Friday, November 11, 2011

I Started Activism At 10 -Esther Agbarakwe •Award-winning Environmental Sustainability Advocate

My Exclusive Interview with The Nigerian Tribune: Published Saturday, 05 November 2011

In this piece, SEYI GESINDE takes a look at the activities of Esther Agbarakwe, a Nigerian environmentalist, who at a time represented the African youths at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Copenhagen, Denmark.
One Nigerian youth who is so passionate about nvironmental protection is Esther Agbarakwe. Her interest in securing the environment has accorded her recognition on the international scene, fetching her the role of African coordinator of United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development (UNCSD) Youth and Children Major Group.
Esther, who holds a Bachelor of Science (B.Sc) degree in Education Chemistry from the University of Calabar, Nigeria, specialises in teaching, counselling, and coaching, besides, have also won merit awards to her credit. She has equally gone a step further to study courses in health, environment, humanities business management and sustainable development,
As an environmental advocate, Esther, in 2009, was in Copenhagen, Denmark to represent African youths at United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Conference of Parties (COP 15).
It was at this conference that her skills in training and creativity in managing and facilitating youth-led projects were further boosted. Her expertise which also spans system’s development and strengthening are currently being displayed as the coordinator of the Nigerian Youth Climate Coalition (NYCC), a group she co-founded.

Apart from this, Esther is also an active member of The Earth Charter Initiative’s youth network, and to boost the environmental initiative of this network, she founded in Nigeria, The Earth Charter Youth Group Calabar, through which, in 2009, she succeeded in managing the Earth Charter Youth Special Project-Nigeria in the aspect of peace development in the Niger Delta. In recognition of Esther’s efforts in the network group, she was invited as a guest speaker at the 10th anniversary of the Earth Charter (EC+10) in the Peace Palace at The Hague, Netherlands, with the Dutch Queen in attendance. The Earth Charter specifically takes a special interest in promoting youth activism in sustainable development, and as a group member of the “First Steps Campaign,” a youth group inaugurated in 2008, in Scotland, during the Civicus Youth Assembly. The following year, 2009, Esther represented Africa at the International Organising committee of the Fifth World Water Youth Forum in Istanbul, Turkey.

In May of that same year, Esther was supported by the German government for participation at the 17th session of the UN Commission on Sustainable Development programme held at the UN headquarters in New York for her work on Youth in Sustainability in Nigeria. Esther delivered the opening statement for the Youth and Children Major Group. Esther is also the focal person for the Young Commonwealth Climate Network in Nigeria. She has also volunteered, consulted for Actionaid International Nigeria and currently sit in its General Assembly as the only Youth Representative

Esther strongly believes in Inter-generational equity and partnership for sustainability. She is a young leader in Nigeria and has already achieved a great deal. She tells her own story: “I was 10 years old when I began ‘activism’ on issues of children rights, then in the old town of Calabar, where I was raised. In fact, I was still in primary school then. My dad was the chairman of the Parents Teachers Association (PTA) and that too helped me to live up to the expectation.

“Well, not until May 27, 1995, that I was asked to participate at the Children Day celebration at the Government House, Calabar with the wife of the then military administrator. “Now, did I stop there? No! I realised a calling for me in youth work that, when I got into secondary school, I was very active. The school brought out my interest and dedication, thus they sent me to various adolescents workshops and symposia on adolescent sexuality, education and career. “Another thing I got from my mom is giving back, so I started a Health Club in my school known as WAPI Health club. This inspired the authorities to make me the Senior Girl prefect. I had mentors both in the school and outside, which greatly helped me.

“My university days were even more interesting as I became more knowledgeable on issues on adolescent and youth sexuality, and leadership building as I volunteered for Nigerian Youth Aid Programme (NYAP), University of Calabar, as a youth counsellor and activist. Well, it was not easy combining academics and activism and peer-education, but as inspired and determined as I was, I just did it! Thank God, my parents supported me.”

