Our Voice Is In Our Hands

9505967156_97f78bb06d_bThe internet and social media give youth an enormous opportunity to amplify their voices, writes Emmanuel Olutokun, 23, a Correspondent from Lagos in Nigeria, who looks at ways these remarkable tools have been used for positive change.

The youthful age offers so much opportunity, potential and prospects to build, learn, and explore. A period to create the future we desire and work towards accomplishing it. But as an adage ironically puts, ‘many use their youth age to make their old age miserable’.

There was a time in the history of mankind when we thought the only way to make our voices heard was through protesting, fighting and even shedding of blood. But with the disruptive intervention and explosion of the internet, this conception is fast eroding.

Our voice is gradually moving to our hands. With our internet enabled mobile phones, our voices can hardly be ignored. It is simple but effective. There are immense opportunities that we the youths have to hone and positively make use of.

Recently, there was a premature coup in Turkey, where some disgruntled individuals in the military decided to overthrow the present government. The coup would have been a success if major traditional means of communication – radio and television – had been taken over.  But another importance means of communication was underrated, and that was the voice of the people. People who had access to the internet in Turkey took to their social media platforms to hear from their president, express their displeasure and dissatisfaction with the ongoing coup, and re-affirm their support to their president. These raised the consciousness of the world to crisis in Turkey and in no time the attempted coup was crushed.

This essentially brings to fore how loud and how far our ‘hands’ can go if used positively and in the right manner. Social media creates a very suitable platform for youths to start an initiative, galvanize support and implement projects that are beneficial to the society.

One such tool is Twitter. This platform is 320 million people strong globally and has been seen as a community where matters of importance are being discussed by people whose voices might never have been heard if there was no internet.

Last week, a hashtag #SaveMayowa was trending on Twitter Nigeria, which was a call for financial support ror a Nigerian lady who was diagnosed with cancer and in need of immediate medical attention. The unity of Nigerians was reflected when people took empathising steps to ensure that the needs of the lady were met. A Gofundme account was set up for her whereby people could donate, and within three days, over 31 million naira was raised for her operation.

Change.org is another social tool whereby youths everywhere in the world can start campaigns, mobilise support from concerned fellows and also work with decision makers to drive solutions. Just starting a petition over an observed ill in your nation is now sure to be the first step to solving that ill. Amazingly, all these social platforms are free.

The truth is, there is never a better time to start than now. The change we desire to see in the world rests in our hands. Just start.

photo credit: Find your voice via photopin (license)

First Appeared on Your Commonwealth

 

#SpotOn With Bongwong Justin

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The tempests of youth are mingled with days of brilliant sunshine.-Luc De Clapiers

Happy new month to our esteemed readers, in this edition of #SpotOn, newly-appointed Global Head of Events, World Merit, Bongwong Justin, takes us on a personal and insightful journey through the paths of active youth volunteerism and social innovation.
I first encountered Bongwong under the auspice of Ashoka/African Changemakers Network in a community that exhumes energy and passion to see change come to Africa not by dreaming of it or mere wishing but then taking the initiative to ensure it becomes a reality. He is one of such people who has taken it upon himself to lead change in Africa starting from his home town in Cameroon.

Enjoy the chat but more importantly apply these truths to your life.

Who is Bongwong Justin ?

Bongwong Justin is the Co- founder of EFAO working on rural education and has contributed on quality education of children in about 11 rural schools with about 600 children having access to education today. The initiative that led to the creation of Banten community Library was to impact on the life of Marginalized children in Cameroon as we campaign to impact on the lives of the underprivileged.

He has passion in promoting World Merit Propaganda which he calls the only way for the hope of mankind, as he moves from Head of Advocacy and Partnership Committee to join the Global Marketing team.He was Delegate in the 2016 Youths speak forum powered by AIESEC and the MilliMUN conference in Baku.

Looking forward to be a great global citizen is all he wishes as he looks forward to engage all the Youths at all angles of the world to fight for SDGs till 2030 with 360 Conference in UN.

-What’s your lifelong passion and what are you doing to bring it to reality?

Coming from a rural area in Africa has been a great opportunity to identify the problems of my people, Coming from a problem region has made me to become a solution. As M. Ghandi said “Be the change you want to see in the world” .Therefore I have pledged to be change I want in the world through volunteerism.

In 2006 being so passionate about community development at that time when so many children in my community were not still able to go to school because of one reason or the other. By then I was still studying to obtain my advance level certificate from Government Bilingual High school Kumbo in Cameroon. I had a vision to improve the situation of less privileged children to gain the opportunity to attend school in suburbs as prevailing situation was too critical.

Many children study in the rural areas and majority of them do not have the means to finance their school needs. I have joined so many youth networks to make this dream a reality. I think my journeyto put an everlasting solution to the problems faced in rural education should be an integrated approach with international community. As it is being said “Think globally and act locally’’ I have alway followed the advocacy of Nelson Mandela. He started from his  local community and Dr Bernard Fonlon did the same too in my community.

 Coming from a rural area in Africa has been a great opportunity to identify the problems of my people, Coming from a problem region has made me to become a solution.

How did EFAO come to be and what has been its achievement so far?

My mother was very good at subsistence farming where she educated us all with my father as he could not make it with his retailing business at the time. I use to feel bad when I was at school and others were not at school. In 2003 we could not  boast of 4 advanced level learners from my village in the Cameroon general certificate studies but after consistent advocacy in my community people have opened up to take school serious either because of EFAO  that started as a family initiative or because of Globalization.

