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Unleashing latent energies in youths, women for sustainable development

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The gradual unleashing of creative energies and redirecting youthful exuberance coupled with women finding their way out of the domestic arena represent formidable new frontiers for sustainable national development.

While youths are making waves in Artificial Intelligence ((AI), to solve hitherto elusive development challenges, women are progressively creeping out bedrooms and kitchens into areas that have been dominated by men.

A former President of the Non-Academic Staff Union of Universities and Associated Institutions (NASU), Ladi Iliya, described youths as the greatest assets whose great ideas, passion, commitment and energies could be positively deployed for Nigeria’s economic renaissance.

Her words: “Youths have robust views and most times do not have fear voicing them. We can acknowledge one important strength of our youths, which is the knowledge of current global events, and ability to use the latest technology. If well engaged, they will be ready to take risks, face challenges and work to achieve the goals of their organizations. Youths believe in themselves and their abilities to turn passion into profession, which makes them more successful.”

She further described youths as risk takers, who criticise systems that are not performing optimally as well as stand up to bring about changes toward making the society a better place.

“They are smart, witty, intelligent, forward-looking and socially active animals that can bring a huge change. They are passionate about what they do, which is important for progress,” Iliya stated. She added, “we have to give them the opportunity, the need and deserve, make them comfortable with us, build their capacities and above all, mentor them to drive us to promise land.”

Iliya also urged the labour movement to give youths a chance to lead the movement which could spearhead a rebirth of a new critical consciousness for nation-building.

However, Iliya was quick to point out that recruiting youths into labour movement would not come easy, saying result-oriented strategies must be developed and well implemented to win them over. She also warned against the implications of ignoring youths, saying the consequences could cause serious societal corrosion.

Her words: “Young people are playing a critical role in shaping the future of our country from civil rights to economic policies to the very culture of the nation. If the passion and energies of our youths were not properly channelled to actualize the vision of our union, they would misplace it, which could lead to destruction in our nation.”

Iliya insisted that to consolidate the gains of gender mainstreaming, affiliate unions need to take practical steps by moving forward from policy to action for the promotion of gender equality, labour rights and standards for women, young workers and other vulnerable groups.

She insisted that gender mainstreaming will enhance decent work thereby creating a free, safe and conducive environment, saying addressing related issues such as low representation of women and young workers in decision-making bodies and processes is very important.

On his part, President, African Region of Public Service International (PSI), Peters Adeyemi, Africa must open a new chapter of development that embraces youths and women. His words: “We should not forget where we are coming from because if we do, we might probably not be able to value where we are now. We are coming from a scenario where women were not visible in the movement. This can be tied to historical and cultural history of Africa, where we say that roles of women in the society do not go beyond the domestic arena. Men naturally do not like their women going out for meeting that will last long into the night.”

But all that is changing now because the women themselves have broken out of the kitchen and the home to now challenge and compete with their male counterparts in almost every spheres of human endeavour. “I think the mentality should not be men ‘creating’ space for them, it is for women to fight for the space. I say this because I do not see what men have that women lack. Today in Africa, women have equal access to education at all levels. Now, we see women in some fields that were dominated hitherto by men such as aviation where we now see all-women crew flying long distance flights.

There is virtually no field today that restrict women’s participation.”He urged labour unions on the African continent to encourage women that have shown capability and ability to lead. “We need to find a space in accommodating them. That for me, is very important. There are unions that women are in the majority of the membership but unfortunately, you find that the men dominate the leadership roles there,” he stated.

Adeyemi, who is also the General Secretary of NASU, which produced the first female union president in Nigeria, noted that the position of the President of NASU was not presented to Iliya on a platter of gold, but because she had grown through the ranks and deserved it.

Adeyemi also plaid glowing tribute to the National Union of Hotels and Personal Service Workers (NUHPSW), and Association of Senior Staff of Banks Insurance and Financial Institutions (ASSBIFI), for electing women as their national presidents.

“We can make more progress when the industrial unions create more spaces for women to participate in order for them to be able to move to the centre. Indeed, NASU has made it compulsory at branch level that a woman must occupy at least one position between president, secretary or treasurer in order to encourage women to participate actively in NASU affairs at the state level,” he added.

To Adeyemi, such feats shows the determination of the continent to allow women demonstrate their ability to contribute their quotas to national development across Africa.He said: “Women are doing very well in South Africa as well as in Ghana. So, women are coming and are proving their mettle. I am looking forward to a time when women will emerge President of labour centres across the continent of Africa.

“We must work towards having women participating at the National Executive Council of unions, which is very important and have women heading branches and state councils, which we have not seen. In Nigeria, under previous elections of the NLC state councils, only Ondo and Rivers were headed by women. Overall, I think Africa and Nigerian in particular are making progress albeit slowly.”


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AILadi IliyaNASU
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