gender-based violence and domestic violence is not a one-man show.
I also wondered if perhaps we are not addressing the underlying issues contributing to the increase of gender-based and domestic violence? For example, no amount of advocacy will work in a society where an average man is subjected to inhuman conditions. Such a person is bound to react aggressively at the slightest provocation.
You might have also seen the horrific video of the Ugandan maid for example. But has anyone asked the parents of the child she almost killed how they treat her [the maid]? Do they pay her minimum wage? Where does she sleep? Does she have a mattress? How often does she eat? Does madam or oga [employers] shout on her and harm her physically or psychologically at the slightest mistake?
Little things we ignore in our society build up in different forms to be called exotic names such as gender-based and domestic violence.
I know, I know. Nothing at all can justify such crazy violence.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The U.S Embassy Introduces New Visa Procedures In Nigeria

For Nigerians and non-Nigerians considering applying for Visa to travel to the United States of America, there is something very important you need to know- the U.S Embassy has introduced new Visa procedures in Nigeria.

 In a press briefing held at the Public Affairs Section (PAS) in Lagos today, Stacie Hankins, Consular Chief of U.S. Embassy Abuja, announced that a new DHL Document Collection Center has opened in Port Harcourt.

"As in the case with our DHL partner locations in Lagos and Abuja, visa applicants with approved applications can now collect their passports with their new visas from DHL collection center in Port Harcourt," Hankins said.

Applicants can select any one of the three sites as their pickup location when they complete their online application. However, while Abuja and Lagos applicants can pick up their passports in two days, passport collection at the center in Port Harcourt will take an additional day.

In addition, effective from December 1, 2014, the U.S Mission to Nigeria will require that the DS-160 non-immigration visa application confirmation number used to schedule visa interviews match the application confirmation page that is brought to the interview. Applicants who fail to comply will not be granted interview and will have to purchase a new fee receipt to book another appointment.

The goal of this change is to make application processing faster and more efficient, Hankins said.

Meanwhile, during her opening statement, the Consular Chief also revealed an increase in visa applications. For example, between October 1, 2012 and September 30, 2013, the Embassy in Abuja and Lagos received more than 182,000 non-immigrant visa applications of which 65 per cent were approved. Between October 1, 2013 and September 30, 2014, the non-immigration applications received increased to over 220,000. Majority of the applications were approved. For immigration visa applications, 15,400 were received in 2013 out of which 14,900 applications were approved.

Hankins noted that the increase in application is a trend the Embassy has witnessed over the past five years.

She reassured Nigerians that no quota system is used to determine the number of those visa applications approved. The Embassy's goal is to facilitate travel process for all- whether 5 or 5,000 applicants. Those with unsuccessful applications are encouraged to apply after 90 days or when something in their circumstances changes.

"We hope that Nigerians' desire to visit our beautiful country will continue to grow, and we look forward to working with our partners to allow qualified tourists and business travelers do so," Hankins said.

Tourist and Student Visas remain the top most sort after type of visas at the U.S Embassy.

NOTE:
Applicants with existing appointments in December and beyond should contact the GCI Call Center at +234-014406218 to make necessary changes. For more information, please visit www.nigeria.usembassy.gov.


Friday, November 21, 2014

From Homeless To Harvard... #StartSmall #DreamBigger

When I was learning how to drive in Lagos, I met an interesting young man who also came to learn. While the purpose of my learning was for the 'pure' fun of it :-), his was to beat the unemployment crisis in the country. His goal was to learn, submit application and be paid to drive others. He was preparing to be ready.
Today, I met another young person. Her story is different. She serves as a cleaner in some big corporate firm. In addition, she makes extra income by helping busy staffs in the company buy lunch. And yes, the demand is high. She is running a one-man delivery company already. She might not know it yet.
You'll be blown away by the wisdom some young people are applying to beat the unemployment crisis or talented but broke syndrome in Nigeria.  It is no longer fashionable to sit and beg for money or sponge off people, every time. Being young in Nigeria should not be an excuse to be poor and unemployed.

Get up and create your own solution-- START SMALL!!! Welcome to a future, where begging is not an option. Don't make begging and pity-party a choice if you can.