Sunday, October 30, 2011

6th African Economic Conference: Youth employment within the new African Green Economy Agenda

According to the United Nations, Africa is well poised to take advantage of a host of opportunities on the continent for building a ‘green economy,’ one that generates decent jobs in an environmentally sustainable way 

The concept of the green economy is one of the several closely related constructs that have emerged in recent years to enhance convergence among the three pillars of sustainable development. According to the UNEP Green Economy Report, a green economy is defined as an economy that results in improved human well-being and reduced inequalities over the long term, while not exposing future generations to significant environmental risks and ecological scarcities. In its simplest expression, a green economy can be thought of as one which is low carbon, resource efficient, socially-inclusive, and that protects and enhances biodiversity and ecosystem services.
But is how will all this potential be harvested for the benefit of Africa’s citizens and in a way that promotes stability in Africa and beyond? How will the millions of African youth find peace and stability through job opportunities which has been seriously promoted as one of the results of this ambitious transition to green Economy?
So I packed my bags and travelled to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to participate at the 6th Annual African Economic Conference on the invitation of UN Economic commission for Africa, African Development Bank and UNDP to share the views of African Youths and to speak at a special session on the Role of the state in promoting Green Economy 
The Conference which started from the 25th to the 28th October, 2011 had “Green Economy and structural Transformation’ as the theme. Green Economy being one of the themes of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in 2012 (Rio+20) which was decided at the The UN General Assembly Resolution 64/236, to convene a summit 20 years after the Rio Earth Summit with the aim of reviewing progress in the implementation of the outcomes of the major summits on sustainable development, deliberate on new and emerging challenges and reinvigorate the political will for sustainable development. The two themes of the conference are “A green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication”, and “The institutional framework for sustainable development. During the Opening Plenary, The Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Mr. Jean Ping, said the theme of the meeting was very timely and will help Africa’s preparations for the COP17 negotiations later this year in Durban, South Africa; and the Rio + 20 meeting in Brazil in June 2012.
While participants were made to understand that African leaders have already embraced the green economy concept as exemplified in several declarations and resolutions, namely: the 3rd African Ministerial Conference on Financing for Development (May, 2009); the 13th Session of the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN) of June 2010; the 1st Pan African Biodiversity Conference (September 2010); the 7th African Development Forum (October 2010), and most recently, the 18th Ordinary Session of the Executive Council of the African Union (January 2011), I on the other hand was planning and coordinating with other African youths via social media on how to inform  the participants  that African youth are ready to support government efforts but want Government to make reforms and also understand that African Youth will hold  govt. accountable if the Jobs are not  created for them in this new green economy agenda on the context of the three pillars of sustainable development: Health, Economic and Environmental sustainability.
From the recent uprising in North Africa to anxiety over the prospect of more protests by young people throughout other African region, youth unemployment and underemployment is increasingly recognized as a potential trigger for social instability in other world regions. Africa in particular faces demographic challenges as its population of young people ages 15 to 24 increases and access to secure jobs continues to be problematic. In addition, the global financial crisis threatens to further strain labor markets and exacerbate a tenuous situation for Africa's youth. 
Africa has the fastest-growing and most youthful population in the world. Over 20 percent of Africa's population is between the ages of 15 to 24 and, since over 40 percent of Africa's population is under 15 years of age, that number is expected to grow significantly in the coming years. According to the International Labour Office, youth make up as much as 36 percent of the total working-age population and three in five of Africa's unemployed are youth.
So does Green Economy bring hope to African youths seeking Jobs? Speaking at the Special Session on the Role of the State in promoting Green Economy, African Youths and experts urge government to ensure that decent Jobs are indeed created for Africa’s  youths and not use the notion of technology transfers and innovation to give jobs to non-Africans employed to help Africa transits to a green economy.  African government and development partners needs to look inwards and access what technological potential and innovation exist among African’s youths, what area need improvement and how can the various ‘crude’ innovations across Africa can be harnessed towards an inclusive green economy development agenda.

