Empowering Adolescents: An Inclusive Policy-Making Journey
Hanifa Muhammed calls on all leaders, policy-makers, and stakeholders to create a future where Nigerian adolescents thrive.
In Nigeria, the needs of adolescents are often overlooked, and this hinders our health and development. I recently had the opportunity to attend the momentous UNICEF SAYPHIN 2023 EKO Adolescent Conference in Lagos. This experience allowed me to shed light on critical needs, such as mental health, nutrition, access to digital resources and technology, quality education, and mentorship.
During my participation in the conference, I had the opportunity to address the pressing needs faced by many Nigerian adolescents, emphasizing the importance of addressing these needs for us to foster and thrive in any equitable society we find ourselves in the future.
What are these needs I have been going on about? As an adolescent myself who collaborated with others ahead of this event, here are some of the critical issues we identified.
Mental health remains a huge concern among adolescents and is increasingly becoming a prevalent issue that needs to be addressed, yet we are often neglected or stigmatized. We need to acknowledge and prioritize adolescent mental health. Leaders and policy-makers can provide the necessary support and resources for us to thrive emotionally and academically.
Inadequate nutrition has always posed a significant obstacle to the proper development and well-being of adolescents in Nigeria. We can foster healthier generations with improved mental and physical abilities by addressing this crucial need.
Ensuring access to quality education is fundamental in empowering us. With more investment in a robust educational system, we can access growth opportunities, unlock our potentials, and break the cycle of illiteracy.
Amidst an increasingly digital landscape, Nigerian adolescents need access to digital resources and technology. This divide needs to be bridged! We want to be equipped with the tools and resources that will enable us to excel academically, expand our knowledge, and broaden our horizons.
Adolescence is a critical stage of life, and mentorship plays a vital role in shaping our young minds. We can navigate different challenges and realize our dreams by providing us with positive role models, guidance, and mentorship. Currently, this is not something that is easily accessible.
The time to advocate for the development of Nigerian adolescents is now. Together, we can be catalysts for change by including adolescents in the decision-making process that concerns us. Increased resources and funding to address the pressing needs of adolescents.
Civil societies, government agencies, and organizations like UNICEF must create more partnerships for sustainable initiatives to support and uplift Nigerian adolescents. We have gone past the era where decisions are made over our heads. It is time to engage communities in conversations surrounding adolescent development and spread the awareness of the importance of adequately addressing our societal needs.
What is the need for these advocacies if we, the adolescents, are not empowered to thrive when these opportunities are finally available to us? Well, one of my favorite quotes from Bob Knight, a former American basketball coach, says, “The will to succeed is important, but what’s more important is the will to prepare.”
As adolescents, we need to be empowered to advocate for ourselves! We need more platforms and opportunities to share our experiences, insights, and aspirations.
My name is Hanifa Muhammed, and I am calling on all leaders, policy-makers, and stakeholders to create a future where Nigerian adolescents thrive.