With trapped in oblivion, Ezobi mirrors plight of stigmatised teenagers
Something quite audacious is happening through a Nigerian mother, writer and lover of adolescents, teenagers and young adults, Mrs. Ifeoma Theodore Jnr Ezeobi. This virtuous woman, who is also an author and sex awareness advocate, recently pioneered a special project for the benefit of young Nigerians. She was able to assemble a team of inspiring adolescents, teenagers and young adults who have tested positive to HIV/AIDs to tell their heartfelt stories to the public.
Mrs. Ezeobi, who has used her writings and speeches to mentor school children and young ones, also disclosed her mission as that of ensuring that harmful practices that undermine the humanity of the adolescents and teenagers are exposed and prevented. Some of these vices include, teenage pregnancy, child molestation, rape, paedophilia, peer pressure among others.
On December 1, she released video clips of HIV positive children telling their stories of how the society, including their peers and family members, stigmatise them. The video clips were released through her website and YouTube, featuring the young people who relayed their moving stories in English and several Nigerian and International languages. She explained how passionate she has been about young adults and teenagers, and how undermined they’ve been by the society.
The author of two books, My daughters and I and Trapped in Oblivion described her visit to a local government health centre in Lagos where she donated some of her books to adolescents who have tested positive to HIV/AIDs. After her visit, she later received calls from some of them who disclosed how the books have touched them and inspired them to relay their plights to the society.
“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 are young people who are living with HIV, and that they had thought that the scourge is only meant for 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 must be taken into consideration,” explained Ifeoma, who added, “I’m saddened 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.”
Speaking about the inspiration behind the project and writing the book, Trapped in Oblivion, a book with which she had addressed many moral issues and stigmatization against adolescents, teenagers and young adults, she said: “When I penned down 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 stigmatization, people only think it is those who have AIDS that are stigmatized but we are all stigmatized 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 to 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, stigmatization 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 stigmatization. It could be a rape survivor, 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.
“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 organized, 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. It doesn’t though always have to be education, but sometimes it would be nice. Have they thought of some sort of artists collaboration to release some music that will heal and educate our young ones, that will almost be a resounding theme on everyone’s lips. That should be food for thought for them,” she said.
Ifeoma’s books, Trapped in Oblivion and My daughters and I, have garnered recognition and endorsements, from notable organisations like, UNFPA, UNICEF, DFID, NACA, NERDC and The Nigerian Ministry of Education. Her books have been approved for use in schools. The National Agency for AIDs(NACA),endorsed her book, saying, “ Ifeoma Theodore Jnr, raises critical questions that have long concerned those of us in the field of educational and coordinated implementation of HIV/ AIDs prevention/ mitigation activities. It is a working tool to address moral issues such as violence against teenagers, rape, domestic violence, pedophile, rape, and HIV/AIDs.”