Michael Semiye, founder of the DEAN Initiative, is a Youth Power Partner from Nigeria. Here he writes about his youth-led organisation’s work to achieve Goal Nine for better industry, innovation and infrastructure in Nigeria by utilising new technologies.
From a tender age, I always had a keen interest on grassroots mobilisation and community development issues, especially around governance and civic participation. I was socialised to believe that formal education is the key to achieving a better future. But seeing most of my peers and community members returning to the village to be poor farmers after years in university, I learnt that a brighter future will be built by a different calibre of youth. This youth will rise to stand against the injustices of the world, with the zest to solve the world’s largest problems that compromise their development, For my country this means tackling high unemployment, achieving access to education and improving poor infrastructure in remote areas of the country.
Nigeria is a country that has about 167 million people in total with half of them young people. This means that whatever challenge that befalls my beloved Nigeria; it hits the youngest people the hardest. For instance two-thirds of those unemployed aged under 35 are between 15 and 24 years of age. The situation is worse for young girls who constitute the majority of unemployed youth. I do not need high grades to understand that as young people, we need to take leadership positions to solve the persistent problems we face. With the ushering in of the Global Goals, we stand to be the largest generation that can push our leaders to deliver them and fulfil promises they made to end poverty, inequalities and climate change crises facing this generation.
Through my lived experiences, I have learnt that we cannot achieve sustainable development by fighting with our governments, but rather through sustained constructive engagement, fostering meaningful partnerships and tactfully influencing decision makers. I chose to use my Youth Power to mobilise young people to be agents for positive change through founding a community development organization called DEAN Initiative in Nigeria. We use new media as a tool to raise awareness of the challenges facing young people in my country.To date we have produced visible stories of change in the lives of thousands of both rural and urban youth Nigeria.
Nigeria, like many African states, can be accused of lacking positive leadership figures. However I have seen that when we accord young people with leadership positions, their abilities are unstoppable. We joined the Youth Power global campaign to tide with the rest of the 1.8 billion young people of the world to hold leaders to account for the promises they made in the global goals. Our aim is to set the bar for youth -led accountability in Nigeria, so that other youth organisations can learn from our efforts.
Our approach is simple; leverage technology and social media to be heard. We are in the age where everything is a simple click away, and technologies such as a mobile phone applications can connect young people in five continents by a mere click. A Facebook post or Twitter Post can trigger interest from a critical mass of people in public spheres and decision making spaces making it difficult to ignore.
We created simple videos that raise awareness of different challenges facing young people in our community targeting our decision makers. With Channel TV in Nigeria for instance, we shot a video focusing on Dobi to Kwalita village in Gwagwalada Area Council of Abuja FCT. We highlighted some challenges associated with the lack of accessible roads in that community. The challenges included young people having to walk long distances to school and the only alternative mode of transport were motorcycles.
Thirteen rural communities were cut off from economic activities due to the terrible road networks, with farmers losing some of their produce that they could have potentially traded. The video caught the attention of decision makers, whom we engaged in meetings sharing our findings and the need to construct a road in this particular community. They allocated funds to the construction of a road in Dobi to Kwalita connecting over 13 communities. Here is a video clip with the result of our efforts. The local government has since responded and a road is being constructed.
We have continued to use blogs and YouTube videos to package our key advocacy asks, which has worked well to get the attention of decision makers in our community. Joining the Youth Power campaign has increased our scope to learn from over 121 partners from 41 countries who are part of the Youth Power Campaign. Through structured monthly calls, we share our experiences around youth -led accountability and receive expert, tailored support from Restless Development to ensure our campaign is a success and that we join global mobilisation moments such as International Youth Day. We will continue to unleash the boundless power and energy of the young people in our country.This is the only sure way of ensuring that our leaders keep their promises to turn the global goals into reality.