"Dear young people, do not bury your talents, the gifts that God has given you! Do not be afraid to dream of great things!" -Pope Francis.
"Stay calm; mind your own business; do your own job. You’ve heard all this from us before, but a reminder never hurts. We want you living in a way that will command the respect of outsiders, not lying around sponging off your friends."1 Thessalonians 4:11-12
And yes-- try watch the movie "From Homeless to Harvard" when you get the chance. Lizzy Murray's story? Amazing-ness! Maybe some of us should try to share ours more often... it will reduce the sense of entitlement some young people like to carry around.


Thursday, November 20, 2014

How Girls Are Barred From Nigerian Schools


Students sitting on the floor to take lessons in a public primary school in Lagos


Olawale Abosede stood shoulder to shoulder with four other shy young Nigerians – all of them school girls – to tell the reporters and camera crews how important it was for them to be educated.

Dressed in a red T-shirt, a black skirt and a black pair of peep-toe shoes Olawale stood proudly with her classmates from the government-run Ajuwon High School in far-off Ogun state in southwest Nigeria. The five were brought by the Oando Foundation to Lagos and the air-conditioned multi-purpose room of the U.S. Consulate General to exemplify the value of education in a country with the world’s highest proportion of unschooled children.

Those less fortunate were back home helping their mothers and other petty traders of the markets of Ogun state. Those friends back home are some of the 10.5 million Nigerian children who do not attend school.

The five girls were brought to Nigeria’s former capital by the Oando Foundation, which gives them student scholarships, to sustain their education pursuits.

“Investing in girl education is a smart thing to do,” Olawale said. She spoke softly, stumbling over her words as the audience stared wide-eye at her.

But not everyone embraces the relevance of educating the girl child. More than half of those millions of Nigeria’s children not attending school are girls. And the challenge to get girls in school is greatest in Nigeria’s northern states where culture, tradition and the economy bar so many girls from getting a good education.

More students start school, but many don’t stay to graduate like Olawale and her friends do.

Many Girls Start, but Many Don’t Stay

“When we now look at retention and completion, then in those areas you’ll see girls are still lagging seriously behind, you know,” says Dr. Uwem Esiet. He says more girls are enrolled in primary education, but many don’t stay for secondary school.

The challenge is keeping them in the classroom, says Esiet, who is the director of a youth-focused NGO in Lagos, Action Health Incorporated.

A boy or girl who starts primary school at the age of six will most likely drop out at the age of nine, he says. Girls are most affected. And according to a recent report from the Health, Human & Social Development Information Service the states with the highest numbers of uneducated girls are in northern states dominated by Islamic cultural beliefs - Kebbi, Sokoto, Bauchi, Jigawa, Yobe, Zamfara, Katsina, and Gombe – coupled with the male-dominated customs that prevail throughout the nation.

Men make decisions for women, says Esiet. Young girls have no say in whether they will have access to a good education. In Borno and Bauchi states, Esiet says researchers asked community, traditional and religious leaders why they discourage girls from going to school.

The most common reply goes like this, says Esiet.

“If we allow these girls to go to school just like the way you are advocating, they will become sexually active outside of marriage," he said. "And if they become sexually active outside of marriage, all these HIV you people are shouting [about] they are likely going to be infected.”

The solution for the fathers is to take them out of school before it’s too late.

“So what we will prefer,” they say, “is to let them have sex within marriage where we can at least know who is their sexual partner- their husband.”

They often do not argue against school, at last not until their daughters reach the age of nine or 10. When they approach puberty, take them out of the classroom and get them married off, the fathers say. After that, then they can have education.

Not just a northern problem

Don’t put all of the focus on the northern state, Esiet cautions. Some states in the Southwest, including Lagos - Nigeria’s commercial hub - also have cases of girls dropping out of school.

In Iwaya, one of the slum settlements in Lagos, a team of researchers working at Action Health Incorporated found over 500 girls who were not in school even though free education is available in the state. The organization appealed to the state’s Agency for Mass Education, which set up a study center in the community.

Community engagement should be constructive, Esiet says.

“If we have information, we bring the information to the government,” he said.

The information on education of the girl child gathered by the organization is done through empirical research, literature review or observation. They learned the many factors that work against staying in school: ignorance, parents who cannot afford school uniforms and textbooks, and the failure of government to invest enough money in educational facilities.

