The West African Civil Society Week’23, a three-day program held at the Lagos Mariot Hotel in GRA Ikeja, Lagos State, has brought together prominent voices from different West African States to discuss the intersection of youth activism, technology amplification, and inclusive governance.
The plenary session, titled “Shrinking Civic Space in West Africa: Rethinking Youth Activism, Protection, and Resilience for Inclusive Governance,” saw speakers highlighting the challenges, opportunities, and strategies for the youth in the region.
The panel discussion showcased a dynamic exchange of ideas and insights into how youth activism, technology, and inclusive governance can collectively shape a more empowered and resilient society in West Africa.
Ms. Alphia Komoka from Naymote Partners for Democratic Development, Liberia, emphasized the importance of strategies for amplifying youth voices. She stated the ‘Young People Leadership School’ which she operates focuses on leadership opportunities and empowering young people to engage in campaigns and social change. She underscored the challenges faced by youth, including inclusive governance, discrimination, and resilience.
She said “Youths have to develop strategies to have their voices heard. We are working on this for democracy in our ‘Young People Leadership School.’ This also offers post-leadership opportunities. They follow our Campaign grounds, finish in management, and also how to handle things themselves. Some of the challenges young people face are inclusive governance for them, safeguarding delegation of young people, safeguarding social change by young people, fighting against the discrimination young people face, resilience among others.”
Highlighting the role of technology in youth activism, Ms. Oyindamola Aramide, Communications Lead at the Nigerian Network of NGO (NNNGO), Nigeria, cited the 2020 ENDSARS protest as an example of how technology can amplify voices. She emphasized the significance of social media in mobilizing young people and how digital platforms can transition online movements into offline actions. Ms. Aramide stressed the importance of leveraging technology for informed decision-making and activism.
“The use of technology by the young is amplifying our voices. Looking at the ENDSARS protest in 2020, it was a beautiful thing with what the young people did with tech. ENDSARS started initially in 2016, and not in 2020. But it was amplified in 2020. I stay more with young ones and I kept hearing tales of how police harassed them. It started with a social media rant wanting their voice to be known. Social media made people mobilize. From online it moves to offline, leading to the protest. During and after the election we see the digital space gave the youth opportunity to choose the candidate of their choice,” she highlighted.
Mr. Leandre Banon, Resident Programme Manager for the Sahel Region at IRI, Mali, highlighted the differences in engagement between urban and rural areas. He discussed the challenges posed by military takeovers in the region and emphasized the importance of leveraging social media, art, and culture to mobilize young people for reform.
Mr. Elvis Akpobi, Executive Director of the Not Too Young to Lead Initiative, Nigeria, encouraged celebrating positive role models and achievements among youth. He urged young people to channel their talents and innovations towards positive change and to avoid glorifying negativity.
He said: “The currency for service is talent, innovation, and potential. The youth of our time leverage more on the negative area. They celebrate what they should be ashamed of in public. As a change person, what do you do desire to change? Police arrested people at a gay party recently. Some said it is right while some said it is insidious. I’m not sure they free up being gay but people they meet introduced them to it. The question is what do they gain with themselves? We are to celebrate people like Mr. Macaroni, Falz among others who are putting us in a positive limelight and not the ones that bring about negativity”
Ms. Omomwumi Ogunrotimi, Executive Director of Gender Mobile, Nigeria, emphasized the need for resilience among young activists. She highlighted various measures such as digital privacy, mental health support, legal awareness, and physical safety that can enhance the effectiveness and protection of youth engaged in activism.
Credibility and transparency is our DNA at Prime Business Africa’. We strongly believe in the role of media as a watchdog of the society that powerfully promotes accountability and transparency in government.
By contributing to Prime Business Africa, you are helping to sustain good journalism and making sure that it remains free to all.