Three-part stories from the United Nations Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth blog series : “Meet 10 leaders who can inspire you to change the world.”
TACKLING MISINFORMATION ON COVID-19
During this dangerous time of uncertainty, misinformation about the coronavirus can cost lives. That is why youth organizations and young people around the world are turning to online platforms and digital media to share correct information and recommendations to dispel common myths. Nelson Kwaje, a 28-year old young man with a background in tech and peacebuilding, has made this one of his missions.
Nelson is a Program Director for #DefyHateNow , a community organization based in South Sudan, with branches in Cameroon, Kenya, Sudan and Ethiopia.
Nelson helped to initiate the #211CHECK collective, which is a digital community of youth working in various fields who collaborate to fight misinformation and raise awareness on coronavirus prevention and protection, using the #COVID19SS hashtag.
Their work exposes false advice, disputed and unfounded remedies or cures, doctored images and any pieces of information that could confuse and mislead the public. Thanks to them, truth is replacing lies so that people can act in their own best interests, and society’s as a whole.
BRIDGING THE EDUCATION GAP DURING THE PANDEMIC
Due to the lock-down measures that have been put in place to protect people from this pandemic, schools have been shut, interrupting the education of many children. To make sure that children could continue learning in Nigeria, Abbas Suleiman decided to create a door-to-door delivery service, sharing education materials.
In collaboration with his team, which consists of his friends from university, Abbas has been delivering textbooks, writing materials and notebooks, especially to children living in vulnerable and disadvantaged circumstances. In addition to this, he has been offering online tutoring sessions, covering Math, Physics, Chemistry, Biology, History, English, Health, and Human / Civic Rights, to children of all ages.
“In my community, staying indoors at this critical moment of this pandemic really can cause and create a gap in education and learning impact”, explains Abbas, “In this regard, I decided to make a move by bridging that gap”.
"I DON’T WANT PEOPLE TO TALK ABOUT US AS PEOPLE THAT NEED TO BE HELPED. TOGETHER, WE CAN DO THINGS. TOGETHER, WE CAN DO THINGS.''
At the age of 17, Mariam Saran Sow fled to Germany from her country, Guinea, due her experiences facing forced marriage and female genital mutilation (FGM).
In Germany, she studied sociology with a focus on migration and refugees, and this, coupled with her life experiences, prompted her to work to make a difference. She has been supporting and empowering vulnerable communities through a variety of initiatives, and these efforts have only multiplied and diversified since the outbreak of the COVID-19 virus.
During this lock-down, many wives are constantly in close quarters with abusive husbands — Mariam has been reaching out to them to offer psychological support and company over the phone.
Additionally, using her linguistic skills (Mariam is fluent in 7 West African dialects), she has participated in cold-calling telephone campaigns, making sure that non-German speaking immigrants and refugees are well informed and able to stay safe.
On top of this work, Mariam has sought to support parents with their childcare and education. She has worked to offer tutoring support and put together child social events for parents struggling with childcare and schoolwork in German.
Finally, in collaboration with public and private actors, Mariam has been delivering masks and gloves. “Refugees can do things to empower themselves”, she asserts. “Yes, we are refugees, but that doesn’t change anything. I ran because I had to run to save my life, but I have to turn the page. We have to integrate ourselves in this country and participate”.
Mariam also places some onus on host communities and their leaders. “I don’t want people to talk about us without us having a voice. I want us to speak to each other. When (leaders) talk about us, they should have a dialogue with us. I don’t want people to talk about us as people that need to be helped. Together, we can do things.”
CHANGING NARRATIVES, SENSITIZING COMMUNITIES AND ADVOCATING FOR LGBTQI+ RIGHTS
“Someone must stand up and speak out against any form of discrimination affecting LGBTIQ persons in accessing equal treatment and services. If no one can do this then who will?” These words outline the motivation behind Kamanda Bosco’s work.
Kamanda, AKA Amanda is a Ugandan human rights defender who has been advocating for minority groups particularly LGBTIQ persons through online and in person advocacy and work.
Kamanda is a UNFPA She Decides 25×25 young leader on sexual and reproductive health rights and also part of the UN Women Beijing +25 youth task force advancing gender equality. She is also the co-chair of inclusion and diversity with the Society of Gender Professionals (SGP). A civic graduate of the Young African Leadership Initiative (YALI), she is accredited with a UN ECOSOC status as a human rights council task force co-chair. She has also worked with the youth coalition for sexual and reproductive Rights (YCSRR).
Despite the outbreak of COVID-19, she has not slowed down. She is currently working at Transgender Equality Uganda as a programme assistant and was recently selected to be an Outright action international UN religious fellow for 2020.
Through these roles, she has been working to change narratives on social inclusion in Africa, working to defy and dispel stereotypes surrounding LGBTQI+ people by conducting sensitization trainings, contacting legislators, and encouraging collective action and support.
Footnotes Curated from the UN Youth Envoy blog series "Meet 10 leaders who can inspire you to change the world" https://www.un.org/youthenvoy/category/blog/
© 2020 Africa Renewal
For more information on COVID-19, visit www.un.org/coronavirus