Youth Leadership

Take a Walk in my Shoes: Kennedy from Nigeria

By Kennedy Ekezie, Co-Founder of the Calabar Youth Council for Women's Rights

__Making a difference in a challenging world. __

My journey to finding my purpose started in my early teens. I sought to answer the question: “Who really am I?”. Everyone has asked themselves a version of this question at some point in their life, but I asked it in a different sense.

I am a 20-year-old man from Nigeria; a country marred by violence of so many sorts. Growing up in Lagos exposed me to the enormity of harm that violence can wreak on people. As a young man, thinking about the future, it dawned on me to think deeply about the question: what is my role in building my community, my country, and the global society at large?

Specifically, I connected with young women who were in terrible physical and psychological conditions because of gender-based violence. Being a female in Nigeria can be incredibly difficult and dangerous. It is common to hear a neighbour prevent his daughter from going to school, or to read stories of women killed by their husbands.

I understood the need for men and young people to contribute their voices to ending gender inequality, which is so deeply rooted in Nigerian society. In the vast majority of instances, we are indirectly responsible for the crimes that happen against women. For example, all five reasons cited by the United Nations Population Fund for the occurrence of female genital mutilation are tied to the existence and satisfaction of male desires. Thus, as young men, we have the moral obligation to raise our voices against such practices.

However, this problem, and seeking a solution to it, affects me in a way that is complex and intricate. I decided to gather a group of friends of mine to build an organisation to create awareness of female genital mutilation and the broader problem of gender-based violence. In such a conservative society, people find it quite strange that a (then) teenage male would advocate for the rights of women. Most men still feel ambivalent about openly supporting gender equality. I am resolute however, because I believe in the ethical underpinnings of social justice and the power of a culture of peace and gender equality. These are requisites for a more prosperous society. My vision is for a society that goes beyond quotas and peace treaties to create a culture of peace and inclusion.

More than ever, young people around the Commonwealth need to act against issues that affect us and contribute directly to shaping a Commonwealth that we want to live in by 2050. Youth comprise 60% of the Commonwealth population and only now can we create the world we want to live in.

I think that the emergence of visionary leadership is necessary for development, and I believe in the power of youth to rise to the occasion and assume responsible leadership positions. As a Commonwealth, if we are to build sustainable structures of peace and growth, it cannot be founded on the morally reprehensible principle of exclusion. We all need to rise and come together to take positive action.

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