Thursday, 31 December 2015

From Anti-Human Trafficking Awareness to Anti-Human Trafficking Academy

From Anti-Human trafficking Awareness to Anti-Human Trafficking Academy
A story of how Joseph Osuigwe Chidiebere started The Academy for Prevention of Human Trafficking and Other Related Matters (a subsidiary of Devatop Center For Africa Development) by Difference Makers News.

Tell us about yourself and childhood experience?
My name is Joseph Osuigwe Chidiebere, the Executive Director of Devatop Centre for Africa Development, and the coordinator of The Academy for Prevention of Human Trafficking and Other Related Matters (TAPHOM).  I was born on 26th June, 1985 to the family of Mr. and Mrs. Lugard  Osuigwe  Maduka, from Ehime Mbano, Imo State, Nigeria. I am the first born of two boys. My childhood has its good and bad side. Well, it is important to say that I spent only two years with my mummy, and at most 8 years with my father. The rest of my childhood was with 5 different families from distinct locations. I would say my childhood experience was very tough. At the age of 8 plus,  I started farming, digging stones, gathering gravels, and other hard works that were beyond my age. There were times I was locked out to sleep outside for not doing or completing farm work, and other domestic works. This affected my education.  In few occasions when I changed a location, I will be forced to step down in class. But, the good side of it is that it was a learning process. The experience taught me hard work, perseverance, temperance, and endurance.

So how did you become a graduate?
I am a graduate of Education Mathematics from University of Nigeria. It was hard for me to register for JAMB/entrance exam to university because of unavailable and delayed support.  However, after four years, I eventually gained admission to university in 2007. While in 200 level (second year) I started students’ empowerment, lecturing 100level students on mathematics, writing and distributing inspirational newsletters to students, and organizing yearly academic seminars for newly admitted students. I started my activism while in school, advocating for students’ right, combating examination misconduct and extortion of money from students, and also attracted enmity from corrupt lecturers. I was my departmental course leader for 4 years, but I resisted the temptation of been used by lecturers to extort money from students. The summary of it is that there was a targeted attempt by some of these lecturers to keep me in school for extra 2 years.  On several occasions my results were withheld, scores denied, scripts missing, and all that. This affected my result negatively. But with persistence and hard work, I graduated at due time.

How did you start anti-human trafficking advocacy?
Ehmmm…that was during my National Youth Service Scheme (NYSC) in 2013, then I was a member of Millennium Development Goals Community Development Group. However, the passion to combat human trafficking and other related matters became obvious during my NYSC primary assignment at Women Rehabilitation Center which was operated by Society Against Prostitution and Child Labour in Nigeria. The centre is a place where victims of sexual exploitation and repented commercial sex workers are rehabilitated. I was one of their teachers and  mentors. I organized empowerment programmes for the survivors/victims, mentored few of them to enroll for higher education, provided academic materials for some, and organized competitions for all. I also had one-on-one chat with some of the victims of sexual exploitation; it was on that process that my passion was ignited, and also realizing that Nigeria is among the countries with highest numbers of victims of human trafficking, my anger against modern slavery and gender-based violence was kindled. I told myself, “I will dedicate my time, creativity, energy and resources to combat this evil”. So I launched into action.
First, I consulted so many people, did a background study of the problem, gathered few statistics, and explored partnerships. I can remember vividly that some people told me,  “this is not a lucrative venture or project that could attract sponsorships”. However, I was willing to use my allowance and savings for this project. I made it my National Youth Service Community Project; wrote letters to schools in vulnerable communities and got approval. So, I started the anti-human trafficking awareness in five communities. I partnered with National Agency for Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) to educate more than 2000 teenagers, youth, and teachers on how to combat human trafficking. My friends and colleagues volunteered for the awareness. During the awareness, there were about three female victims of sexual exploitation we counseled.  Later in November 2013, in commemoration of International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, I and my team organized inter-school quiz competition on sex trafficking with material support from United Nations Office for Drugs and Crimes (UNODC). Anti-human trafficking awareness materials from UNODC were donated to the participants.
 I usually spend 60% of my allowance on the project; sometimes I skipped my meals and preferred trekking instead of boarding taxi so as to save money for printing and submission of letters.  A lot of people, organizations and companies found it strange to support the anti-human trafficking project, and considering the fact that I was just starting it. But, the result and testimonies I received after the first edition of the awareness increased my motivation to continue with the project. It was during that same year that Devatop Centre for Africa Development started with focus on preventing human trafficking, and educational empowerment.  We continued with the anti-human trafficking awareness in primary schools and did a 20 minutes TV programme with Nigerian Television Authority.
In 2014, we organized the second edition of the awareness for 1900 students on how to prevent human trafficking, rape and gender-based violence.
On 12th June, 2015, to commemorate the World Day Against Child Labour, we organized an awareness for 160 market women and men at Dutse, Abuja.

