6:50 am - Sunday November 19, 2017

45 MINUTES WITH FORMER PUNCH Newspaper REPORTER: ‘I CREATED ‘AVoice4Us’, the First MOBILE JOURNALISM Platform for Digital Activism in Nigeria’-Peter Okeugo, Fellow of Carrington Youth Fellowship Initiative of United States Consulate General, Lagos, Nigeria …It is a Civic Media Solution to Nigeria’s Social Injustice and Human Rights Violation’ * Selected by UNESCO to Attend the 2017 MAB Youth Forum in Italy *Participated in the 2017 Summer Youth Assembly at the United Nations in New York, in achieving the United Nations 2030 Global Goals for Sustainability *Contributed to designing a sustainability model for ‘Shake The World’, a South Africa-based social enterprise to eradicate poverty, provide employment for local women in KwaZulu-Natal Province *Remains Associate Fellow of the Royal Commonwealth Society, London as awarded by Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II *Still an Alumnus of ex-President Barrack Obama’s Emerging Leaders’ Program from the YALI Regional Leadership BY GEORGE ELIJAH OTUMU, FOREIGN BUREAU CHIEF, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

45 MINUTES WITH FORMER PUNCH Newspaper REPORTER:

‘I CREATED ‘AVoice4Us’, the First MOBILE JOURNALISM Platform for Digital Activism in Nigeria’-Peter Okeugo, Fellow of Carrington Youth Fellowship Initiative of United States Consulate General, Lagos, Nigeria

…It is a Civic Media Solution to Nigeria’s Social Injustice and Human Rights Violation’
* Selected by UNESCO to Attend the 2017 MAB Youth Forum in Italy
*Participated in the 2017 Summer Youth Assembly at the United Nations in New York, in achieving the United Nations 2030 Global Goals for Sustainability
*Contributed to designing a sustainability model for ‘Shake The World’, a South Africa-based social enterprise to eradicate poverty, provide employment for local women in KwaZulu-Natal Province
*Remains Associate Fellow of the Royal Commonwealth Society, London as awarded by Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II
*Still an Alumnus of ex-President Barrack Obama’s Emerging Leaders’ Program from the YALI Regional Leadership

 

PETER OKEUGO IS A VERY INTELLIGENT JOURNALIST, highly skillful in creating media tools using the civic press project to create digital instruments called ‘AVoice4Us’-a Mobile Journalism platform and an ecosystem of journalists, lawyers and civil society organisations, being solution to social injustice and human rights violation in Nigeria. In this interactive chat with GEORGE ELIJAH OTUMU, AMERICAN FOREIGN BUREAU CHIEF, Naija Standard Newspaper, this former PUNCH Newspaper Investigative Journalist tells of his rise to stardom, celebration by United Nations’ Youth Assembly, several awards across the world and many other issues

 

Q: Tell us about your noble project- ‘AVoice4Us’ as a mobile journalism platform.

‘AVoice4Us’ is a civic media project which I designed as a solution to the problems of social injustice and human rights violation in Nigeria. It is new in the Nigerian civic space and quite different from the traditional not-for-profit human rights organizations. It merges the field of human rights with journalism and storytelling. I use social media, mostly Twitter, for digital human rights activism. Through mobile journalism and multimedia such as documentaries, texts and photos, we are working on telling compelling human interest stories about victims and their abuse in order to amplify their voices and help them seek redress. Through the project, we intend to reduce the number of unsolved cases of human rights abuse, end injustice, foster peace and security and eventually lead the campaign for a reform on human rights policies in Nigeria. Human rights protection is at the core of sustainable development. Without peace, stability, human rights and effective governance, based on the rule of law, Nigeria cannot hope for sustainable development.

Q: What inspired you into the media project?

While working with PUNCH Newspapers, I reported the abduction of underage Christian girls by the Bauchi Shari’ah Commission in Northern Nigeria, who were forcefully converted to Islam, held against their will for several months and arranged in marriage to older men. My stories, published on three consecutive Sundays in Sunday PUNCH Newspaper, advocated for the release of the girls and prompted the Inspector General of Police to order their release. That was the turning point for me. After I resigned from PUNCH, I was selected the join the pioneer cohort of Civic Hive Nigeria’s fellowship program to design civic projects that will address a social need in Nigeria. That was the pedestal I needed. In the course of my research, I reviewed the Human Rights Watch World Report 2017, and discovered there is severe violation of human rights in Nigeria. The lists of human rights abuses are endless. Most times, the victims are poor; they do not have a voice or lack legal aid. A survey by Nigeria-based online survey portal, NOI Polls in October 2016, showed that 76% of victims do not report those abuses. As a result, the cases are under reported or unreported at all in the media. This makes it difficult for victims to get the justice they deserve and often, the violators go unpunished. I felt the need to do more to improve the human rights situation in Nigeria.

Q: How can this project be used by journalists, lawyers and civil society groups as a media solution to fight social injustice and human rights violation in Nigeria?

