By Chazmine A. Moore, Research Intern
31 July 2020
Inspired by the African Proverb, on June 22nd and 23rd, Nigerian youth gathered online to unite in an effort to combat sexual violence. The two-day workshop, Voices for Change, sponsored by the Africa Faith and Justice Network (AFJN) Nigeria, had over 68 youth participants who ranged from high school freshmen to university graduate students. During the workshop participants learned how to identify sexual violence, participated in advocacy training, and took action.
The youth participated in the workshop for various reasons including interest in the subject to advocating for victims. Akinrindibo Matthew, a youth participant said “training gave me a sense of belonging, and is one of the most important ways for me to give back to society.” This sense of belonging was fostered because the youth were surrounded by equally impassioned peers fighting for social justice. Matthew also quoted AFJN executive director Fr. Aniedi Okure, as advising the youth, “whatever you do, do it with strength” which resonated with them. Like the African proverb illustrates the youth were able to gather in numbers and in strength during the workshop. The proverb also magnifies that even the smallest actions can have a profound impact, where actions by the youth create ripples in society for good.
The youth came up with different tactics including in-person mobilization, radio outreach, and social media campaigns. The in-person campaigns concentrated on entering schools, spreading awareness, and helping young boys become change agents in the culture of sexual violence. Some of the youth also participated in a radio show iniative with the sisters where they answered questions in real-time about sexual violence in Nigeria. The social media campaigns, their speciality area, focused on the creation of the #WeStandForJustice campaign against sexual violence, which included information on the Sexual Harassment in Tertiary Educational Institutions Prohibition Bill. The youth are using social media to gain support for this bill. With social media everyone has a platform to bring awareness and advocate for different causes. Microphones have become social media posts and the crowd has become the approximate 3.6 billion people worldwide that have social media accounts. The youth are going to be instrumental in influencing the world, especially in Africa where currently 60% of Africa’s population is under the age of 25.
The voice of Africa will come from the mouths of the youth. At ages as young as 14, members have chosen to advocate for just governance, condemn all forms of injustice, and push themselves through uncomfortable conversations for the better good. Their renewed sense of identity strengthens the group. Nothing is more courageous than standing up for what is right, even when it is one of the most difficult things to do. Follow their progress at #WeStandForJustice and AFJN Nigeria’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/AFJNNIGERIA
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