Rescuing Youth at Risk

There are an estimated 170 million people in Nigeria. Thirty percent of them are children and adolescents. Of those eligible for primary schools, a third of them don’t attend. And about 25 percent of the older children don’t go to school either.

To rectify this, Esiet says that the strategy for making a nationwide argument for more and better education start with Muslim clerics and educated women.

Esiet organized a training conference to discuss some of the fears and beliefs about education common in northern Nigeria. The facilitator was a well-educated cleric, a man who several times referred to his well-educated daughters. The trainer’s wife, who was also well schooled, joined the session. Esiet realized this type of community engagement would overcome education’s critics and compel the people to embrace schooling.

Removing barriers, building communities

During the last International Day of the Girl Child, Nigerian women called for the removal of barriers to the potential of girls in society.

Countries that empower their girls achieve development, says Dr. Oby Ezekwesili. “Education is the fastest tool for social and economic mobility,” said Oby, who is a senior economic adviser for the African Economic Development Policy Initiative at the Open Society Foundation. She was speaking at an event promoting more opportunities for Nigeria’s girls.

Every human being is a resource, she said. When women are not given adequate opportunities to develop, they cannot contribute to the progress of their communities and their nations.

Esiet says Nigeria has many national and state policies guaranteeing girls access to education, but there is still a lack of implementation at the grassroots.

Will brides become good students?

“I am saying this coming from the backdrop of the work we’ve done in northern Nigeria, especially trying to get married adolescent girls back into school,” he says.

For seven years, Action Health Incorporated has worked in northeastern Nigeria to encourage married adolescent girls to return to school. With funding support from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), AHI collaborated with community leaders and state government agencies in the state to enroll girls in school. They provided crèches for their babies within the school and also ensured availability of sanitation and clinics.

In a similar effort, UNICEF launched its Girls’ Education Project in northern states. The project sponsored by United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID) aims to enroll one million girls in school by 2020.

In Sokoto, UNICEF is working with the state government to give monetary incentives of about $31 so girls can buy school uniforms and books and return to school. In some states, the government provides meals for children during school hours in accordance with Nigeria’s Basic Education Law. It states that any child in public school from kindergarten to junior secondary school must have access to a meal.

Corporate organizations are also not left out. Oando Foundation works in collaboration with public schools in Nigeria to award scholarship to girls in under-served communities. As a result of their efforts, Olawale Abosede and many others are enrolled to complete their secondary school education.

“That is aside,” says Esiet. He argues that they cannot replace the government’s responsibilities to address significant lapses in the education sector.

Esiet says the Nigerian government must increase its commitment to educating all of its children.

“This is also a critical challenge because there is under-investment in the catalytic things that will make citizens to be knowledgeable and empowered,” he said.

If all boys and girls in Nigeria decide to go to school, there will not be enough classrooms and teachers for them. He says Nigerian leaders must devote more money and political support to education, and begin to see it as a moral obligation the government owes its citizens.




First published on Voice of America

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Announcing the Africa Great Lakes Reporting Initiative [@IWMF]

Washington, DC – The International Women's Media Foundation (IWMF) is proud to announce a $5 million grant from the Howard G. Buffett Foundation to expand its reporting initiatives in Africa's Great Lakes region. The African Great Lakes Reporting Initiative will provide training and support for in-country women journalists, as well as opportunities for international correspondents to work in regions of East and Central Africa that receive limited coverage abroad. These efforts will include essential security training to help journalists stay safe in the field.

"Women are vital to international development, so it is critical that their voices are well represented in the global conversation. The IWMF's unique programs are designed to include women's perspectives in international news reporting. We need more of those perspectives brought to Africa's Great Lakes region, a part of the world that has so much potential and yet faces so many challenges to development," explained Howard G. Buffett.

In addition to continuing its work in the Democratic Republic of Congo [link to Congo pages], in 2015 the IWMF will lead groups of women journalists to the Central African Republic, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda to report on the intersections between conservation and conflict, agriculture and food security, democracy and governance. Over the next four years, the IWMF plans to work with more than 350 journalists to reshape the media narrative about the region.

To address growing safety concerns for journalists, the IWMF will expand its security training to benefit both international reporters and hundreds of journalists living and working in the African Great Lakes region by conducting hostile environments training for all of its program participants. In addition, the IWMF will launch its journalism security app, Reporta™, to facilitate the implementation of security protocols and to gather information about incidents of violence and threats against journalists around the world.

"Media organizations, even those with an interest in Africa's underreported stories, are hard-pressed to find the resources to pursue them. With the generous support of the Howard G. Buffett Foundation, we will build a network of journalists around the world devoted to producing outstanding news coverage in and about Africa." said Elisa Lees Muñoz, Executive Director of the IWMF.

To learn more about the African Great Lakes Reporting Initiative and how to submit an application, please go to iwmf.org/greatlakes and follow the IWMF on Twitter and Facebook.


Join Us For GhanaThink Diaspora: Youth Mentorship, A Catalyst For Development [#DiasporaCamp]



GhanaThink Diaspora is excited to invite you to our discussion on the importance of youth mentorship to be held on 6th December, 2014. The next installment of our online engagement series aimed at encouraging conversations and collaboration between African youth home and abroad.

Below is the event information:
Date: Saturday, 6th December, 2014

Time: 14:00 GMT

Venue: Panelists will hold the discussion online via Google Hangout and the event will be live streamed on YouTube

Confirmed Panelists: Eunice Mintah, Emmanuel Gamor, Nina Werner, Elizabeth Patterson, Kofi Yeboah, Jennifer Ehidiamen, Cortni Grange and Ebenezer Buckman

Moderators: Gameli Adzaho and Thelma Boamah

How do you participate?
RSVP via Google+ today! https://plus.google.com/b/118390962426533883331/events/c941874fpvsqjbseh56fk7jbet0?authkey=CLTKjKq81YOUrAE

WATCH the live stream on YouTube! https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCzFJ9UtKRsgjd0uyu8Qq16g


FOLLOW the hashtag #DiasporaCamp on Twitter, Facebook and Google+
TWEET your questions to panelists @DiasporaCamp and using the hashtag #DiasporaCamp

We value your contribution to this important initiative so please make time to join us on Saturday, 6th December 2014!




Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Notes From Symposium: The Role of Journalism in Nation Building


“a time would never come when the Nigerian media will become a toy in someone’s pocket”

During the first couple of minutes into the symposium, I was a bit apprehensive. Political reporting is really not a beat I’m ultra-excited about. So when political coverage dominates a discussion around Journalism, I find myself tuning out. I can do this. I can do this. I CAN survive a few hours of political discourse. I tried psyching myself up. And then it happened. The discussion took a dramatic turn. It became more diverse. More exciting. More whole… to borrow the journalistic term, more balanced.

I am talking about the recent Symposium organized to honor Pastor Tunde Bakare on his 60th Birthday [HAPPY BIRTHDAY PASTOR B!]. The event, which took place at All Season’s Plaza in Agindigbi Ikeja, had in attendance key players in the journalism and political sphere. I call them the elders of journalism. The event was open to non-journalists as well.

This is a personal account of the event. Someone else will tell his or hers differently. That is to say, the views here do not represent that of the organizers or other attendees.

The chairman of the occasion was Chief Ajibola Ogunsola while the Keynote speaker was Mr Segun Adeniyi. The Panelists: Mr Simon Kolawole, Mr Azubuike Ishiekwene, Mr Edward Dickson, Mrs Funke Aboyade, Mr Femi Adesina, and Mr Dele Momodu, who later revealed that he would soon become Pastor Joseph. Yes—read on!

In his opening remark, Chief Ogunsola gave a brief historical context to the topic of discussion. What is press freedom in Nation Building? What is the role of journalism in Nation building?

Mr. Segun Adeniyi was called upon to give his keynote speech. In his overview, Mr. Adeniyi reminded us that the key function of journalism is to inform, educate and entertain. Journalists also investigate the work of governance, while playing the role of a watch-dog. He called for more collaboration between the media and the political governance. Without this, we cannot build the nation.

Mr. Femi Adesina was next on the panel. He spoke passionately about the role of media beyond political coverage. Mr. Adesina is said to be very passionate about human-interest focused journalism. He is also passionate about the future of Nigerian Press. To paraphrase what he said, a time would never come when the Nigerian media will become a toy in someone’s pocket. That is to say, people should stop trying to manipulate the media for their personal gain. Mr. Adesina reminded us that the Nigerian media was birthed from activism. It must remain so in its quest to build the nation.