African youth want unemployment to be reduced through the creation of green jobs with a living wage and the stronger consideration of the impact of employment policy on youth. Governments should promote young people's role in the workforce by providing them with the appropiate skills and knowledge to improve their employablity . Possible initiatives could include locally appropriate job-training in the context of sustainable development, start-up capital for young entrepreneurs, and apprenticeship programmes.  Entrepreneurship opportunities like the Youth Enterprise with Innovation in Nigeria (You WiN!) Programme of the Nigerian Federal Ministries of Finance, Communications &ICT and Youth Development should be encouraged across African countries, while engaging the creative innovations of African youth. With aging populations in advanced economies and rising wages in Asia, Africa has the opportunity to become the next center for manufacturing, ICT and service sector jobs. Africa’s “youth bulge” need not be a harbinger of conflict and instability in Africa.
The conference ended after four days of brainstorming on the environment, climate change and green growth and how they affect Africa’s future prosperity, participants called for the reform in many sectors including the educational system in Africa to increase skills & productivity of workers, train young graduates to be entrepreneurs.  Speaking at the Closing plenary, Professor Nnadozie, Director, Economic Development and NEPAD Division UN ECA also urged that participants take the dialogue further once leaving the conference to their respective communities
These positive signals coming from the continent’s political, economic and social leaders confirmed the view that African countries are intent on a green revolution. African youth  (including African youths in Diaspora) are also ready to support this Green Revolution through peer-to -peer education, innovations  but will continue to hold their government accountable when this promises are not fulfilled.  As we move to Durban for the next UN Climate Talks, African youths under the Umbrella of African Youth Initiative on Climate Change (AYICC) is mobilizing  hundreds of youths across the continents to engage local, state and National leaders towards having a successful outcome in Durban, the AYICC is also planning a Youth Climate Justice Caravan (We Have Faith) with other partners that will move from Nairobi to Durban. We Have Faith is a campaign slogan with a very strong yet positive message about climate change. It demands action, and gives options and solutions. We Have Faith Campaign believes that the COP 17 in Durban can find a lasting and sustainable solution to protect people and the planet from climate change. Yes African Youth are ready and we are not alone.  

Monday, September 26, 2011

A Poem in Memory of Prof. Wangari Maathai

I slept and dreamt,
Of the greenest Earth,
I awoke and felt,
The prevailing dearth

I dreamt of trees,
Then woke up to plant them
Stung by political bees,
But soldiered on; devoid of shame

Now that I'm gone,
Of more trees do plant,
Here; the torch that my path shone,
The song of eco-warriors forever chant!

~ In Memory of Prof. Wangari Maathai

by: Kennedy Liti Mbeva,UNEP - Bayer Young Environment Envoy 2010
Africa Union Youth Volunteer

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Young People, Climate Change and the Nigerian 2011 Elections

Today’s youth and future generations will inherit the climate system in whichever way governments decide to leave it.

Climate change refers to a change in climate that is attributable directly or indirectly to human activities, that affects the atmospheric conditions of the earth leading to global warming. And it gets worse: Climate change has the potential to affect all natural systems thereby becoming a threat to human development and survival socially, politically and economically. Climate change will have a negative impact on poor countries who, ironically, have contributed least to the problem. Climate change presents significant threats to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals especially those related to eliminating poverty and hunger and promoting environmental sustainability.
The Question now is: what does the Nigerian 2011 Elections got to do with Young People and Climate Change?
According to a report published by the Federal Ministry of Environment, in the last 15 years the population of Nigeria grew from 89 Million to 140 million people, with an area of 923.000 square kilometers. 33.6% of the total population of Nigeria are young people between the ages of 10-24 years. Estimates show that by 2025, the number of Nigerian young people would have exceeded 57 million..
Jennifer Ehidiamen, a young journalist from Lagos reported that young people played active role in the just conculded elections accross Nigeria stating that " Nigeria re-elected its president this month, and young people – who make up 70 percent of the population here – played an important role. Thanks to online platforms and social media, young people became “informal election observers” to ensure a free and fair process. Jennifer reported that Esther Eshiet, 24, a social worker in southern Nigeria, used social media programs such as Facebook and Twitter to report on what transpired at during election in her polling units and learned about what happened at polling units across the country during the presidential and parliamentary elections this month. She also said that the new information and communication technologies, ICTs, not only encouraged young people to participate but also helped to preserve the integrity of the elections.
This very opportunity can also be use to get more young people in Nigeria actively involved in environmental governance . Young people in Nigeria should be supported to use these ICT tools to inform and educate their peers on climate change and other evironmental issues happening in their local communities and arround the world. for instance on January 4th 2011, Young people used Twitter to e-organised a Live Tweet-Chat that attracted over 70 participants from 11 countries to discuss on the theme "Youth and Climate Change in Nigeria" #ccnigeria. first of it kind in Nigeria.

