Education as a Vaccine on a panel during the UN Youth Envoy visit to Nigeria

Executive Director of EVA, Olabukunola Williams on a panel during the UN Youth Envoy visit to Nigeria

Education as a Vaccine (EVA) was represented at the United Nations Town Hall Meeting with the UN Secretary General’s Youth Envoy, Jayathma Wickramanayake to discuss the “Opportunities and Challenges facing young people in Nigeria in the Framework of the SDG”.

The Town Hall meeting was part of the activities lined up for Jayathma, who was on a five-country tour through Africa. The visit was aimed at positioning the United Nations as a supporter for creating equal opportunities for young people in order to empower them with regards to economies, health and wealth, and human development in the society.

To this effect, a 4 person panel which included the Executive Director of EVA, Olabukunola Williams was set up to discuss the several issues young people face and the work each organization represented on the panel was doing. Issues discussed ranged from education, youth inclusiveness in politics, gender equality and health.

Young people’s development and participation, especially as it relates to gender equality, quality education, health and wellbeing, particularly of adolescent girls and young women in the Agenda 2030, is of importance to EVA. According to Williams, “…we have to make sure the policies and strategies fit into what we want as young people”.

“At EVA…” she said, “…we provide platforms for young people to influence policies that uphold their rights as well as provide direct youth-friendly sexual and reproductive health information and services”.

On why young people need increased access to information and services as critical steps to end child marriage and eradicate female genital mutilation in Nigeria, the Nigeria Representative of the AfriYAN , Hassan Shamwil, said that protecting young people means enabling them to make safe health decisions, “…young people do not swallow pregnancy, they have sex! There is need to provide quality comprehensive sexuality education for them”.

Florida Uzuaru, who is the Founder of Slide Safe Nigeria, shared ideas for innovative approaches to bridge the gaps in access to information, services and commodities. According to her, Slide Safe now “ensures that young people get access to sexual and reproductive health information without disclosing their privacy”.

“In a world entrenched with inequality and marginalization, we cannot help but participate in politics”, went the words of Itodo Samuel, the Executive Director of Not Too Young to Run. “Not Too Young to Run seeks to inspire young people to participate in the electoral processs as candidates”.

During the meeting, young people from different parts of Nigeria at different events aired their voices and begged momentum of the United Nations and government at all levels to deliver on commitments to empower and enable young people achieve their full potential.

Ms Wickramanayake, while responding to question on the reason for her visit, said, “…we want to bring United Nations to young people, and young people to United Nations”.

UN Secretary General’s Youth Envoy, Jayathma Wickramanayake

UN Secretary General’s Youth Envoy, Jayathma Wickramanayake

Jayathma assured that Nigerian youths will no longer live like second-class citizens. “Policy makers will no longer see you as threats”, she added.

During her visit, Jayathma promised to take all our issues and recommendations to Antonio Guterres, the UN Secretary-General, and take progressive action towards promoting youth issues in United Nations programs, not leaving adolescent girls and young women behind.

In a related event organized for her visit, our program officer, Itoro Ekanem made presentation on “#2030Now, Using Innovative Approaches to actualising the Sustainable Development Goals”.

On a lighter mode, but in what seems to be the next step by Nigerian youths and youth-focused organizations, the moderator of the panel, Bolaji Margaret, asked the panelists to describe in one word the way forward to overcoming young people’s challenges. William wanted “collaboration”, Shamwil demanded for “action”, Florida, “do”, and Samson emphasized “ownership”.

UNFPA's Country Rep, Diene Keita

UNFPA’s Country Rep, Diene Keita

The high point of the meeting was the brilliant remark by the UNFPA Country Representative, Diene Keita. She said, “Nigeria youths are the triggers of African development”, while urging the youth, “do not only say what you want, tell us how you want it”.