How did you start the Anti-Human Trafficking Academy and what are your objectives?
More than 27 million people are victims of human trafficking globally. This figure exceeds the population of most countries. 50 million uneducated, illiterate, unemployed, less privileged, and displaced Nigerians are vulnerable to human trafficking. We realized that there are much works to do to end human trafficking; and just few people are doing them. We also felt that awareness is not enough to combat human trafficking. We saw the need to train advocates and trainers who will take strategic actions against human trafficking and other related matters. This need propelled us to establish The Academy For Prevention of Human Trafficking and Other Related Matter (TAPHOM) in July, 2015. The academy is aimed at training anti-human trafficking advocates and trainers who will organize awareness, campaign, seminars, trainings, shows, and monitor and report human trafficking incident. The academy focuses on training, advocacy, research, counseling, referral and publications.
On 10th and 11th July, we trained 27 youth and educators as advocates and trainers. Some of the advocates are taking strategic actions, organizing anti-human trafficking seminars in their various locations.
On 1st August 2015, we organized a campaign: Freedom Walk and Show against human trafficking and rape in commemoration of World Day Against Trafficking in Persons.
Last week, on 25th and 26th November, 2015, the Academy for Prevention of Human Trafficking and Other Related Matters trained 65 law enforcement, legal practitioners, medical professionals, youth, educators, religious members, journalists, community volunteers, media professionals and survivors on anti-human trafficking advocacy course.

So far, what has been the outcome of the anti-human trafficking training?
Well, it is just less than 5 months we started the anti-human trafficking academy.  3 youth among those who participated in July training have organized seminars in Abuja were they sensitized students on how to combat human trafficking. Few others have reported incidents of child abuse to us, and we have seen the social media campaigns of other participants.
The participants of November training were empowered to organize step down training, awareness and media campaigns. We expect that at least 40% percent of them will organize actions within the next one year. But we are certain that the training improved the knowledge of law enforcement and legal practitioners, and they will become more proactive in handling cases on human trafficking, rape and other forms of abuses. The educators are expected to educate their pupils/students, identify and report situations where students are experiencing potential abuse including human trafficking.

Considering the fact that ending modern slavery should be a collaborative effort, who else are you collaborating with to combat human trafficking?
I believe in the power of collaboration. I like to call it “Collabo”. Apart from passion and hard work, our achievement is also a reflection of collaboration and partnership with some reputable and committed organizations and individuals. We have engaged more than 15 organizations and firms in the fight against human trafficking. Some of our partners are National Agency for Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons, African Centre for Media and Information Literacy, National Human Rights Commission, Mova Industrial Design, Fight Against Child Trafficking, Dorothy Njemanze Foundation, Studio 24, Media Insight. We hope to collaborate with more national and international organizations.

Where will the anti-human trafficking academy be within the next 10 years?
The academy has the potential to be a globally recognized academy that trains advocates and trainers to combat human trafficking in different African and Asian countries.  However, within the next 10 years, we must have replicated the academy in 3 regions of Nigeria, and in 3 Africa countries. Some of our goals include: to train 200 anti-human trafficking advocates yearly who will reach out to over 50, 000 people; to sensitize at least 8, 000 people yearly through our awareness; to establish a hotline/helpline against trafficking in persons; to build our headquarter with 150 capacity lecture hall, research/ICT centre, library, etc; employ more people; give small grants yearly to some of our trainees to carry out anti-human trafficking projects;  organize skill acquisitions for survivors and vulnerable women and youth; and so many others which I may not mention because of time and space. Most of these will take place within 2 to 5 years.
Meanwhile, by 2016, we will release our 3 anti-human trafficking booklets, and some awareness materials (documentaries, storybooks, and songs). I must say that we will be persistent, consistent, insistent and creative in combating human trafficking and other related matters.