The elections activities itself had great impact on the enivironment. It has been reported that Two hundred million ballot papers and result sheets were ordered from abroad for each of the Nigerian elections. These actions has resulted to deep carbon footprint of massive proportions. Carbon footprint is the totality of greenhouse gas emissions caused by anorganization, event, product or person. Imagine the how much trees were cut to produce wood pulp, how much chemicals like chlorine were used. Has INEC disposed its waste products in an environmentally friendly manner? Will it by burining/incineration? which will result in carbon emissions,
The best alternative is recycling. In the absense of a recycling culture withnin the Nigerian society, young people can be encouraged to engage in low carbon paper recycling of these used ballot papers to produce finished product like greeting cards and picture frame thereby providing entrepreneurship opportunity for young people and creating employment. For Instance, in September of 2010, a Low carbon Paper Recycling Workshop was organised for 30 Youths in Abuja funded by Dekeyser&Friends Foundation and organised by EarthRISE Foundation and Nigerian Youth Climate Coalition under the "Awareness to Action project" .Recycling means processing used materials (waste) into new products to prevent waste of potentially useful materials, reduce the consumption of fresh raw materials, reduce energy usage, reduce air pollution (from incineration) and water pollution (from landfilling) by reducing the need for "conventional" waste disposal, and lower greenhouse gas emissions as compared to virgin production
Nigeria is yet to sign the Climate Change Bill passed in the National Assembly even though it is a signatory to three related multilateral environmental agreements: the Kyoto Protocol and United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, UNFCCC; the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants, POPs; and the Convention on Biological Diversity, CBD and many young people are not still fully aware climate change issues or not interested to dicusses biodiversity conservation issues in Nigeria.

It is time that young people in Nigeria recognize that climate change will undermine current efforts to poverty eradication and achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, so that it raises serious questions of climate justice and equity. We must recognise that a gender sensitve strategy is a precondition to the rising challenges of sustainable development coupled with an agrresive implementation strategy that proirities the role of young people as stakeholders in the process.

Young people must note with concern the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change presented in its 4th Assessment Report, that climate change may affect most strongly the poorest regions and people, especially women, young people and children through impacts on agriculture, food security and availability of water, which are traditionally women’s tasks in many developing countries like Nigeria.

As the world will gather in Duban, South African come December for the UN Climate Change Conference, the newly elected president, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan has a number of important tasks to fulfill: The signing of the Climate Chnage Bill, The diversification of the economy, the independence of fossil fuels (in this case independence of selling fuels), Clean Enegry for Power supply ,revitalization of the stagnant agriculture, The participation of young people in Governance and National Security.
Engaging young people in actions to address climate change is a critical element to any nation’s strategy. Young people are also a key point of influence for other segments of society (e.g., families and communities). If citizens come to understand what the risks of climate change are and how they can play a role in reducing the impact of climate change, they can become an integral part of the solution. Youth are an important source of creativity, enthusiasm and drive for any actions to address climate change.
Written by Esther Agbarakwe, Esther Eshiet and Taiwo Oyelakin and was first publish at NYCC's blog

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Celebrating International Women’s Day & Improving Maternal Health in Nigeria

Last week I had the rare opportunity of co-hosting a dinner to celebrate women as part of the Global Dinner Party to celebrate the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day. The dinner was organized by the Nigeria Health Campaign of the White Ribbon Alliance in Nigeria in partnership with Save the Children Nigeria. Our focus was to enlighten the media about commitments made by Nigeria’s government in support of the UN Secretary General’s Global Strategy for Women's and Children’s Health.

