"With this program, I have now seen the possibility of purposeful leadership in the Niger Delta in particular and Nigeria in general [...]
According to the youth assessment study commissioned by PIND and carried out by the International Youth Foundation (IYF) in 2011, a lot of the issues frustrating youth development in the region can be traced to a lack of strong youth leaders, the ability to have realistic expectations for the future and an array of soft skills that are necessary for employment. PIND in collaboration with The African Centre for Leadership, Strategy and Development (Center LSD) organised a two-year Youth Leadership Capacity Building Project (YLCBP) for youths in the Niger Delta focused on fostering these skills to add to the pool of self-motivated change agents with the necessary skills to shape the region’s future. With modules on entrepreneurship, ICT, project management, peace building and leadership that featured a six-month mentorship program, this project addressed major challenges facing youth and employability both in the Niger Delta and in the country at large.
Youth engaged in this program were literate and not in full-time employment, making it possible to measure the improvement in employability and addition of skills. Before the training, only two participants out of 36 claimed to have computer skills. At the end of each of the pre- and post-training test, there was an improvement in knowledge of between 60 and 95 percent for all participants. All 36 participants in this training remained for the duration of the program and were attentive and involved throughout. Such results were important for both Center LSD and PIND to know that the training was needed and impactful.
Another major component of the leadership program was the mentorship program, which took place between June and November 2013. This helped to make practical the conceptual, technical and communication skills that they have learned in the classroom training, and as well as expose the youth trainees to the practice of entrepreneurship and good values. All mentors to whom these youth were attached were notable members of society who have earned respect through their hard-work and embody values that inspire.
This training succeeded in its objective of improving the employability of these youth by adding to their skillset and fostering an entrepreneurial culture among young people. Nine persons gained employment as a result of participation in the project, three of them by their mentors. Thirteen participants began earning an income through businesses they started, seven of which have even employed 28 others as a result of engagement with this project.
Dr Otive Igbuzor addresses a question after his presentation on the Youth Leadership Training Project Entrepreneurship means taking the initiative and being self-motivated, and the participants of this training showed that in spades. Having been inspired by each other’s work and desire to effect change in the Niger Delta, all 36 participants came together to form an organisation called “Change Niger-Delta Youth Organization” with a vision of “a Niger Delta that is informed, empowered, and development focused”. These youth were also given access to the Center LSD email list network of youth change agents that has over 300 members.
There is no gainsaying that we at PIND are very proud to have been involved in this training and are excited to do it again with another batch of youth. This experience has only strengthened the Foundation’s resolve to continue its work to boost the capacity of the Niger Delta’s future leaders. Some participants in the training and mentorship recorded their experiences of the training and mentorship, and how these have impacted them. Below are testimonies of some of the youth who have been involved in this opportunity.
“From my mentor, I have learnt that what destroys vision is confusion so I have learnt to prioritise, achieving one goal at a time to avoid confusion … I have learnt that planning is key to success. I have also learnt to start with something small and grow.”
“The last training on leadership has helped me a great deal. An incident happened in my neighbourhood after the last training. I was on my way home and a boy and his family members accosted me. They got violent and hit me for no reason. Even now, I do not know what I did that made them hit me. Prior to this training, nobody could hit me without getting hit back, but
while the beating lasted, I kept telling myself, “remember, you are a leader”. The desire to live by example strengthened my resolve to not retaliate. The mother of the boy who was among those that beat me died a few days later as I was on my way to the entrepreneurship training. I am not rejoicing over her death, but God used this training to help me comport myself, else I would have been termed a murderer by now.” Amaechi Pedro
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