Ijeoma Obiajunwa-Ajiamah, a 2016 YALI fellow, is the CEO at Markengee Touchinglives International, a nonprofit working around awareness creation and advocacy for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in Nigeria and across Africa
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You are a trained physiotherapist; how did you become SDGs and women’s empowerment advocate?
Well, I am a trained physiotherapist but I am passionate about empowering women and girls. As a Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) fellow and an emerging African leader, I take it as a responsibility upon myself to be a change agent by empowering women and girls with the right information about the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) so as to enable them understand and key into the goals to achieve their purpose in life.
This is because the SDGs are the way forward; our children need to learn with purpose and our society needs to regain its sanity. Moreover, practicing my profession (physiotherapy) provides me with the opportunity to have the funds I need to be able to run of my NGO, whose work is on empowering and touching lives, which is actually my passion.
Your organization, Markengee Touchinglives International has been at the forefront of the advocacy for the SDGs in Nigeria across Africa; how has it been trying to create awareness about the SDGs?
At Markengee Touchinglives International we are very passionate about empowering women and youth; the Sustainable Development Goals are a set of seventeen goals designed to bring about positive change in the world by transforming it. These goals, however cannot be achieved if the government alone is left to implement them.
Hence, Markengee is strongly advocating for the implementation of these goals, one at a time. In line with this, Markengee was the first organization to hold an international conference on the SDGs in Nigeria and which had in attendance several local and international NGOs, civil society and media organisations as well as representatives of the private sector.
The conference discussed the way forward in terms of advocacy for the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals in Nigeria and across Africa. Also, as a means to make bigger impact and drive wider coverage, Markengee has a social media program being broadcast every Thursday at 3pm (Nigerian Time).
The program is tagged “Touchinglives” and helps in educating, sensitizing as well as creating awareness about the Global Goals and how to achieve them.
What do the SDGs represent to Africans in terms of lifting them out of poverty and achieving prosperity?
Like I said earlier and will continue to say, the Sustainable Development Goals are very important and timely. They are capable of bringing about positive change and sustainable development in our society.
Africa is a developing continent and most African countries are developing as well, therefore, if the Sustainable Development Goals are actively embraced, internalized, domesticated as well as implemented, Africa and countries on the continent will achieve prosperity by the year 2030.
If these goals are effectively implemented, issues like poverty [SDG1], hunger [SDG2] and all the challenges being faced by African countries will become things of the past, that is why Markengee is seriously advocating and soliciting that everyone partakes in this advocacy for the implementation of these goals because achieving them is a springboard to achieving prosperity on the continent.
If the goals are achieved, more women and youth will be able to find their footing, and be empowered. Inequality will be reduced hence the girl-child will have access to education. The youth have an important role to play in achieving the SDGs; irrespective of whether they are artists, musicians, movie stars, they can all contribute towards achieving the Global Goals.
What do you think is necessary if Africa must achieve the SDGs in the next 13 years?
Advocacy, like I mentioned above is key to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals in Africa. No one will get involved in a cause he or she has no knowledge of. In other words, you can’t fight a battle you are not aware of. That is why it is important that we all get involved in the effort to create awareness and provide the right information to Africans about the SDGs and why it is important to achieve them.
Secondly, people need to embrace, internalize and domesticate these goals in order for them to be able to implement them. It is therefore important that we continue the advocacy towards the successful implementation of the SDGs in Nigeria and Africa by 2030.