Gnamien Jessica Paule Oriane is a 15-year-old advocate for children’s rights in Côte d'Ivoire.
As a reporter in her country, she has shown commitment to speaking up about protecting children's rights to life, education and development through various initiatives. Read Jessica's blog for World Children's Day and discover other young leaders advocating for children's rights here.
"Hello, my name is Jessica Gnamien and I am Ivorian. I am 15 years old, and I am an activist for the promotion of children's rights through the media and advocacy in various ways. I am a radio host through the Young Reporters program, a young ambassador for Doctors of the World for the promotion of Sexual and Reproductive Health, a scout, and committed to environmental protection.
I host radio programs and health clubs. I make videos to encourage my friends and actions to help children and young people on my Facebook account, 'Jessica Gnamien'. I advocate to amplify the voices of young people to the government and leaders through my pleas in the hemicycle and my presence on the sets of national television channels such as RTI, NCI and Life TV.
Since COVID-19, I have been through a lot of overwhelming emotions.
Fears and uncertainty
I remember when we were told it was our last day of the show before going into lockdown, I was crying for my microphones. 'How was I going to see my friends and how was I going to continue my fight?'
I had a lot of fears, I asked myself, what if this disease is not ready to leave now and we stop the Young Reporters project? What are we going to do? To become?
Everything was shutting down. School stopped, and so did my activities. The church closed, workplaces closed. Famine was gradually setting in some homes.
Being the eldest of my family, I worried about my parents, with mum working in the medical profession and dad in the military. What if they happened to be infected?
I have seen many of my projects fall through, including the animation of my school's career day, my radio broadcasts and my SRH awareness-raising projects. I kept criticizing myself for doing nothing to prevent the increasing rate of teenage and young girls’ pregnancy.
And, inevitably, I was devastated after the cancellation of my trip to Morocco for the WISCI Camp 2020.
Bored but stronger
I was getting bored every day at home. I would get up in the morning, have lunch and watch TV, until one day when I decided to do better. I reminded myself: 'I am a reporter, an ambassador with Doctors of the World, and a support for my friends, so why am I abandoning them while they need me? COVID-19 cannot make me lose my voice. Sure it exists, but life must continue to carry on.'
I decided to connect with my friends to share some inspiration and together, we took the decision to produce remote programs through social networks. It was great to see that even this disease couldn't break our bonds.
Back to active life amid lockdown
We set up a research survey project among young people from 10 towns, enabling us to reach over 2000 young people to measure the impact of this pandemic on daily life, and to help them overcome this crisis through our radio broadcasts.
With young reporters from South Africa, we advocated to the Children's Radio Foundation to express the difficulties and challenges we faced during the production of our programs during this period. We asked them to provide us with adequate equipment allowing us to innovate while addressing 'fake news' issues that were slowing down our awareness messages. They responded well, leading us to reach more than 1 million children, young people and adults who received the right information.
I gathered several activist friends to launch several video campaigns regarding safety measures to fight COVID-19 and express gratitude toward workers in the medical and military fields who watch over us.
We have produced more than 70 broadcasts about COVID-19 safety measures.
The fight continues
Post-lockdown came with a semblance of normalcy, but I was still very happy because I could go back to school.
With my friends, we started working on several projects to educate students about COVID through radio and partnerships with public institutions, and about contraceptive methods through music and advocacy. Our tenacity and creativity led us to gather a lot of financial and material resources to contribute to tackling these subjects.
I look back with a lot of satisfaction, as my friends and I have faced so many challenges, including our own parents’ reluctance to let us take action at some point and the leaders who needed time to understand our vision. But still, it didn’t stop us.
This whole COVID situation showed me that I was a strong person who can adapt to all situations.
My message to everyone is: go after your dreams and your projects because only you know the architectural plan to achieve them and bring them to success. Many will appreciate your successes, but very few will see the challenges you face.
I always face frustrations, failures, rejection, difficulties and misunderstandings in my daily life as an activist, but above all, know that life is not perfect. It never will be. Don't expect someone to come and help you, but rather, think about how you could help. As much as we enjoy moments of pleasure, we must accept tribulations at times. Certainly, if I had stopped at the first difficulty, the first failure, the first humiliation, I wouldn't be here today.
I believe that you also have the capacity to overcome your challenges and difficult situations.
A final message to parents: encourage your children when they defend good causes, never tell them 'I don't want you to volunteer because it is exploitation'.
To the young volunteers, I will say it's our day, friend. On November 20, 2021, let's reinvent the world to make it a peaceful place where every child has the right to go to school to make their dreams come true. Yes, a world where every child's rights are respected.
Come on, it's our celebration!