Thursday, 17 December 2015

A young Nigerian, Mr. Runcie Chidebe Bagged an Award from UICC, Istanbul

'Nigeria needs a platform for raising funds to support cancer patients'

 The Executive Director, Project Pink Blue- Health and Psychological Trust Centre (HPTC), Runcie C.W. Chidebe, recently bagged an award from the Union for In­ternational Cancer Control, during the World Cancer Summit in Istanbul. In this encounter with Hassan Zaggi, Chidebe discloses the motivation behind his inter­est in the campaign against cancer, the need for the government to give priority to the fight against the disease and many other issues. Excerpts.

You recently won an award, what was it all about?
I was recognized recently at the World Cancer Summit in Istanbul Turkey. The award is actually young leader award by the Union for Inter­national Cancer Control. It is one of the largest cancer fighting organi­zations in the world with over 900 member organizations across 150 countries representing world major cancer societies, ministries of health, research institutes, treatment centres and patient groups.
It was truly a honour because it was a recognized body that is well known in championing cancer ini­tiatives in collaboration with the World Health Organisation (WHO) and other research institutes in can­cer. I was really happy.
What that showed me was that what I and my little team are doing in our little way in our community gained a global recognition.

What is this project Pink Blue all about?
Pink Blue is a community based cancer NGO that is focus on creating awareness, providing free breast and cervical cancer screening and also supporting people that are battling with breast and other forms of cancer.

How did it start?
Project Pink Blue started as my personal NYSC Community Devel­opment Service (CDS) project when I was serving as a corps member in Abuja.
I organized the first CDS in Ka­busa, a suburb in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). When I organized the first one, it was like I just want­ed to have fun, but eventually when I finished it, I realized that there is the need for this kind of project to con­tinue afterward.
I then mobilized my other corps members that we worked together and I told them that we need to see how we can be part of the solution in Nigeria instead of criticising the government. That is how the Project Pink Blue started. I then got it reg­istered and since we completed our NYSC in 2014 this is what we have been doing.

What specifically did you do that gave you the award?
From 2013 when I started the NYSC, I was able to organize about 4 different projects. I went to Kabusa and organized a programme that at­tracted over 160 women and we pro­vided screening for them. After that we organized another programme that was held in Parade Ground in the Abuja city centre where we got over 300 women. After that one, with the support from a lady from Mexico, but that one was just talk on cancer without screening. When I finished my NYSC, I decided to continue.
The next programme I organized was in Kuje where many women came and we provided cancer screen­ing services for them and also fol­lowed up to ensure that those who were diagnosed with cancer can get support. I also organized an event in faraway Anambra state. That one attracted over 400 women even though it was only awareness cre­ation in partnership with some vol­unteer medical experts who believe in our dream.
The truth is that people are afraid of Cancer. Once a woman hears that she has breast cancer, the next thing that comes to her mind is death. We also realized that most women don’t know much about the disease. They depend on what they hear from their neigbours. Even after the event we or­ganized at Anambra, we also orga­nized another one in Sheraton in the FCT which was massive and many celebrities were also part of it. We also had a walk. It was meant to create awareness and to also provide screen­ing services.
We also organized another event again in one of the markets in Lagos titled Pink October. Many celebrities also attended the event. You realized that the work we have been doing is targeted at women who cannot afford to pay for the screening services in the hospital. We target the rural areas and market women who are battling on how to secure three square meals. Because it is somehow difficult to get them come to the healthcare facility, what we do is to bring them to the healthcare facility and connect to the closest hospital. For example, the one we did in Lagos, we connected the women to the Ikeja Medical Centre.
There are many more other ad­vocacies that we did in partnership with the Federal Ministry of Health to let the government understand the need to start making cancer a health care priority considering the number of people that a dying of the disease.