At the event, we shared copies of the Atlas of Birth flyer that highlights the commitments that were made, and we also called on everyone to support the National Health Bill. The film "Tracking Commitments for Child Health" from Save the Children was also presented at the meeting. At the end we all agreed to the following:

1.Strengthen the existing Network of Health Correspondents through capacity building on maternal, newborn and child health reporting

2.Work together in a collaborative manner by recognizing media as a partner for development

3.Strengthen advocacy to National and State Houses of Assembly

4.Embark on advocacy visits to heads of media organizations to address identified bottlenecks for the health correspondents

In attendance were: the Country Representative of UNFPA, Dr. Agathe Lawson; The British High Commissioner to Nigeria represented by the DFID Country Advisor, Jane Miller; Secretary of the National Association of Women Journalists (NAWOJ), Lucy Chindaba; President of International Federation of Women Lawyers, Ezinwa Okoroafor; USAID MNCH Program Manager, Dr. Folake Olayinka, and representatives of over 20 media houses.

There was excitement on the faces of all the participants as Save the Children presented the EVERYONE cake dedicated to the women of the world. Being one of the Women Deliver 100 Young Leaders and also a program assistant at the WRA Nigeria Office, I was invited to co-host the dinner to celebrate WOMEN. I used the opportunity to call for more involvement of young people in maternal health advocacy especially young women in Nigeria, and the signing of the Nigerian Health Bill to safe guard the future of young women in Nigeria.  I am very proud to be a woman, a Women Deliver 100 Young Leader, and a Nigerian.

Esther, in action, at the Women Deliver 2010 youth pre-conference below:

Women Deliver is a global advocacy organization bringing together voices from around the world to call for action against maternal death.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

In a Nutshell, This is who I am

Siping a cup of Kenyan black tea I remember growing up with a dream of being one of Nigerian's Young Champion for sustainable development, a dream that  has pushed me to learn from others, get inspired and involved. Now I feel it time to give back.  I have spent over 15 years learning and contributing to solutions to development issues (mostly as a volunteer), from Child rights to adolescent and youth sexuality issues, from Poverty,Gender issues to Climate change and Biodiversity Conservation,  and yes, Global environmenatl governance has been part of it as well

2010 was a year I call, "year of Inspiration'. a year of sharing experience and get more young people inspired to become development actors in the communities. Using social media networks to communicate to urban youth and travelling north and south to meet with  rural youth on various projects on climate change and biodiversity education and awareness programmes has been the high point of 2010 year of development activism.

So what did I do in 2010? Here are a few..

1. Managed the Engaging Naija youth in Climate Change Project funded by Building Nigeria's Response to Climate Change (BNRCC)

2. Invited as a Resource person by UNFPA to the National Consultative Forum on Young People Health and Development, Abuja, Speaking on "Fostering Youth Leadership and Paticipation in Decision Making"

3. Selected as one of Women Deliver 100 Young Leaders to participate at the 2nd Global Women    Deliver Conference at the Washington Convention Center, Washington, DC

4. Speaker at the Earth Charter +10 Anniversary event at the Peace Palace in Hague, Netherland . The  Earth Charter Initiative, is a diverse global network of people and institutions that promote values and the principle of sustainable development

5. Invited to join UNICEF delegation to the Seventh African Development Forum, (ADFVII) as one African youth Delegate, also had the rare opportunity of addressing the opening session, delivering the "Message from the Youth" on behalf of African Youth. The African Development Forum is an initiative led by the UN Economic Commission for Africa to establish an African-driven development agenda

6. Winner of 7th Annual LEAP Africa Nigerian Youth Leadership Award 2010

7. Selected as a Commonwealth Youth Climate Fellow during the Commonwealth Youth Climate Fellowship Programme in London in Nov, 2010, joined by a Fellow Young Nigerian Climate advocate, Taiwo Oyelakin

8. Selected as one of the 25 students/Learner at the 2010 World Innovation Summit for Education (WISE2010) in Doha, Qatar

7. Written many Articles on Youth, Climate change and Development while built sustainable relaltionships.

...But we are now in what been happening??
Please check back another time for  more updates, I am still who I am. giving back and sharing this wealth of Experience among Nigeria's greatest asset, The Youth.

before you leave, here a link to an interview I granted with Bella Naija earlier this year. Happy reading :