I was invited by the Office of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the Office of Political Affairs of the Federal Republic of Nigeria -- to speak on "Sustainable Development for Youth Empowerment" -- and like others who received an invitation to speak at the Nigeria Diaspora Day Conference, I felt truly honored. But, more importantly for me -- there was a historical relevance to the invitation and a certain nuance to the subject of our discussion -- as the United Nations marks its 70th Anniversary and the 20th Anniversary of the 1995 Beijing World Conference on Women and Platform for Action (the blueprint for women's rights).
The Secretary General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-Moon was also visiting Nigeria while I was there. Our paths crossed at the lobby of my hotel, where he waved in my direction and I returned his kind gesture.
"Nigeria occupies a central place in the family of nations. As I visit, Nigeria also happens to be serving as President of the Security Council for the Month of August. This is yet another reminder of the weight of the regional and global responsibilities you bear." "The universal framework will have to be tailored to national circumstances to live up to its promise to be an agenda "of the people, for the people, and by the people" that leaves no one behind," said Ban Ki-Moon, UN Secretary General during his visit in Nigeria. Source: premiumtimesng.com
His message and kind gesture served as a gentle reminder of my role in this very important dialogue. The opportunity to speak on such a pressing issue is one that I recognize that my voice must serve as a "platform for action" and "transcend as a vehicle" for education, empowerment and transformation. My presentation at the 2015 Nigeria Diaspora Day Conference was titled "Designing a Sustainable Development Model for Youth Empowerment" in Nigeria.
"In his opening statement, the United Nations Secretary-General stated that youth issues were amongst the top five priorities of his second term. He regretted that despite their potentials, millions of youth worldwide are jobless, hence the importance of putting youth at the center of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)." Source: blog.myworld2015.org
The question of what it might take to "Design a Sustainable Development Model for Youth Empowerment in Nigeria" for me -- meant a time for personal introspection. As a Diaspora Youth, what makes you feel empowered? And how can we create the same environment for the Youth in Nigeria? In my conclusions, I found that in order to successfully "Design a Sustainable Development Model for Youth Empowerment in Nigeria" -- we must consider the following 3 points:
1. Empower the Caregivers
We must empower caregivers in any nation to ensure that we are able to produce upstanding individuals. Caregivers of any nation include mothers, fathers, teachers, medical practitioners, law enforcers and etc. Mothers in the United States begin to receive support the moment their child is conceived. "Similar necessities are important to consider in Nigeria, because when a parent feels empowered - their children and their society will greatly benefit," said Chief Temitope Ajayi (Mama Diaspora) at the Nigeria Diaspora Day Conference.
2. Empower the Community
We must empower the community to serve as stakeholders in ensuring that the youth are empowered. Recent research findings suggest that an increase amount of youth in any society recognizes that it is up to them to change their world. However, Companies and individuals within a community are responsible for enabling the youth's ability to change their world. We need to see a greater investment from the community in programs that empowers the youth. For the community also benefits when the youth feel empowered. We need the support of companies and institutions in Nigeria to create and offer job training, vocational training and educational training, and to reinforce the youth's ability to think outside-of-the-box. "The youth will someday become future employees of the company, but they need career guidance and exposure," said Ms. Badewa T. Adejugbe-Williams, General Manager at the Abuja Film Village International (AFVI) Ltd, at the Nigeria Diaspora Day Conference.
Shortly after my tenor at the United Nations, I participated in Macy's Executive Development Program, I was exposed to business operations and business leaders - including the Chairman and CEO of Macy's, Mr. Terry Lundgren, who a few us in the program got to meet with every quarter. My experience and time at Macy's is one I greatly value until today - and it has helped me in managing the Global Connections for Women Foundation.
There are similar programs in Nigeria, but they are few and far between, and in order to create a sustainable development program to empower the Youth, we need more of such programs and it needs to become a critical part of a company's culture - in a country where over half of the youth population are unemployed.
3. Empower the Nation
A nation that makes a conscientious effort to invest in the future of the youth in their country will greatly benefit. Therefore, empowering the nation to recognize the importance of the role in which the youth play in their growth and development is paramount.
Empowering the nation is critically important because of the position in which they stand. The nation represents our collective voice and they represent the collective voice of the youth. But, what is needed to design a sustainable development model for youth empowerment in Nigeria - will require a sufficient and equal representation of the youth's voice in the Nation.
One recommendation is to create a "youth taskforce" who is responsible for considering the recommendations of the youth, and to seat with the leadership council of Nigeria for the various sectors. The primary duty of the individuals within the youth taskforce is to ensure that voices of the youth are permitted in all considerations.
My presentation at the Nigeria Diaspora Day Conference is available on YouTube:
In closing, the theme of the 2015 Nigeria Diaspora Day conference was "Change Agenda," a change described by the new President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari in his youth address, "a country that provides jobs for its young people, reducing unemployment to the lowest of single digits and providing safety nets so that no one is left behind. A Nigeria where entrepreneurship thrives, enterprise flourishes and the government gets out of your way so that you can create value, build the economy and aggressively expand wealth." Source: https://www.naij.com
Change is coming to Nigeria - but the recommendations provided therein further creates a nation where the youth can feel empowered, and in return, they are thereby able to provide for their caregivers, community and their nation for investing in them.
The Honorable Professor Yemi Osinbajo (San), the Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria gave the opening remarks at the Nigeria Diaspora Day Conference. He also wished me the very best on my presentation. The conference was organized and led by Mrs. Ibukun Odusote (the Permanent Secretary Political Affairs) and Honorable Abike Dabira Erewa, Former Chairman, House Committee on Diaspora Affairs.