Asides being a media platform, ‘AVoice4Us’ is a network or ecosystem for lawyers, journalists and civil society organizations. They are the stakeholders at the forefront of human rights protection. We have a database of these stakeholders who we reached out to and have agreed to partner with us on this project. Lawyers who volunteer with us will provide Pro Bono services for victims who would not be able to afford a lawyer. Journalists will increase the media coverage for and amplify the voices of these victims in the media by telling and publishing compelling stories about them and their abuse. Civil society organizations will provide relief, support and counseling for the victims. Through this network, I am hoping to unite the different stakeholders of human rights protection and eliminate the competition that is typical of traditional non-profit organizations. We are all fighting for the greater good.

Q: How did you become a Fellow of the Carrington Youth Fellowship Initiative of the United States Consulate General, Lagos?

I am passionate about positive change and development. I like to identify social challenges within my environment; I derive joy in proffering solutions and helping to solve these challenges. As a result, I am always in constant search for opportunities to volunteer my skills in order to address these critical social issues. While at it, I came across the US Consulate’s call for passionate young Nigerians to join the fellowship. The Carrington Youth Fellowship Initiative, CYFI, is a dynamic youth-based initiative launched in 2011 by the U.S. Consulate General, Lagos. CYFI brings together Nigerian youth of exceptional vision, skills and experience to design and implement projects that have a positive impact on Nigerian society. It was named after former U.S Ambassador to Nigeria, Walter Carrington, who was a champion of civil liberties, democracy and closer ties between the U.S. and Nigeria. The criteria fit my profile and I applied. I went through the strict selection processes and I was eventually accepted as a Fellow of the Carrington Youth Fellowship Initiative. I was assigned to the Education team with four other amazing young people, to design and implement a sustainable education project in an underserved community in Lagos State.

Q: How are members of your team working on designing, implementation of sustainable education project for an under-served community in Lagos State?

We designed the Project Skill-Up to equip 30 female secondary students with key digital skills, focusing on web development, digital marketing and content creation, which would enable them to be competitive in the 21st century job market, irrespective of their future career goals. We have completed the first phase of project implementation in terms of establishing a relationship with the Lagos State Ministry of Education, and are about to commence the training which will last for six weeks. We have a scheduled completion date of February 2018. At the end of the project, students who participated would have increased awareness of the important digital skills needed to remain competitive in today’s job market. They would also have learned new skills and implemented them in an assigned project.

 

Q: Tell us how you were selected by the the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to attend the 2017 MAB Youth Forum in Italy?

The UNESCO published a call for young people who are interested in the sustainable development of their environments to come together and lend a voice in shaping the future of their territories and define their engagement in their biosphere reserves. It is part of the efforts to take forward the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. They were young people who either live or work in a biosphere reserve (areas that are committed to developing solutions reconciling the conservation of biodiversity with its sustainable use) or are actively involved in the civil society within and around the biosphere reserve. Nigeria has only one Biosphere Reserve which is the OMO Biosphere Reserve. I saw it as an opportunity to make an impact, while also seeking a connection between human rights and the environment. In my usual manner, I sent in my application and I got selected. Over 300 young people from 95 countries were present in the Po Delta Biosphere Reserve in Italy to discuss how to increase youth engagement and participation in the biosphere reserves across the world. We were tasked with the responsibility to design and develop objectives, strategies and action plans to achieve this across the three levels of the MaB Programme. I was the working table assistant for summaries in my team and I presented results of our deliberations during the first parallel workshop. At the end of the forum, the action plans were eventually compiled as final declarations and will be presented for adoption at the International Coordinating Council in Paris in 2018.

Q: Kindly relate your experience as you participated in the 2017 Summer Youth Assembly at the United Nations in New York in achieving UN 2030 Global Goals…

Participating at the Youth Assembly at the UN will always remain one of the best experiences. There were over 1000 young delegates and observers from over 100 countries. I was part of different workshops and sessions that are related to what I do, but the ones that really stood out for me were the sessions on ending violence against children and the other on communication and storytelling. I was happy to be part of a session where I could contribute to making an impact or ask relevant questions that I would learn from, about the workings of the UN. Anything short of that meant my purpose for attending the Youth Assembly at the UN would have been defeated. Other sessions that I benefited from were the Coding workshop organised by Microsoft, and the second session on communication where journalists and media professionals shared their experience, the work they do and how they employ storytelling in achieving the 2030 Global Goals.

 

Q: What are your gains to have represented Nigeria at the Nudge Global Leadership Challenge in Amsterdam?

Representing Nigeria at the Nudge Global Leadership Challenge in Amsterdam in 2014 was my first time outside the shores of Nigeria and marked the beginning of many other travels. Participating in the challenge helped me discover my potential. I was amazed at my thought process and the things I could do. I learnt never to underestimate my capabilities. But the most gain I took away was the sense of responsibility and satisfaction I got for being part of a team that revived an organization. My contributions were pivotal to designing a sustainability model for Shake The World, a fair trade social enterprise that helps to eradicate poverty and provide employment for local women in KwaZulu-Natal Province of South Africa. However, I think it is the network and contacts I made that I cherish the most.

