‘Why I write books, make videos on stigmatisation’

WRITER and sex awareness advocate, Mrs Ifeoma Theodore Jnr Ezeobi is engaged in a laudable programme.  She’s empowering teenagers and adolescents, especially those who have tested positive to HIV/AIDS, to live through stigmatisation.

Recently, Ezeobi, who sees her mission as that of ensuring the well-being of the youth through exposure and prevention of harmful practices including rape and paedophilia amongst others, released an educational video on stigmatisation.

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In the video, HIV positive teenagers narrated how the society, including their peers and family members, stigmatise them in English, several Nigerian and international languages.

Recalling what made her take up the course of the youths, the author of two books, My Daughters and I’ and ‘Trapped in Oblivion, said it began from a simple outreach to a local government health centre in Lagos where she donated some of her books to adolescents who had tested positive to HIV/AIDs. She later received calls from some of them who disclosed how the books inspired them to relay their plights to society.

She said: “They told me how they have been living with HIV/AIDs, and how long they have had it. Those who have watched the video clips confessed that they never knew that there were young people who are living with HIV and that they had thought that the scourge only affects older people. Most said that it was the first time they’d seen people admitting to having the virus”.

“My mission with this project is to allow these young ones to tell their stories because they remain our future leaders whose interests and aspirations should be considered. I am sad that government agencies that have the responsibility of seeing to the plight of the kids only give statistics about how bad the situation has been, they are never interested in taking concrete actions to rescue the situation. If statistics have deterred people, then there should be a decrease and not an increase in new cases.”

Asked what inspired Trapped in Oblivion, a book which addresses moral issues and stigmatisation of adolescents, teenagers and young adults, she said: “When I wrote the book, I didn’t know it would come this far. It has been a healing process for me. I went through a major ordeal in the hands of my in-laws, so when we talk about stigmatisation, people only think it is those who have AIDS that are, but we are all stigmatised in some way; either by our background or status and so on. These children have been an inspiration to me, not to keep my life experiences locked in, rather speak out. We are made to feel ashamed about the life challenges we go through, by people who also go through life challenges of their own. For me, just like these kids, stigmatisation by my in-laws, due to lack of early childbirth for eleven years, caused some form of psychological trauma.

“Success,Seun and Esther, the young adults who appear in the video, have shown immeasurable bravery and should be encouraged and lauded, not stigmatised. They represent many adolescents, teenagers and young adults, who are looking forward to living a life free from stigmatisation. It could be a rape survivor, a domestic violence victim, a teen mum, or HIV positive youth. They also want an agenda that would protect them and their interest. I think political parties should put adolescents, teenagers and young adults into consideration, and not just by promising free education, but also an agenda that will protect their wellbeing.”

Ezeobi added: “I am not just an author but also the voice of adolescents, teenagers and young adults. My mission is to ensure these young people live in a better society. It’s disappointing that adolescents, and young adults who have celebrities and artists as their role models, are yet to benefit from a meaningful, organised show that will not only entertain them but also educate them. These celebrities have the power to enlighten these youths on these social issues, but what we get instead is just concerts without content on the wellbeing of youths. Churches and mosques are not left out. Imagine if they engage their congregation on the importance of stopping stigmatisation in every form. They can use instances of the stigmatisation early prophets and disciples went through to bolster their point.”

Commendably, her books, Trapped in Oblivion and My daughters and I, have garnered recognition and endorsements from notable organisations including UNFPA, UNICEF, DFID, NACA, NERDC and the Federal Ministry of Education. They have also been approved for use in schools, but the author said it was not yet time to rest because the wellbeing of the youth is vital and a task for all.

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