Where are you getting your fund­ing from?
You see, when I started as a corps member, it was absolutely difficult because it was like asking a poor man to help a poor man. When I was serving, I was being paid 19,000 nai­ra and we all know how expensive it is to live in Abuja. It was difficult for me to sustain myself let alone think of carrying out a project.
When I started, nobody was ready to support me because as you know, rural areas don’t have much busi­ness value for companies and cor­porate organizations, but I also real­ized that it was difficult for them to support me because I was not known and was not relevant.
What I did was not to ask anybody for money. I just go to the people and tell them to assist us do a particular thing. This, they find it easy assist­ing than for us to tell them to give us money for the thing. I used that strategy at the beginning, but now I have been able to build a relationship with people who can now trust and support us.
Currently we have patients who are battling with Cancer and are seek­ing for assistance and we keep writing to so many philanthropic organiza­tions and companies for support and be part of what we are doing.
We have many partners. For ex­ample, the federal ministry of health has become a very strong technical partner. Maria Stopes has been our key partner in terms of providing the screening. What we just do is to get few volunteers to support them. As it is now, we have over 78 volunteers mostly in Lagos and Abuja. We also have some people who are volunteer­ing for us from outside Nigeria. After this award, we have some pharma­ceutical companies that have indi­cated interest in partnering with us.

Are you thinking of venturing into other areas of health?
You see, venturing into other is­sues of health is usually a challenge. For example, we have been working when Ebola came up, some people called us and suggest that we dive into Ebola awareness. Yes, it was a good idea, but you know it is good that people should know you for something. For now, we are just fo­cusing on cancer and you know how vast cancer is. Even now we are not focusing on all types of cancer and there is a lot of work to be done in this area let alone go into other ar­eas of health.

Why the focus on breast cancer?
We focus on breast cancer be­cause when you think of the num­ber of people who die of the disease, you will be amazed and this is a dis­ease that is a lifestyle disease. This is a disease we can do just little things that will help us stay away from it. Some of these cancers that we fo­cus on are preventable. For example, cervical cancer is 100 per cent pre­ventable. A lot of people in Nigeria did not know that there is a Human Papiloma Vaccine (HPV) for cervi­cal cancer.
Think of so many influential peo­ple in this country whose lives have been abruptly terminated as a result of cancer, most of them breast cancer. It is most painful because this disease terminates their lives at their prime, when they are most needed in the country. I can’t mention names be­cause there are many of them. We fo­cus on breast cancer because the in­cidence rate is higher compared to other forms of cancer.
Secondly, cervical cancer is also preventable, but it is killing many people. Most recently, we are already diving into prostate cancer and can­cer of the lungs.

What are the challenges you have encountered so far?
Sincerely Nigerians are amazing people when it comes to calling them for help. I know how it has being in terms of raising funds.
What I can say that is more chal­lenging for is our inability to raise funds. For example, a lady who is 34 years came here few weeks ago, her breast was cut off due to can­cer, but surprisingly, she has not got­ten money to for her chemothera­py. Chemotherapy is very important once you do mastectomy because no one knows if the malignant cell has spread to other areas. It is really diffi­cult because in Nigeria we don’t have a systematized form of fund raising. We depend on foreign donors. We don’t have our domestic platform for raising funds. For example, in abroad, people skip meals just to assist others but here we don’t have that culture. You only see people coming to sup­port when the person is dying.
When you walk out and ask peo­ple to support, sometimes they think you are just asking them money for your personal use.
Most times we tell people not to give the money to Project Pink Blue, but they should give the money di­rectly to the patient who needs the money. If the money goes to the pa­tient, our duty will only be to mon­itor the patient to ensure that the money is used for the purpose it was meant for.
There is a lot of work to be done in the fight against the disease.
I wish the government can pay more attention on cancer screening and treatment. They should estab­lish more radiotherapy centres and make it a priority. So many rich men and politicians can travel abroad for treatment, but how many poor Nige­rians can travel for treatment outside the country.

The way forward
The way forward is for the gov­ernment to make cancer a healthcare priority. What I mean is that the gov­ernment should increase the fund­ing of cancer activities in the country. If possible, they government should establish a cancer control agency in the country. They should create more awareness on the causes and all issues surrounding the disease.
On the other hand, women should reduce the intake of alcohol. Most Ni­gerians don’t go to the hospital unless they are carried which another wor­risome issue.

