Joshua Alade is the convener of the newly formed Nigerian Youth SDGs Network, a coalition of youth focused and youth-led organizations aimed at achieving youth inclusion in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in Nigeria
What can you say inspired you to start the Nigerian Youth SDGs Network?
We started the Nigerian Youth SDGs Network having realized the need for a framework to harmonize, monitor and enhance Nigerian youth’s engagements around the Global Goals, aimed at the successful realization of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in Nigeria.
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We realized that for us to successfully achieve the SDGs in Nigeria we needed to have youth organizations working around the goals come together under a single platform.
This will help us create enough data to be able to monitor and track the SDGs and give us the opportunity to engage with the government to monitor efforts being made to actualize the SDGs. For the first time, we want to have young people working around the SDGs Nigeria come under one platform and speak with one voice.
The Network is still very young, how has the journey been so far?
We are barely a month old as a network but the work on creating the coalition commenced in January, 2017, we now have about 50 youth organizations registered on the Network and our goal is to have between 100 and 200 organizations registered by December 2017; we hope to formally launch the Nigerian Youth SDGs Network in January 2018.
We have many youth organizations coming to ask what the Network will offer them in terms of supporting their work; it is challenging explaining what exactly is the mandate of the Network because right now we don’t have funding for the Network and other necessary structures to make it function well.
However, we have been able to make them understand one thing: that it is possible for us to have one voice as youth organizations working around the SDGs in Nigeria and it has been interesting as Nigerian youth from across the country have been embracing the Network: from Port Harcourt to Lagos, Ibadan to Abuja, and Uyo to Jos and Kano – everyone is understanding that we need a youth coalition for the SDGs in Nigeria.
The Network has successfully hosted the first ever Nigerian Youth SDGs Summit last August in Lagos, and which had delegates from across Nigeria and even abroad. What was that experience like?
It was awesome! We never knew we could do it but we had to do it because I always tell my team that if there is anything that is supposed to be done and you have young people in charge, they can make it happen. We were able to get the support of development organizations within Nigeria and outside it.
Many of the delegates confirmed that the summit was the first time they were coming to an event where it was entirely young people not only listening to their fellow young people but also sharing ideas about each other’s work to inspire each other and explore opportunities for collaborations.
The idea behind the Nigerian Youth SDGs Network is to give the youth the opportunity to participate in the implementation of the SDGs, why is it necessary to have youth participating in the process?
Because young people have the largest population in the world; the world is young and if you are talking about the next 13 years of the SDGs, you are talking about the future of young people. As a youth, if you are 15 years old today you will be approaching 30 by 2030 and if you are 25 today you will be approaching 40, by 2030. This is why young people need to have an active role and be at the forefront of the implementation of the SDGs.
Moreover, the SDGs are important to the youth because they are about the kind of world young people will live in in the next 13 years. There is poverty everywhere in Africa and the continent has so many young people yet most of these youth are unemployed; we also have high maternal mortality and out-of-school children rates and these are the issues that young people can help to address: we are in a position to create better solutions for these challenges.
Therefore, it is the work of the coalition to make the youth know about the goals. The fact is that there are many young people are working to address the SDGs even though they don’t necessarily know about the SDGs.
For example, there are many young people working around providing access to education in rural communities [SDG 4] yet they don’t know about the SDGs, so we need to make them understand the link between their work and the goals. By raising awareness about the goals youth will become better informed to be able to make decisions about the specific goals they care about.
What is your vision for the Network in terms of creating more awareness about the SDGs among Nigerian youth?
Right now we already have a structure for the coalition and we are inviting organizations that are interested to also come on board. We want to hold stakeholder events across different states, we want to be able to monitor the implementation of the goals, and we want to be able to fund organizations that are part of the Network to work around specific goals.
We want to have the opportunity to make demands directly to the government because we the youth know better what works for us than anyone else, because someone who is 60 years old cannot relate with the reality of issues in respect of the youth in 2017 but someone who is 20 years old can do so. For example, although the issue of access to technology is part of basic education in today’s world, it is mainly the youth that can understand and relate to this reality.