Q: Take us through your encounter with Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II and how you were conferred an Associate Fellow of the Royal Commonwealth Society, London…

I never got to meet Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II. While working with Punch, I also wrote and supervised the weekly youth mentoring and development column, Young Punchers, which focused mainly on civic education and participation. The column reached thousands of youth in Nigeria, mostly primary and secondary school students. As a result of my work, Nollywood actress and producer, Stephanie Linus, nominated me for the Queen’s Young Leaders Award. I made it to the final round but I was not chosen as one of the winners. So in recognition of the efforts the finalists made in improving the lives of citizens of the Commonwealth, we were awarded the Associate Fellowship of the Royal Commonwealth Society, at no cost. Only the winners got to meet the Queen personally. Since then, I’ve been involved in some of the Society’s activities. I’ve volunteered twice as a Senior Judge at the Queen’s Commonwealth Essay Competition, judging essay entries in the senior category.

Q: How did you become an Alumnus of President Barrack Obama’s Emerging Leaders’ Program from YALI Regional Leadership Center, Accra, Ghana?

The Emerging Leaders Program, organised by the YALI Regional Leadership Center, Accra, in partnership with USAID, was launched by former President Barrack Obama. It is one of the opportunities on the YALI Network, through which young Africans can hone their leadership skills in three different professional tracks namely business and entrepreneurship, civil society leadership and public service management. It is a sister programme to the Mandela Washington Fellowship for young Africans. The programme provides young Africans with the tools, opportunities and leadership skills tailored to making Africa better. Due to the large volume of application in each round, the participants are divided into two streams, the on-site participants and online participants. I was part of the first online cohort and the training lasted for 17 weeks.

Q: Can you shed light on your educational background?

I hold a Bachelor of Science (Hons.) in Geography and Planning from the Abia State University, Uturu. My secondary education was at St. Patrick’s Model Secondary School, Aba. However, I have undergone different trainings related to my profession. I had my basic journalism training at Punch Training School. I have a certificate in Media Information Literacy and Intercultural Dialogue organised by the UNESCO and Athabasca University, Canada. I’ve undergone basic On-Air Personality training with Kamal Salau’s Pro-Emcees, and a certificate training on Campaigning in sub-Saharan Africa, delivered by Action-aid Global Platform, Kenya in partnership with All Out.

Q: What are the highpoints of your career?

The most enjoyable experiences in my career would be meeting and relating with celebrities and personalities both in Nigeria and beyond the shores of the country and being recognised for the little work I do or the minimal effort that I put in. Also, I could say that the frequent travels and involvement in high level international fora are some of the perks of my career, but I would not consider them the highpoints yet. The best has yet to come.

Q: Are there other projects you are working on presently that are of benefit to humanity?

I have a lot of ideas and projects that I am currently planning and want to pull off, that sometimes, thinking of them alone overwhelms me. But one of them that is in the offing is the TEDxAba event. I was born and raised in Aba, Abia State. Currently, I live in Lagos State and I am not happy with the status quo in Aba, development-wise. I want to do all I can to restore the city to its former glory. My expertise is in the media and I intend to utilize that platform to improve the image of my community. We have ideas that are worth spreading. What better way to share them than the TED-like event designed to help communities, organizations and individuals to spark conversations that will bring change and development? The application to host the TEDxAba is on-going and we hope to hold the maiden event in April 2018.

 

Q: Finally, what are your dreams for Nigeria?

In the exact words of a friend of mine whom I share the same view with, “I am very much looking forward to a generation that will break down every stereotype, prejudices and make way for a less defensive communal living.” Thankfully, the media are trying in that regard to change the narrative, but it might be a long walk.

 

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One Response to “45 MINUTES WITH FORMER PUNCH Newspaper REPORTER: ‘I CREATED ‘AVoice4Us’, the First MOBILE JOURNALISM Platform for Digital Activism in Nigeria’-Peter Okeugo, Fellow of Carrington Youth Fellowship Initiative of United States Consulate General, Lagos, Nigeria …It is a Civic Media Solution to Nigeria’s Social Injustice and Human Rights Violation’ * Selected by UNESCO to Attend the 2017 MAB Youth Forum in Italy *Participated in the 2017 Summer Youth Assembly at the United Nations in New York, in achieving the United Nations 2030 Global Goals for Sustainability *Contributed to designing a sustainability model for ‘Shake The World’, a South Africa-based social enterprise to eradicate poverty, provide employment for local women in KwaZulu-Natal Province *Remains Associate Fellow of the Royal Commonwealth Society, London as awarded by Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II *Still an Alumnus of ex-President Barrack Obama’s Emerging Leaders’ Program from the YALI Regional Leadership BY GEORGE ELIJAH OTUMU, FOREIGN BUREAU CHIEF, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA”