Nigerian youth are affected the most by the HIV/AIDS pandemic and, despite the daunting fact, no concrete programme exists in the nation for youth to build leadership capacity and advocacy in the area of HIV/AIDS prevention
Nigerian youth are affected the most by the HIV/AIDS pandemic, robbing the nation of future leaders. In Nigeria, youth account for over 30 percent of all HIV/AIDS cases. HIV prevalence among the age of 15-19 year olds is 5.9 percent.The fastest-growing rate of HIV infections globally is among youth between the ages of the 15 and 24 and now account for 60 percent of all new infections in Nigeria. Despite these daunting statistics, no concrete programmes exist in Nigeria for youth to build leadership capacity and advocacy in the area of HIV/AIDS prevention by providing opportunities for young people to gain and expand their skills as educators, researchers and advocates.
Crafties and its initiatives
Crafties Youth Initiative (www.crafties. itgo.com) is a not-for-profit, non-governmental and youth led organisation founded by Chukwuemeka Vincent Chukwuemeka (CVC) in 2004 after a youth internship with the Global Knowledge Partnership (GKP). The initiative is a product of a deep interest in digital designs/graphics, Information and Communications Technology; their applications, enhancement, development and alternatives for youth.
The conception of this movement was due to the fact that, Nigerian youth and young women are technologically backward in the aspects of creativity, health, education and leadership roles in this 21st century/Computer Age. It is with respect to the inefficiencies of its youth and young women in technology that CVC, through his sustainable/creative abilities and God's inspiration in line with his team has evolved Crafties Youth Initiative for empowering people, improving lives, creating digital opportunities and reducing poverty among the people of the nation.
Vision, mission and programmes
The vision of the initiative stands to build a nation reigning with inspired youths for excellent digital creativity by A.D. 2015. The target of its mission is to achieve creativity in leadership, in social values, moral values, design, Information and Communication Technologies. The main objectives in the line are as follows-
- To provide to the community, the talents, geared positively to help; improve lives, reduce poverty, empower youths, create employment opportunities among the youths, and foster national unity/understanding,
- To help build-up human capital capacity by empowering technologically, the youths for; the development of businesses and social economic growth,
- To help fellow youths develop the skills that will improve the collection and publication of data, document, and disseminate information on current health, education and economic realities in the communities.
- W-shell: Introduces youth to the basics of computer, and web designing as a tool for learning, and preparations for carrier opportunities,
- A-shell: Involves a good knowledge of architectural designs and its applications,
- G-shell: Offers the basics of graphics editing and animations and the pleasure to learn how to design logos, calendars, and cards of any type,
- X-shell: Gives youth the opportunity to enter into the world of youth and, tackling the social scourges of youth (HIV/AIDS, Unemployment) through the organisation of seminars, editorials, publications and, enlightenment/ awareness campaigns.
Approach towards fighting HIV/AIDS
HIV/AIDS is still seen as a social stigma in Nigeria, like many developing worlds. Education is clearly a social vaccine to the prevention of HIV/ AIDS. Nigerian youth are the most affected by the HIV/AIDS pandemic, robbing the nation of future leaders. Unfortunately, educational institutions in Nigeria have not made it a priority to educate young people about the rapid spread and prevention of the disease. Preventative education has clearly been seen lacking and the information that is available is only accessible to the less than 30 percent of Nigerian youth that attend secondary schools. This is why a comprehensive education programme, addressing all reproductive health issues (of which HIV/AIDS is an integral part), must be implemented in order to curb the spread of HIV/AIDS amongst Nigerian youth. The main goals of the programmes also aims to:
- Teach youth to use technology tools to collect and analyse data, document and disseminate information on current health, education and economic realities in their communities,
- Increase the number of secondary school and university graduates from economically disadvantaged rural Nigerian communities,
- Build educational capacity that increases the economic base of youth and families in economically disadvantaged rural Nigerian communities,
- Strengthen the science and technology foundation of youth in economically disadvantaged rural Nigerian communities,
- Foster cross-cultural global collaborations among youth and adults from diverse cultures.
Youth are equipped to acquire the four skills through their participation in these programme. The skills are not taught during the academic school day and, the youth will have the opportunity to extend their learning from the classroom to real-world applications after school. The four skills are as follows:
- Technology: Youth will acquire basic computer skills in Microsoft word, Powerpoint and Microsoft Excel. They will also learn how to do research on the Internet.
- Science: The course will require youth to conduct extensive online research to learn about their subject matter (HIV/AIDS) and develop a research and development plan. The information would not be spelled out for the youth; rather they will learn how to discover it for themselves.
- R&D Plan: The culmination of each session will be the production of a research and development plan by the youth. The research and development plan will be created using PowerPoint.
- Communication Skills: There will be an increase in the verbal and written communication skills in youth participants through appreciating other cultures and project collaboration.
The participation of Crafties Youth Initiative in the ICASA 2005 (www.icasa2005.org.ng) conference held in Abuja and AIDS 2006 conference (www.aids2006.org) held in Toronto Canada and the experiences the team gained during Skills Building workshops and High-Level Youth Leadership Forum have helped them in sharing practical skills related to HIV/AIDS. New approaches on preventing and mitigating the effects of HIV/AIDS have been explored, along with addressing social and economic factors, affecting young people's lives and health. However, young people can play a greater role in influencing national and international policies and programmes by being more actively engaged in decision-making, implementation and accountability by:
- Coordinating advocacy meetings and campaigns with state and local ministries of health, heads of hospitals, traditional/religious leaders and professional organisations to refine and document their perspectives on the spread of HIV/AIDS among Nigerian youth.
- Creating, distributing, analysing and collating qualitative and quantitative data on questionnaires to the general public, hoteliers, laboratory scientists, heads of hospitals, religious, traditional leaders, healers and non-governmental organisations. This data will be disseminated to other non-profit and civil society organisations working on HIV/AIDS issues.
- Conducting online research on the global, social, health and economic impact of HIV/AIDS.
Crafties programmes on HIV/AIDS will continue to encourage changes in the educational curriculum of primary, secondary and university level to include modules on communicable diseases such as HIV/AIDS and launch various community-wide AIDS prevention programmess and counseling to those living with HIV/AIDS.