By: John Oluwadero
[Guest Post]–The 2018 International Youth Day tagged safe spaces for youth aims to promote youth engagement and empowerment by exploring the role of safe spaces in contributing to freedom of expression, mutual respect and constructive dialogue. Safe spaces refer to platforms where youths can come together to freely express themselves and engage in activities related to their diverse needs and interests.
In August 2017, Building Nations Initiative (BNI) (formerly Better Nigeria Initiative) a youth-led organization commissioned a community youth center in the University of Ibadan to serve as a safe platform for active and creative youth engagement. The centre named “Nation Builders Centre” is envisioned to be a platform for raising responsible young leaders who will be builders of a better society. The Nation Builders Centre located at the John Paul II Building, opposite University Bookshop, provides a learning platform for values education, skills development and sustainability education. BNI harnesses the Nation Builder Centre as a platform for creating opportunities for creative citizenship and youth civic engagement while ensuring that the best of our national values are transmitted across generations.
For the past eleven (11) months of operating the Nation Builders Centre as a community youth centre at the University of Ibadan, we have been able to provide a platform for positive development of young people who are in thirst of building their capacity and competences while contributing positively to the society. Through the Language for Humanitarian Diplomacy Program (LADH), BNI has trained seventy-six (76) young people in preferred foreign languages which are German, Chinese, French and Spanish. We have successfully implemented a cultural immersion program to Republic of Benin for our French language students. LAHD Program Officer (French), Roseline Adewuyi, is one of the two young Nigerians selected by the French Embassy to represent Nigeria at the 2018 LabCitoyen two-weeks French Cultural Immersion program in Paris, France. The Senior Program Officer for LAHD, Tomiwa Adeyemo was also selected as one of the 2018 Fellows of the Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Foundation. All our students who wrote the DELF International Certificate Examination upon the completion of their LAHD course performed excellently on first attempt.
We have created awareness on the role of physical activity in combating non-communicable diseases and most importantly, we have encouraged 21 young people registered in our #Fit4Life fitness club to live an active lifestyle.
The FabricsArts Academy at the Centre has produced three (3) successful FabricArts entrepreneurs. The Monthly Young Leaders Meetup at the Centre has been a platform for sharing life’s experience and best practices among young people on personal development, career and business growth. We have also provided Orientation and Career Counseling session for one hundred and seventy-six (126) prospective students of the University of Ibadan.
Aside the programs that run at the centre, BNI has implemented community intervention projects in Abadina and Agbowo Communities of Ibadan. Through the Build-a-Teen project, twenty-three (23) BNI volunteers gave their time and resources to impact the lives of over twenty-two (22) children and thirty-eight (38) teenagers in Agbowo community as a way of marking the 2018 Children’s day. Five of these teenagers in Agbowo community are enrolled in a one-year apprenticeship project in fashion designing, cakes/decoration and make-up while two students at Abadina Grammar School are to be placed on full academic scholarship as from September 2018.
The Build-a-Teen project led to the introduction of our Nation Builders Teenagers club which currently boast of fourteen (14) active members.
Furthermore, the Nation Builders Centre has provided a platform for students’ association, startup entrepreneur, and youth groups to host their events (e.g. meetings, trainings, workshop etc) in a conducive and youth-friendly environment. Aside providing a platform for positive development of young people, the Nation Builders Centre has being a safe space for young people especially students of the University of Ibadan to find the support system they need for keeping their head above the waters of life challenges. The centre provides life coaching, counselling, and welfare support to students on campus.
The practice of safe spaces for young people is emerging in our society with stories of lives of many young people being transformed by the services and programs available in such spaces. However, for this practice to make maximum impact, there is a need for awareness in communities towards enlightening parents on the significance of safe spaces for youths in the community. Many parents are still configured to the belief that the school system is the only platform that can empower their child. Just as the school system provides academic empowerment for young people, we want parents to also embrace the concept of safe spaces for young people as a platform for holistic development, values education and skills development of their child.
Through this approach, young people in every community will have access to empowerment opportunities in sports, innovation, life skills education and empowerment while deconstructing barriers of judgment, hate speech, harassment and violence.
John Oluwadero is the President/CEO of Building Nations Initiative-BNI and Advocacy focal person for Commonwealth Youth Sport for Development and Peace Network. He’s being named as one of the 30 Emerging African Leaders by the Nelson Mandela School of Public Governance, University of Cape Town, South Africa. John is a 2018 Honoree of the Junior Chamber International JCI Ten Outstanding Young Persons in Nigeria National Award (Children, World peace and Human Right Category of award).Please Follow Us @ThePageNg