What matters most to youth? Part 1
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When I sent out the question, “What matters most to the youth in Nigeria?” I thought I already knew what the response of most young people would be.
The International Youth Day (IYD) was coming up and though the theme was concerned with mental health, I considered it important to have the people affected weigh in on what really mattered to them. Moreover, I had read about the European Parliament’s IYD priority here:
The article, in commemoration of IYD, highlights the measures the European Parliament is taking to combat youth unemployment. I had thought, “Exactly! Young people crave employment and economic opportunities.”
A couple of days after that, however, I was made to see things differently-or more holistically.
On one of the evenings after that, I listened to a radio programme. The edition that day raised discussions around the plight of disabled people and profiled some disabled people. One of the people interviewed explained the tough environment of deep neglect disabled people live in; took time to tell his story of survival and how he is presently helping people like himself gain skills to enable them to earn a living.
The second interview was interesting. It was with a crippled man who had risen out of his problems to establish his thriving business. He had trainees who were very able at his bag/shoes/jewellery-making workshop! I felt ashamed to have not thought about this category of people for a very long time. Having once come across a non-profit working with disabled people sometime ago, I tried without success to remember the name of the organisation.
This is not to discount the urgency of other challenges requiring immediacy of action - like youth unemployment mentioned earlier. However, physically disabled people and people with mental health challenges experience a different set of (and often very harsh) realities.
They face discrimination and many barriers like barriers to education and employment. Their problems are greatly compounded by poverty and when their families and friends only read mystical meanings to their conditions. It is fairly easy to go through life without ever recognising these sets of people. They are probably not in the circles of people we regularly communicate with, possibly because they cannot be. Some of them have to spend most of their lives confined to their homes and hospitals. In many cases, they cannot work with us because they find it extremely difficult to find jobs or work. Some others do not have the eyes or abilities to use gadgets and social media, read this blog post or to even see the question I sent out.
According to Disabled World, an estimated 60-80 million people are living with disabilities in Africa and disabled people are estimated at 10 percent of the general population, but possibly as high as 20 percent of the poor. The Centre for Citizens with Disabilities reported in 2012 that about 19 million Nigerians have a form of physical disability. This year, medical experts in Nigeria revealed that 64 million Nigerians suffer from one form of mental illness or the other. Violence, poverty and other factors that contribute to growing numbers of disabled people, lingers.
As this week of the International Youth Day passes, remember that people with physical and mental disabilities, like you, matter. I want you to do your very best for them as much as you can. I urge governments to ensure accurate statistics on disabled people are widely available, that they improve the health sectors of their economies, and that the disabled are given due policy considerations. I encourage non-profits, community-based organisations and civil society organisations working on disability issues and companies funding them. Let us all do our best for the disabled personally and professionally. If you are disabled or know a disabled person, be there for them and motivate them to make a success story out of their lives.
What is one issue that matters to me now? The rights and living
conditions of disabled people! Want to know what other people had
to say? Remember to watch out for my next post in this