We need to strengthen communities, create support system in schools to end slavery in Nigeria —Chinenye Monde-Anumihe

Chinenye Monde-Anumihe, an expert in international development, social justice, human rights and deputy curator of the World Economic Forum Global Shapers Community – Lagos Hub was among the global shapers who represented Nigeria at the just concluded 2020 World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland. In this interview by IFEDAYO OGUNYEMI, she speaks about slavery, climate change, among other issues. Excerpt.

 

At the WEF, it was said that there are 40 million slaves worldwide, how concerned should we be as a nation and what are the new ways to free them?

We should be very concerned, that means one in 200 people is in some form of slavery or the other. A few years ago, I wrote a thesis on human trafficking for sex work from rural towns in Nigeria to Europe and other West and Central African countries and I must say slavery is an issue that affects our own country greatly. Nigeria is a source, transit, and destination country for women and children subjected to human trafficking, including forced labour and forced sex work. By definition, slavery is when a person is under the control of another person who typically applies violence and force to maintain that control, and the goal of that control is exploitation. This is an outright denial of a person’s fundamental human rights which should be of concern to all of us as a human race. Everyone can actually play a role in ending slavery. One example is for us to take preventive measures, the average age of a trafficking victim is 12-14 years old, therefore, if we can strengthen communities and build support systems in schools, it would be more difficult for young people to be lured by human traffickers. We can also support anti-slavery initiatives, contact our leaders and representatives and request that they draft anti-slavery legislation, be a mindful consumer, stop purchasing products from brands that have unfair employment practices, this will require running a background check on the brands we typically consume.

 

Looking at the various climate change issues recorded in the past years, how do we move forward as a country and as a continent?

I believe we as a country and a continent must take immediate action to build more climate-resilient and adaptive cities and rural zones. We cannot focus only on metropolitan areas, we have to remember that in rural towns, farmers are greatly affected by climate change. The economic costs of climate change are high in Africa and therefore, we must promote sustainable ways of doing business, utilise cleaner, more energy-efficient technologies, and promote the sustainable management of our natural resources. Such changes can drastically reduce the exposure of vulnerable communities as they are the most affected.

 

Aside climate change, what other social crises should we be wary of?

Unemployment is a major social crisis, especially youth unemployment, as more than half of the population in Nigeria is young people. And to take that further, extreme poverty is also a major social crisis. Unemployment and underemployment mostly affect the poorest and most vulnerable communities. In the World Economic Forum Global Risks Report 2020, Global Shapers surveyed from Sub-Saharan Africa ranked unemployment as the highest risk. In Nigeria, the unemployment rate is projected to reach 33.5% this year. This is a major social risk because there is a direct correlation between unemployment and crime rates, including murders, insurgency, militancy, armed robbery, kidnappings and drug abuse. Furthermore, unemployment has been linked with deteriorating living conditions, consequently resulting in deteriorating health. Therefore, it would be unwise of us not to address unemployment as a major social crisis.

 

 As it is established that cybercrime has led to about $6million loss in direct damage globally. How do we stem this scourge that has grown to become a unifier for many Nigerian youths today?

I think this goes back to the issue of unemployment. Young people see the internet as a low-risk, high-reward way to make money and the increased access to the internet alongside the perceived “wealth” of scammers make cybercrime very alluring. It is extremely important for us as a country to address the root cause of the problem, which I believe, is the fact that young people are out of work. Once again, this year, the unemployment rate will reach 33.5%. We need to address the root of the problem, and that is, unemployed and underemployed young people see cybercrime as a quick way to make money in the absence of jobs.

In achieving the Future of Work as discussed at WEF, it was agreed that about one billion people across the world need to be reskilled by 2030. In what areas of work are they going to be reskilled and how does it fit into the Future of Work plans?

The Fourth Industrial Revolution has ushered in an era of new and innovative technologies we are seeing around the world. Many jobs that were once occupied by, for example, factory workers, are being replaced by robots and automation. Many of us will even share a workspace with a robot or some form of Artificial Intelligence sometime soon. That is, if we are not already. Therefore, I believe the most valuable and vital skills for the future will be critical thinking, problem-solving, emotional intelligence, cultural intelligence, adaptability, interpersonal communication, leadership, innovation and creativity. Some of these skills have also been mentioned in the World Economic Forum Future of Jobs Report 2016 and 2018. Such skills can’t really be “replaced” by robots and machines. It does, however, still depend on your industry. Nevertheless, what was once recognised as “soft skills” are actually becoming increasingly important.

 

One of the components of Future of Work is the future-fit higher education, how is this going to be achieved vis-a-vis the focus on human skills and digital competencies?

I believe we need to review our curriculums in schools and train our educators to be able to teach our students and better prepare them for the labour market. We should encourage the development of these human skills and digital skills. But first, that requires our educators to be well-equipped. Properly trained teachers can help to produce future-fit, market-ready students.

 

How do you think the 17 Sustainable Development Goals can be achieved in spite of the litany of challenges facing the world all over?

To put it simply, we need partnerships, which is actually Sustainable Development Goal 17. We cannot achieve the goals by working in silos. We need to recognise ourselves as stakeholders and we need collective, cohesive action to achieve the SDGs.

 

How is Global Shapers Lagos Hub contributing to the attainment of the objectives of the SDGs and other world challenges?

The Global Shapers Lagos Hub is very dedicated to achieving the SDGs. We have actually aligned the SDGs with our Global Shapers Community 2021 Areas of Impact which are Climate & Environment, Education & Employment, and Equity & Inclusion. Our climate & environment projects include the Clean Energy 100 Project where we partnered with OVH Energy to provide 100 LPG cookstoves to pregnant women and women with children in the low-income Ajeromi community in Apapa. This was to address the growing health risks associated with unsafe kerosene and firewood cooking practices which are posing serious threats to our communities. We are also currently developing a project called Project Waste to Wealth, where we received grant funds to employ and empower women as “local champions” to collect plastic bottles in their communities. We will then sell the plastic waste to companies that will recycle them to make building materials. It is a business model we are still developing and we look forward to the final design. These projects address SDGs 3, 7, 12, and 13. Our education and employment projects include Project Digiterate where we are renovating secondary schools in low-income communities in Lagos State with a grant received from Silicon Valley. In addition to this project, we have in the past renovated the Onala Community Library in Lagos Island, equipped it with books and devices donated from Microsoft. We also hold digital literacy training free-of-charge for young people. This also touches on our equity and inclusion projects. We hold different training on a needs basis and also focus on the fact that young girls are often the least equipped for school and the labour market. We have carried out projects such as the #EndPeriodPoverty Project where we educated and encouraged 100 schoolgirls about menstruation and menstrual hygiene. The stigma surrounding menstruation was becoming an obstacle for girls to go to school and we sought to tackle that. These are just a few of the many projects and endeavours we have embarked on and we hope to truly scale our impact with more partnerships in the future.

 

 As Nigeria’s representative to Davos, Switzerland, what are the takeaways for Nigerian leaders and global shapers in solving the problems with the African perspective?

The major takeaway, as I mentioned before, is that we need to take collective action and we truly don’t have time on our side. We need partnerships and this cannot be overemphasised. Nigerian leaders need to partner with its young people and members of civil society that are already working in communities to achieve the SDGs. We cannot and must not work in silos. We can achieve much more when we combine our efforts and our resources.

 

 

 

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