The role of Journalism in Nation Building is very crucial. We can’t see a new Nigeria without the media, Adesina said.

Mr. Simon Kolawole was the man who brought in the fresh perspective to the panel. He said we think of Nation building in terms of politics. When discussing nation building, we should be looking at the quality of lives of the people. Media Independence is also a very critical issue that must also be addressed. Who are the people founding and funding Nigerian media? The history of Nigerian Press shows that the early media organizations were created to project the political ambition of the founders and funders. This has remained the case, which is limiting the media in its quest to keep the government accountable. To put it simply, journalists cannot question those who pay their salary.

Talking about journalists, Kolawole said journalists must be well informed if they want to be able to build the nation. Some journalists only scratch the surface of issues because they themselves lack in-depth knowledge about them. For example, the first Nigerian newspaper is called Iwe Iroyin fun awon ara Egba ati Yoruba. Does that not mean that as far back as 1859 when the publication came into existence the Egbas were not considered Yoruba? What does that have to say about our cultural history? Journalists must empower themselves with knowledge to be able to empower others. My thoughts.

Mr. Azubuike Ishiekwene brought a theoretical perspective to the discussion. He said today’s journalism is not a monopoly. Thus journalists must stop seeing themselves as the sole actors in the field. He highlighted the four theories of the press and how they intercept today’s journalism practice. He also pointed out that the Nigerian constitution covers the profession in terms of ownership and watch-dog role of keeping the government accountable.

Journalism that will build a nation must first redeem itself and focus on context, connectivity and connection, Ishiekwene said. For context, reporting must go beyond merely breaking the news to telling the audience how such information affects them. For connectivity, journalists should learn to network with others, across the globe. On content, the media must produce useful contents others can share. The dominance of the future belongs to content providers that can be shared by others.

Mr. Edward Dickson, brought a human face and emotion to the discussion. He shared how the practice of journalism frustrated him at the early stage. Aside working in a media firm that was shut down twice due to political interference with the media, he also observed/experienced people’s poor attitude towards journalists.

He said the government sees journalists as a dog that must be trampled upon. Even the people whose interest the media protect do not think well of journalists, a self-less group who put their lives in line to serve them. It is difficult to be a watch-dog in Nigeria, Dickson chirped. Referring to the poor welfare of journalists, he said this group of people who are expected to be veracious cannot be so on empty stomach.

Journalists are often shackled, muzzled, blackmailed and intimidated in Nigeria. He gave an example of how his newspaper did a cover story about the poor condition of education of a particular state, only for representatives of the government to send them a letter asking for the building plan of their office. How did an office that was build way before Nigerian independence suddenly become of interest?

As daunting as it is, journalists must not shy away from their role as nation builders. Dickson is optimistic that someday the Nigerian media will be able to join forces with the publics to check the excesses of government leaders.

Don’t be despondent. We have taken off on a journey. It will lead us to a good success, he said.

And then, the only lady on the panel, Funke Aboyade SAN, brought a legal angle to the discussion. She pointed out the different lapses of the Nigerian media, sighting the poor coverage of the kidnapped Chibok girls as an example.

Nigerian media must learn to hold the feet of government leaders to the fire. Our Nigerian media can be more robust, she said.

Dele Momodu wrapped up the panel discussion with a high level of humor. First he commended Pastor Tunde Bakare for being an exceptional Journalist—he runs a column on TV called Moment of Truth :-). A very effective medium that has gathered dedicated viewership from across sector, Mr. Momodu noted.

Then he announced he feels he now has a pastoral calling. He will take up his English name and be called Pastor Joseph or Pastor Jo, for short.

Aside his jokes, Mr. Momodu touched on a very important angle. He said if we want journalists to build the nation, the nation must build journalists. [I hope managing editors and media owners are reading]. The need for training opportunities for journalists cannot be overemphasized.

While reacting to the outcome of the symposium, Pastor Tunde Bakare appreciated everyone for their contribution and also commended Nigerian journalists for the incredible role they play in building the nation. Awards were given to all the speakers for their immense contribution to the journalism profession.

