From Aidoghie Paulinus, Abuja
The Delegation of the European Union (EU) to Nigeria and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), yesterday, inaugurated a 25-member Youth Sounding Board to help implement its activities in the country.
The Charge d’Affaires of the EU Delegation to Nigeria and ECOWAS, Mr. Alexandre Borges Gomes, while speaking during the inauguration in Abuja, said the youths were selected based on their knowledge and experience in the areas that are of key interest to the EU, particularly gender equality, youth inclusion, climate change, and culture.
The Youth Sounding Board, a body of young Nigerians, according to the EU, will help in shaping and implementing EU programmes and strategies in the country for more inclusiveness.
The inauguration is part of the EU’s commitment to incorporating young Nigerians in its decision-making process.
Members the EU Youth Sounding Board (EU-YSB) will have an unpaid mandate of two years, even as the EU said the board will serve as a bridge between young Nigerians and the EU Delegation.
Gomes dislosed that members of the board were selected out of hundreds of applications of young and motivated Nigerians from across the country.
“Specifically, you were selected based on your knowledge and experience in one or more of the areas that are of key interest to the EU, including gender equality, youth inclusion, climate change, and culture,” Gomes said.
Gomes further said the 25 youths had proven track record of playing outstanding roles in their communities, both online and online or offline, and had setup and participated in creative and innovative initiatives to empower youth at the grassroots level.
“The Youth Sounding Board will allow young people to have an influence on the policy and programmes of the EU in Nigeria, thereby contributing to making EU action more participatory, relevant and effective for the large young population in Nigeria,” Gomes also said.
The EU further said with over 60 percent of the population below the age of 25 years, youth in Nigeria are a huge driver for change and innovation.
The EU stated that in its ongoing programmes in the country, youths were already engaged in different subjects ranging from peace and security, to vocational training, and eradication of gender-based violence, adding that a key lesson learnt in the engagements was that lasting change and innovation lied with youth.
“The EU, therefore, believes that the future of Nigeria will largely depend on the ability to provide young Nigerians with opportunities for employment, education, health and access to decision-making processes,” Gomes stated.
Speaking during the inauguration, the Minister of Youth and Sports Development, Sunday Dare, said the inauguration was a welcome development.
Dare however said the EU’s approach to dealing with youth issues must be multifaceted and must be collaborative.
“And we have seen the EU being a worthy partner in this process. What they are doing today adds another layer to the effort on the part of the Federal Government through the Ministry of Youth and Sports Development, to engage our youths, to empower them, to support them, to help them build careers, but also, start that process of inclusiveness in governance,” Dare said.
In his remarks, one of the first set of young Nigerians enrolled on the programme, Mr. Ismail Bello, said he was excited to be selected amongst beneficiaries of the initiative.
Bello urged the EU to sustain the initiative as a way of creating opportunities for young people and youth organisations to express their views, connect and exchange ideas.
“I am excited to be picked as one of the beneficiaries of this important initiative. Being part of this group will give me the opportunity to make my voice heard on issues of youth participation and empowerment. Getting selected is a stepping stone to my career as I will network with other young people and youth organisations,” Bello said.