It is however an inspirational story to many young people to know that at the age of 29 I founded a non- prof­it organization and this is how far we have been able to go. I call on young men to think of what is happening in the country and see what they can do to move the country forward.  

For more information about Project Pink Blue, visit:

Sunday, 13 December 2015

Mr. Oluseun Onigbinde, Co-founder, BudgeIT

Tell us about yourself
My name is Oluseun Onigbinde. I am the Team Lead and Co-Founder of BudgIT. I am really confused what to call myself. Maybe I should say data analyst, data journalist, data scientist, citizen scientist or even budget expert. Actually, I did not set out to be all of these. I graduated from the University of Agriculture Abeokuta as an Electrical/Electronics Engineer. Since my days at the university, I knew I won’t practise engineering because I felt the kind of knowledge passed was not what works in fast-paced, viral and technological driven world that we live today. I worked in two banks – Access and First Bank - for four years before leaving to fully focus on BudgIT. That’s what I have been doing since then as well as other consultancy for DFID and sub-regional projects. I am also a Knight Foundation Fellow, which requires me to teach creative tools that can improve storytelling.

What is BudgIT about?
BudgIT is what makes me tick and it is a product of an idea with huge assumptions that if we shows citizens regardless of their literacy class and level of interest how the budget works and how it affects them, hopefully they will become active participants and strive to be vanguards of budget performance. These assumptions are what we are testing by looking for all means to explain the budget to citizens. This includes infographics, interactive applications, games, apps, sms and other tools. We just want to deepen access of the budgets, as we believe that this is key to civic engagement and institutional reform. We also act as a catalyst for all stakeholders such as media, government institutions by providing support in terms of capacity building and data access.

How did you conceive the idea for BudgIT?
I was sitting in my desk in First Bank and I thought about a new offer made by Co-Creation Hub to look for new ideas that can strengthen governance. This was an intense hackathon that was meant to build prototype of ideas. I put in for the hackathon in February 2011 and we came second. It was at the hackathon that I met Joseph Agunbiade who co-founded BudgIT with me. However, I know BudgIT was out of the desire to do something that reshapes the paradigm.

How did you bring it to life?
I wondered if I would be able to do it all alone and keep paying my bills. I decided to combine my work in the bank with BudgIT for a year before I decided to face it fully. This is about a lot of toil, hardwork and discontent. I just feel like I am a steward of an idea whose time has come. The online availability of the data, the evolution of social media and also Co-Creation Hub that provided mentorship, space and seed funding all showed that this idea appeared at the right time. Like I said, I am just a steward accountable to the work committed to my hand. 

 What has the experience been so far?
Amazing experience so far. As an entrepreneur, you lose your steps momentarily which makes you to nearly doubt if you are on the right path. I have gone through those times before but today I count it all joy. Leading an organization is a mind building exercise. It makes you think, innovate and also want keep winning. It’s been more work but I am enjoying it. Right now at BudgIT, we are thinking of building products, which might also be profit-oriented as we don’t want to run BudgIT as an organisation eternally dependent on grant.

 How would you summarize the social impact of Budgit in Nigerian Governance today?
We can take a cue from the comment by Reuben Abati that roadside mechanics and okada riders are analyzing the budget. I don’t want to take the full glory for that but we have a made dent somewhere and you will agree that the interest is getting deeper. We have trained officials of the National Assembly Budget and Research Office. We have held data journalism classes and provided funds for citizens. We are doing our best to make impact at the social urban and rural grassroots level.

 What challenges do you face and how have you been able to overcome these challenges?
Access to data is a key challenge especially procurement data that can be used to deepen conversation. Most states still treat the budget as state secret making it difficult for citizens to get. We are also trying to validate government projects by demanding accountability. A big challenge is also getting funds to scale. For such scale we are still dependent on grant and we want to ensure that we build a strong financial model that is sustainable.

Given the chance, would you do this again?
Another chance? Maybe this idea might come to early or might be too late and be of no value. Right now it is what our democracy needs and I am enjoying it. Another time? Depends what works for that season. One day, I will quit BudgIT and handover to someone else. That’s the mindset I carry.

Want to know more?

follow - @budgitng


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