And yes, Gbenga Adeyinka was the anchor for the day, with cool jokes. There was so much to laugh about! Now I understand why people really pay thousands to attend his comedy show.

I’m glad I attended the event! So grateful for the opportunity to learn, learn and learn. 

It is time to take the root downward and produce fruits upward.

The celebration continues.

See some of the pictures of the event:
The panelists

Pasto B and Mrs B

Pastor B and Chief Ogunsola


Friday, November 07, 2014

News Release: Africa's Regional Network For Youth Policies Experts @AfriNYPE Launched At The First Global Forum on Youth Policies In Baku Azerbaijan

Africa made history during the closing session of the just concluded First Global Forum on Youth Policies, held in Baku, Azerbaijan by announcing the birth of African Network of Youth Policy Experts (AfriNYPE) to advance the cause of youth policies in the region.

The network was announced at the closing plenary session attended by over 700 invited delegates constituting of experts, researchers, professors, government representatives across the world, and the United Nations Secretary-General's Envoy on Youth, Mr. Ahmad Alhendawi. A member of the Steering Committee, Adeola Austin Oyinlade, Human rights lawyer and Youth rights/policy expert from Nigeria described the unveiling as 'good news from Africa'. According to Mr. Oyinlade who is also a resource person to the African Union (Youth Division) on the implementation of African Youth Charter, the network's objectives include establishing a comprehensive research and studies unit, in order to collect reliable data and analyse the current situation of youth policies in order to advise key African Stakeholders on concrete and practical mechanisms, for a more inclusive development and implementation of these policies, while improving legal enabling environment of youth participation in decision making.

Ms. Karima Rhanem, a civil society and youth policy expert from Morocco told the gathering that prior to the global forum, young African delegates to the forum engaged in intensive dialogue, through social media and desk research review to do situation analysis of youth policies in the region, mappings and SWOT analysis, which subsequently produced a concrete strategic document that led to the emergence of AfriNYPE. According to Ms. Rhanem, AfriNYPE is a collective initiative of experts on youth policies in Africa who shared understanding of the urgent need for concrete development and implementations of youth policies in an African context. Yvonne Akoth, a gender equality expert from Kenya and a panellist during the Forum mentioned the need for young African voices to be heard in public policy and youth policy development processes, in preparation for the Post2015 Development Goals. This would be one of the objectives of AfriNYPE, 'a network that would build the capacity of young people, by enabling them to understand the importance of policy implementation in addressing issues affecting their overall development' said by Ms. Akoth.

On the strategy to achieve its objective, Abiola Hamid, a youth leader and Youth expert from Nigeria said the network will develop a common and workable understanding of youth policies with theoretical and practical key indicators. He added that the network intends to create a database and fact files as reference point for youth policy research in Africa, and carry out assessments and evaluations of African youth policies, implementations and impacts on the lives of African youths. On what he wants to do differently, Mr. Seleman Kitenge, Communication Personnel and Under Secretary General For Media-GIMUN from Tanzania responded, "I want to see young people have enough understanding of all matters related to policy, as well as being able to have a platform to voice out their views and being part of the problem solving, not being seen as a problems'.

On membership of the Network, Michael Zinkanell from Austria who is working with youth empowerment projects in Uganda said "our members consist of youth policy experts, who are directly working with youth empowerment and/or youth policies, targeting the youth in Africa. All members should commonly value a democratic, fair and gender-balanced approach on how to improve young African's life through policy development and implementation, regardless of ethnicity, religion, sexuality, or political orientation'. Adding further, LombeTembo, an economist and a member of the Youth Governance and Accountability Task Team under Restless Development UK from Zambia said the Network membership base is made up of 'African youth activists, researchers, policy experts and members of civil society organisations who attended the just ended First Global Forum on Youth Policies'. According to Ms. Tembo, 'we are looking to widen our membership base and will be reaching out to African youth and youth -led organisations within Africa, as well as African youths in the Diaspora'.

During the AfriNYPE steering committee meeting with the United Nations Secretary-General's Envoy on Youth, Ahmad Alhendawi charged the young network to take it from ideas to actions. While also speaking to the United Nations News Centre, Mr. Alhendawi said "we have seen young Africans come together to establish a network for researchers on youth policies. We have seen countries pledging support and commitment and resources to support the global initiative on youth policies. I've seen people debating issues around youth policies."

