…send UK youths to community
BY JOSEPHINE AGBONKHESE
As a way of promoting youth participation in governance, an international organisation, Volunteer Service Overseas, VSO, is partnering the Women Advocates Documentation Research and Documentation Centre, WARDC, on a three-month International Citizens Service (ICS) programme in Ikorodu, Lagos.
The exchange programme which is being implemented by 22 young VSO volunteers made up of UK and Nigerian citizenry, seeks to equip youths in selected host communities to deliver direct development and support the eradication of poverty.
Hence, like every ICS three-month cycle which tackles issues ranging from agriculture to good governance and education in a selected country and host community, this quarter’s ICS which lasts from October to December 2014, according to Miss Uzoamaka Nwachukwu, Team Leader of ongoing cycle, focuses radically on making good governance a reality in Ikorodu by ensuring substantive youths’ participation.
“Poor youth participation in governance has become a national phenomenon because youths tend to believe governance is the exclusive preserve of older adults who occupy key positions. This, we have conspicuously observed in Ikorodu also. We are here to teach youths that governance is not all about being elected into positions. It includes being able to identify issues, know the right channels through which to tackle those issues, know the level of government to hold responsible and many more. We blame the Federal Government for everything without thinking of our ward councilors, local government chairmen and state governments. We blame them even for our dirty environments. That is why, in the course of this cycle, our volunteers will also be engaging in series of community clean-up exercise”, Uzoamaka explained at a welcome ceremony put together in honour of the daring volunteers in Ikorodu.
Extolling the vitues of the UK and Nigerian volunteers who left their comfort zones to reside in Ikorodu, associate and brainstorm for three months with 20 youth parliamentarians from five zones in the community- Aga, Igbo Olowu, Ebute, Jumo Fark and Lowa, Dr(Mrs)Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi, Executive Director, WARDC, noted that ICS is a one year initiative of the VSO which will last till August 2015.
“The first cycle came into Nigeria in June and left in August. This is the second and the volunteers will be in Nigeria till December. This present ICS cycle is going to draw a charter of demand, based on their findings, which will be used to engage the parliament in the future.
“WARDC’s collaboration with VSO started in 2013 and has led to some positive impacts in Ikorodu. Youths have been engaging constructively through a shadow parliament which we facilitated in the earlier mentioned five zones through the help of the first ICS cycle which came earlier to Ikorodu, to ensure that the communities respond to issues of poverty and think positively of the youths.
“More importantly, this time around, through this partnership, WARDC seeks to prepare the youths for the 2015 general elections. The parliament will be able to come up with questions for those vying for political seats so that they can put them on their toes by the time they get into office. What is important in this project is not the UK and Nigerian volunteers coming and leaving Ikorodu but rather the parliament here which remains constant and influential”.
Also speaking at the welcome ceremony, Chairman, Igbo Olowu Estate, which is the zone accommodating the volunteers for the cycle, Alhaji Kola Oyekanmi, urged participating youths from Ikorodu to shun informal socialization throughout the duration of the 3-month programme and pursue knowledge on good governance which will yield long-term, lasting results. He also affirmed the possible positive impacts of the project in the community.
One of the UK volunteers, Miss Bethany Gorman, who spoke with Lipstick, clarified that the UK volunteers were not in Nigeria to tell Nigerian youths what to do since they cannot claim to have all the answers.
Bethany went on: “It is about supporting and bringing new ideas to birth. So far, the Nigerians on the programme seem educated and knowledgeable. The only difference I have noticed is the issue of unemployment; I notice none of the Nigerian volunteers has ever had a job before and it is shocking because these youths are educated, passionate and caring. They know what they want but are financially handicapped. I will advice the Nigerian government to begin to realise that its greatest resource is not oil or whatever but its young people”.