“Our Leaders owe us a lot. They have to clear the table for us to take over” Grace IhejiamaizuGrace Ihejiamaizu making a point during her presentation at TEDx Youth@Bukoto (Photo by Umar Weswala)
Grace Ihejiamaizu making a point during her presentation at TEDx Youth@Bukoto (Photo by Umar Weswala)
With more than half of the global population under the age of 30 and a majority residing in developing countries, young people must be a central focus especially in developing countries. The world must support, engage and protect young change makers as well as harness their energy and creativity for positive change. One of the African change makers who must be protected, engaged and supported is Nigeria’s Grace Ihejiamaizu.
A Global Changemaker and emerging Social Entrepreneur, Grace, according to U.S. State Department’s State Alumni, “…is a dynamic force for good in Nigeria, working tirelessly to develop Nigeria’s next generation of leaders and entrepreneurs.”
She is a worthy alumni of the US Department of State-sponsored program, Study of the US Institute (SUSI) on Social Entrepreneurship and a 2011 award recipient of the Michelle Obama ‘Young African Women Leaders Small Grant’ in support of her work. Founder of RYPE Initiative, a leading afterschool youth development project in her local community, Grace has actively initiated programs that benefit in-school and out-of-school youths and has directly impacted 240 of them. With over four years of experience, managing various community-based and youth-led projects, she has been passionately committed to what she does.
Selected as one of Google’s Brightest 12 Young Minds in 2011, the young change-maker is poised to create value and help young people develop their potentials. She recently joined the British Council’s Global Changemakers (GCM) network after her selection for and return from the Euro Africa Youth Summit in Brussels, Belgium, 2012, and has already begun collaboration with 3 other GCMs to implement the Heels2Height Leadership project, which according to her is ‘going to be a ground breaking program for young women in Africa and Europe. This Global Changemakers Fellow also won the British Council Community Action Project Grant to implement the RYPE project in November 2012.
She was one of the eleven speakers at the TEDx Youth@Bukoto event held in Kampala – Uganda on December 14. The event showcased innovative solutions by young Africans to some of Africa’s most pressing challenges.
Under the theme “Our Moment,” TEDx Youth@Bukoto demonstrated how young Africans are harnessing their collective energy and potential to create a new future for themselves and their communities.
During “her moment” at the event, which was the first of its kind in Uganda, Grace shared her inspirations, ideas for social good, and her visions for the future of Africa.
“It is Our Moment to create the Africa that we want to see. I see no better time than now. I see no better group of people to that job than you” Grace pleaded in front of over one hundred young men and women.
She told her audience that success that success is about making a difference in other people’s lives.
The Community Agenda caught up with her after her presentation and she gave the following eight responses to eight questions put to her by Umar Weswala.
Qn: Who is Grace Ihejiamaizu?
I am a Global Change maker and emerging Social Entrepreneur. I have passion for youth development and have worked
in various capacities as a youth leader, volunteer and mentor to help young people. I also love blogging. I use the social media to reach to a wider audience. I am a Christian and a firm believer in the word of God. His values are my guiding principles every day. This is me.
Qn: When did you start this journey? I mean working on what you shared with the world today?
Hmmmm…..My journey started during my undergraduate school days at the age of 19. I was opportune to join a nonprofit campus based organization that worked to change the world through the development and implementation of various development projects. The experiences shaped my thoughts, and helped me develop my skills. And so it jumpstarted my career and after graduation I remained committed to creating an impact and making a difference.
Qn: What are the key events in your life or around you that motivated you into this journey?
The motivation to start a project that would help young people comes from the shocking statistics I found that identifies young people, especially high school leavers as the most vulnerable to social vices with the highest rate of unemployment and entrepreneurial skills. I was disturbed by this. Knowing this and motivated by the knowledge and experiences I had, I set up the RYPE Initiative.
Qn: Would you like to share a little bit more about the TYPE Initiative
It is a leading afterschool youth development project in my local community back in Nigeria implementing programs that benefit in-school and out-of-school youths. It has directly impacted 240 of them so far. RYPE works to reduce unemployment, violence and idleness amongst youths, by educating, inspiring and empowering them to develop an entrepreneurial spirit.
Qn: Do you think young people in Africa are doing enough to prove themselves as ‘future leaders’?
I am really inspired by the fact that some young people around the continent are doing something to contribute to change. They seem to be something going on. The theme of the TEDxYouth@Bukoto event that was just concluded is ‘Our Moment’. Indeed it is our moment. Young people are taking responsibilities but not all of us. We are over 600 million youths in Africa but I guess more than 60% of us are doing little or nothing. We have lots of challenges in Africa and the people who would bring any change are those who occupy a major proportion of the population. Now is the time and so I urge every African youth to rise up to the task and become conscious of the Africa we have now and the Africa we want to have tomorrow.
Qn: Are you impressed by the actions and commitments of African governments and international bodies towards youth empowerment?
I am not impressed. Our leaders maybe trying their best, but their best is not good enough. I am concerned about the development and transformation of our countries, which I believe would ultimately reflect in the African Image. In as much as I am disturbed by this, I am not going to advocate for anything apart from beckoning on our Leaders across the nations to consider the future of this continent and carry out their duties and responsibilities. Our leaders owe us a lot. They have to clear the table for us to take over. I also encourage youths to do something. Rather than whine and complain, let us talk about the positives and act on the negatives. We have a responsibility to change the little things around us and together we can change the big things.
Qn: What have been the major challenges in your journey and how have you been addressing them?
Yea…. I have faced some interesting challenges. Getting local support for our youth programs is one of them. I have had to look outside the borders for support. It’s awkward how we have problems in our country but the monies to solve those problems are coming from outside quarters (International donors and organizations). Another challenge is with the youth. I work with secondary school leavers. These set of people are the most difficult to find and convince to participate in such development programs. Most of them are more concerned about just getting into college. We have had to overcome this by constantly building a database through referrals, word of mouth and the social media. There are other minimal challenges but the resilient, passion and commitment of my team has helped us overcome.
Qn: What are your thoughts about TEDx Youth@Bukoto?
The TEDx event was an amazing opportunity for me to share my ideas and story with the world. I had always drawn inspiration from TED talks and being on the platform was only a dream come true. This entire experience from meeting other young leaders and building networks with lots of people to learning from great experts has been tremendous. I believe TED has set the platform again for me to keep through and remain commitment to the cause I have started. Scaling up and increasing impact is at the forefront of my plans.