Since the forum ended in Baku, delegates have returned to their various countries to renew their commitment, engagement and advocacy on youth policy matters. The First Global Forum on Youth Policies was hosted by the Government of Azerbaijan in Baku on 28-30th October, 2014 and was co-organised by the office of the UN Youth Envoy, Council of Europe, UNDP, and UNESCO with technical support of Youthpolicy.org

Adeola Austin Oyinlade
For and on behalf of The Media Team, African Network of Youth Policy Experts Steering Committee.

> Facebook: http//www.facebook.com/AfriNYPE
> Twitter: http://twitter.com/AfriNYPE 
> Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/AfriNYPE

*Light-A-Lamp*: What It Takes to Truly Grow in Christ

*Light-A-Lamp*: What It Takes to Truly Grow in Christ



My thoughts: God forbid that we loose out of the Word because we try to impress the world.
On bended knees-- I'm finding my way back to Him who was, who is and who is to come!

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Write, Submit and Win: Carmudi Supports ‘The Young and Cerebral Essay Competition 2014’

Top youth radio show 'The Young and Cerebral' hosts essay competition. The radio show, which focuses on celebrating young and intellectual Nigerians unveils this year's edition of 'The Young and Cerebral Essay Competition' to celebrate

Nigeria's 54th Independence anniversary.

Organizer of the essay competition and presenter of the Young and Cerebral Adewumi Oshodi Tapa talked about the reason behind the essay competition. She said, "I always wanted to have a means of rewarding and acknowledge the younger generations that are making an impact in our society. I have had a lot of intellectuals and entrepreneurs on my show but I also realize that there is a greater percentage of youths and teens out there that have a lot to offer. That is why I decided to have this competition every year and reward the participants and winners with prizes such as laptops, smart phones, tablets and so much more."

On sponsoring the essay competition, Managing Director Carmudi Nigeria, Christian Keller said, "We realize the importance of rewarding hard work and creative minds and are always on the lookout for opportunities like this. We followed the trend this competition created last year and the positive impact it had on the individuals who participated and thus decided to be part of that positive energy this year."

This year, the essay is open to the youths and teenagers on the following topics; 'My favorite Nigerian Hero' and 'How to solve the Nigerian unemployment challenge' which is in fact open to discussion amongst the general public.

Adewumi said that that the competition will run throughout November and the winners will be announced by categories on November 30th.

To apply, send your entries to ec2014@youngandcerebral.com in MS word format. For more information, click here.



Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Counting Down to #LEAPSIPA: Africa Re-Imagined @LEAPAfrica

Looking for great time and positive vibes to do great work to advance your community?

Why not join LEAP Africa on November 13, 2014 at the Social Innovators Programme & Awards tagged "Africa Re-imagined"

The Social Innovators Programme & Awards supports youth change makers whose ideas and initiatives offer effective solutions to challenges in local communities across Nigeria. The event is packed, you have to register now for FREE.

Details are as follows:

Date: November 13, 2014

Venue: City Hall, Catholic Mission Street, Lagos Island

Theme: Africa Re-Imagined

Time: 4:00 pm

Keynote Speaker: Mr. Alex Okosi, Senior Vice President & Managing Director, Viacom International Media Networks

Click the link to register
https://docs.google.com/a/leapafrica.org/forms/d/1V0whqJrLsQflKE6Dvp9_5iqDGzOwWu8pjHrAq2REkCw/viewform"

Monday, November 03, 2014

Happening Tonight: Discussing HIV/AIDS Narratives with @CaitlinMKelly


What do you think about the different narratives of HIV and how they are communicated?  

Join me and students at Duke University in North Carolina as we discuss this. 

I will be sharing my experience covering HIV/AIDS and also get to talk about RuralReporters

Time: 9.30pm (Nigeria Time). 

Date: Tuesday, November 4th, 2014. 

Host: @CaitlinMKelly

Guest: @disgeneration, Publisher: RuralReporters.com @rural_reporters, Freelance Reporter, VOA. 

Don't miss the TweetChat on Twitter! 

Please help spread the word. 

Thank you. 

"Empowered to lead by serving!"