In our house our father (Bongwong Aloysious) use to keep our books for previous classes in his room in his Red Cross box where he had been keeping his valuable documents when he was a volunteer. One day I said why keep these books to waste while lower income children were facing problems with books? Secondly we were left in smaller classes but we were not using these book. Then I decided to take these books out and started sharing to the poor kids in 2006 and it was generally successful.  This initiative led to Bongwong’s Family Academic award. From there My Sinior Joachin Nsofini a PhD student in Waterloo, Canada  and Bongwong Albert from SHUMAS Cameroon were always there to support. From Family it became a community campaign in Banten Village in Bui Divison.

It is through this initiative that more than 600 kids are looking forward to gain quality education as goal 4 of the SDGs.

 

If you were the president of Cameroon what is the one thing you will like to change or see happen?

Even though I have a degree in Law and Political Science, I am not interested in being the President of Cameroon but Presuming I am one, I will make the system of equal opportunity, address the issue of sustainable cities, ensure sanitation in cities and solve regional inequality because it is only developing in a binary city format which shall not be a good thing for the future we are dreaming of.

I will improve on youth participation in public action and SDGs, change the curriculum of study and make the study more practical than theory so as to make youths not just certificate holders but economic operators. That is what will achieve sustainable development goals from no. 1, poverty to partnerships (goal 17). I will increase also the investment budget and reduce the retirement age in government.

Lastly I will create institute of Social innovation and SDGs and empower the youths with skills and resources and also promote informal education. I will empower the civil society to solve global challenges.

 

How did you become the Global Head of Events at World Merit?

My appointment to the five member Global Marketing team can be essentially traced to my community endeavours. The experiences made me to be stronger than ever before. Ever since I joined the world merit community, I have remained committed and always love what we do because of the passion I have for such an incredible movement.

In 2015 precisely on the 12th of July I organized an event in Banten Community, in Cameroon to engage youth in volunteerism and promote community development by building their capacities. This was called the “Young African Leaders Initiative Youth Forum”, because at that time I had just completed e-learning courses with YALI on Leadership and Civic engagement and I wanted to maximize this new learning. This event was what led me to ever know about World Merit.

Someone introduced me to the Cameroon Country rep. to World Merit. We shared contacts and he told me to follow up on World Merit. In January 2016, Together with some Cameroonian Youths our country Representative selected carefully World Merit Cameroon team and we democratically took responsibilities as World Merit Cameroon Board Members. There at World Merit Cameroon I was Head of the Advocacy and partnership committee. After I had signed in the virtual site where I came across so many millennial fighting and promoting Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations.

It was a dream come through to me joining such an energetic community. World Merit Platform www.worldmerit.org is where I meet all the youth leaders of the world. I have more than 1000 friends in the platform and it happened that every member is credited with points for whatever you do in the platform like posting of pictures of activities you do in your community. As CEO of EFAO I have been updating whatever I do to the World Merit community.

In this Platform I have been credited with more than 62,000 Merit points and 8 badges of achievements. I have achieved this throughout my tireless efforts online to update whatever I do. The mission of world merit won my heart beyond my imagination.

 I will improve on youth participation in public action and SDGs, change the curriculum of study and make the study more practical than theory so as to make youths not just certificate holders but economic operators.

What are your advice to African Youths?

Africa is blessed with so many talented youths who are ready to work towards SDGs but it will not be of any help at all if they do not lead their futures themselves and at the same time lead the destiny of the world by engaging in Sustainable Development Goals either directly with World Merit at www.worldmerit.org or indirectly in a synergy or partnership.

Moreover, let us study in class and think of the impact to society and not on the Certificates and titles. Let African children be architects of their destinies and take democratic principles serious as a civic responsibility because politics at times has been a great problem to equal opportunity, favouritism and corruption that has pushed so many meritorious youths to the wall and in that respect has been a failure to see them realizing their potential.

Since I started working with these great youths in networks like Young African Leaders Initiative, African Change Makers Initiative and now Ashoka Network, I have realized that there are so many powerful ideas coming from youths in the civil society sector.

This is a clear sign that youths are determined to stand and fight together global challenges. I therefore advise them that there is a common achievement or success in businesses that addresses societal problems. Let us learn to volunteer and develop society, do charity together with social entrepreneurship. Let‘s develop the knowledge and skills necessary for successful strategic leadership performance, within the context of dynamic local and global challenges with social entrepreneurship. Set goals and develop flexible strategies for satisfying diverse stakeholder and partner’s demands across and other value adding systems.

Equally as a social entrepreneur on SDGs I advise all the social Innovators in Africa to join world Merit as Local Partners and indirectly will impact on change for themselves and for the society. We have 17 sustainable development goals to be achieved by 2030.

We must not fail dear mother Africa, because we have promised and failed during the Millennium Development Goals on the 2015 deadline. So this time with all youths taking lead in the Sustainable Development goals from Climate change (Goal 13) and so many others. World Merit will develop a lot of strategies to help them realize this dream.

Follow the action connected on their platform and see what “Recycle Up Ghana’’ could do with Sampson Oboh colleague from Ghana. That means as Millennials we are possible. So let everyone get up and take action on these goals and keep the world a better one for all.

Kindly share your thoughts and feed backs in the comment box