Tribute to Professor Babatunde Osotimehin
The death of Professor Babatunde Osotimehin is a big loss for Nigeria and the world at large, but a bigger loss for us at Education as a Vaccine. We mourn the death of our mentor and supporter. But we are consoled by the fact that our organization is a part of your legacy. Every young person we serve or that has passed through this organization is as a direct result of investment you made to ensure that as an institution we grow beyond bounds.
Our relationship with you is as old as the organization itself, as you were there when we were just starting. As one of our founders Fadekemi Akinfaderin-Agarau reflects:
“I remember the first day I met him at NACA’s office in Federal Secretariat in 2002. He said, so you two are the young ladies I have been hearing good things about. I have to say I am very impressed with your work in schools. We [NACA] will support your work and want you to reach as many schools as you can. I didn’t believe him at that time, as we had faced so many rejections for funding, but little did I know that the meeting of that day would develop into a 16 year relationship. I am so grateful to have known, worked and learnt from him.”
You always believed that young people held the key to changing the course of the AIDS epidemic in Nigeria. It was this belief and confidence that led you to invest in the vision of 21 year olds, who knew nothing other than the fact that they were going to make this their lives work. But you knew! What you did not believe, you did not support! Prof, as we fondly call you, thank you for taking that leap of faith in us.
Under your leadership in National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA), EVA received its first ever grant from a Nigerian institution. Several organizations were funded, but we were the only youth-led organization that was supported. This was our first observation of your passion for young people. Throughout your time as Chairman and DG of NACA, you consistently demonstrated this passion. Through your leadership, you sought for a platform for the voices of young people to be reflected in the AIDS response. This led to the first ever National Youth AIDS Conference that gave strength to the youth AIDS and SRHR movement in Nigeria, including the Youth Network on HIV/AIDS in Nigeria (NYNETHA).
You have supported us! You have encouraged us!
As we reflect in our office after receiving the news of your death, many memories come to us. We can look at our work and point to several programs that would not have been possible without you. The My Question and Answer service we created with One World, UK, would not exist, if not for you. You were very excited about the possibility of leveraging technology for the AIDS response. This drove you to engage and mobilize the private sector to support several initiatives including the national HIV and AIDS hotlines. And in another demonstration of your commitment to young people and young women in particular, you insisted that one of the hotlines must be domiciled with a youth-led organization to ensure that adolescents and young people had access to lifesaving information on their sexual health. Today, more than 10 years after, this service we manage, has done exactly that, answering over a million questions from adolescents and young people in Nigeria, Niger and Cameroon.
When you left Nigeria for the global stage to serve as the Executive Director of UNFPA, an achievement we were all proud of, you took that passion and commitment for adolescents and young people with you. Under your leadership, UNFPA prioritized several initiatives that focused on young people, especially for girls and young women. Comprehensive Sexuality Education programs, Early Child and Forced Marriage and FGM eradication interventions were scaled up in several countries, including your home Nigeria.
You built that connection. You built several for us!
You were accessible and listened to young people and ensured that world leaders listened as well. At EVA, we can’t possibly list all of your significant inputs when you were here and we are forever indebted to you. Your investment, foresight and dedication will never be forgotten.
“Personally, to say I will miss him is an understatement. He always said I was one of his daughters and he was my father. As the world mourns the loss of a leader, a humanitarian, and a champion for women and girls, I am mourning the loss of my father.” – Fadekemi Akinfaderin- Agarau, Co-founder, Education as a Vaccine.