Not less than 500 youths in Edo State converged at the Edo Innovates Hub to engage policymakers and development experts on approaches to mainstreaming young people in development as well as deploying technology in solving social and economic problems.
The event tagged Safe Spaces for Youths, was organised by the State government in partnership with Oxfam, a non-governmental organisation, to mark the 2018 International Youths Day, at the Edo Innovation Hub, in Benin City.
Senior Special Assistant to the Governor on Skills Development and Jobs Creation, Mrs. Ukinebo Dare, said that the event was packaged to give youths the opportunity to engage policymakers, youth icons and development partners, on their peculiar challenges so that government can serve them better.
According to her, “We have brought illustrious sons and daughters of Edo State, who have created their own ways of doing things. They have gone through the educational system and have come out tops in their careers. We want youths to pick the brains of these icons. The state government wants to hear from the youths, especially the challenges they are facing in their careers and other things they are going through.”
Explaining that the biggest message for youths is that of hope, she said, “Many of them spoke about challenges they are facing. But we have a facility like Edo Innovates, where we have power and internet access and other support structures. This will help them overcome many challenges. Many of the youths are beginning to see that the state government knows what is happening. Some of the facilities they need to function are here. We want the youths to know that there is hope and that the more they speak, government understands and responds better to their needs.”
Project Lead/Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) Programme Coordinator, Oxfam, Mr. Michael Adeola, said that the collaboration to organise the event is built on the fact that the state has a progressive approach to youth development.
He said that Edo State was chosen for the event because of the progressive approach of the state government in putting young people on their priority list, adding that youths at the event have engaged with policymakers and decisionmakers expressed the challenges they face.
He said, “The key thing is the outspoken nature of the young people. They are doing great things. There is a lady who is packaging pepper, but expressed challenges with getting National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC)’s certification. So, young people are not sitting; they are doing a lot. But they also need policymakers and duty bearers to support them.”
Musician, Aituaje Iruobe, popularly known as Waje, said that the African continent is 60 to 70 percent young and hence setting the right foundation for young people to thrive in business is important, because that is the only way to grow.
“I think it is a nice initiative to have this young people here as we are celebrating the International Youth Day. I also think that it won’t just be all talk, but that they would be inspired to solve challenges. This will ensure that they do more with what they get from the system,” she said.
Aigbovo Victor, a Tony Elumelu Foundation awardee, hailed the governor’s strides with EdoJobs, and how he is opening up space for youths to express themselves and contribute to development.
“The youths are empowered with the right ideas. Tony Elumelu gave youths like us from Edo State the opportunity to start our own businesses by giving us grants, and we also want the youths to know that what the governor is doing here is great. The facilities and trainings here will give youths the opportunity to start their own businesses.”