Being a mobilizer for the "What Do Young People Want" initiative, which is part of the wider 1.8 billion young people for change campaign, was such an exhilarating experience, and I am proud of myself for stepping out of my comfort zone for this campaign. I went to the streets of Lagos Island to inquire about what young people want and the changes they desire to see to improve their health and well-being. The mobilization of this initiative made me realize that many young people are dissatisfied with the current state of the world, but they don't know how to effect change. Many of these young people in Lagos Island are hoping for a better world though.
Lagos Island is a unique place, unlike anywhere else in the world. My parents grew up on Lagos Island, so I have a strong connection to this place. The people, the energy, the way of life – something about Lagos Island sets it apart from the rest of the world. Lagos Island is a visual delight, where old-world charm mingles seamlessly with modern architecture. The island's historic architecture speaks to its colonial past, with buildings bearing witness to centuries of change. The ornate facades of structures like the Central Mosque and the historic Cathedral Church ooze character and history. And then, juxtaposed against this, you find the sleek, contemporary skyscrapers like the Eko Tower and the Union Bank Building, which stand as a testament to Lagos's evolution into a modern metropolis.
A sight synonymous with Lagos Island is the iconic yellow Danfo buses. These minivans, painted in bright yellow and adorned with bold patterns, serve as the lifeblood of the city's public transport. The rhythmic honking, the enthusiastic conductors, and the sheer resilience of these buses are an embodiment of Lagos's spirit. Lagos Island can not be defined with mere words, it is a place with so much going on. I chose Lagos Island as the best place to mobilize for the campaign because I believe the voices of the people here are often underrepresented. Young people in Lagos Island have distinct experiences, so it was insightful to hear about the changes they wish to see in our world.
Most of the young people I spoke to expressed a desire for access to decent work, as unemployment is a serious issue in Nigeria. As of 2021, the total unemployed population in Nigeria was estimated to be around 6.3 million, an increase from the previous year when around six million people were without any form of employment. Overall, the rate of unemployment in the country has been on the rise. Many young people are losing faith in the Nigerian government due to unfulfilled promises about job creation. One of the young people I spoke with expressed concern that, after spending time in university, they might not be able to secure a job. This fear is common among young people in Nigeria, and I believe we need to continue urging the government to provide more employment opportunities for Nigerian youth.
Another significant concern raised by the youth I engaged with was the need for quality education, as the current education system in Nigeria fails to meet their needs. Nigeria's educational system faces numerous challenges, including infrastructural decay, neglect, wastage of resources, and poor conditions of service. According to a 2022 UNESCO report, the country has over 20 million out-of-school children, the highest in the world. Another 27 million children in school perform poorly. Millions of Nigerians receive subpar education, and over 60 million, or 30% of the population, are illiterate. Quality education is essential to break the cycle of poverty, and I hope that Nigeria's decision-makers prioritize ensuring that every Nigerian child and adolescent, regardless of their background, has access to quality education that will enable them to thrive in our ever-evolving world.
Additionally, I had a lot of fun and bonded with other young people over our shared experiences as young people living in Lagos Island. Dayo, a close friend of mine who is also a passionate young change-maker, and I had a great time. Listening to the views and opinions of different young people was an incredible experience for me, and I look forward to mobilizing for other youth-centered campaigns in the future.
Tariq Lawal (he/they) is a seventeen-year-old writer, poet, changemaker, and creative from Lagos, Nigeria. He has a deep passion for graphic design, writing fiction and exploring all that is possible. He firmly believes that art possesses the transformative power to bring about positive change in society. Tariq's artistic journey began at a young age, as he discovered his love for storytelling and self-expression through various mediums. Whether it be crafting intricate narratives through his fiction writing or painting vivid imagery with his poetry, Tariq's creativity knows no bounds. However, Tariq's identity cannot be confined to these artistic endeavors alone. He is a multifaceted individual, constantly evolving and growing. With an insatiable thirst for knowledge, he is always seeking out new avenues for personal growth and learning. Tariq's curiosity leads him to explore diverse fields, expanding his horizons beyond the realms of art. Beyond his creative pursuits, Tariq is also a changemaker, driven by a desire to make a positive impact on the world around him. He recognizes the potential for art to act as a catalyst for change, and he uses his platform to advocate for issues close to his heart. He is a World Literacy Foundation youth ambassador, the founder of Thrilling and Blue Alien, a The Climate Initiative ambassador, a LearningPlanet Alliance Youth Fellow, a member of the Youth Constituency for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, an Orius Fellow, a publications officer for Global Mental Health Outreach, a monthly contributor for Log Off Movement’s The Network, Intermediate English teacher and graphic designer for Afghan Girls Success Gate and an intern at Wema Bank’s Corporate Sustainability and Responsibility Department. He is also a member of Amnesty International, YouthXYouth, Unite 2030, Global Mental Health Action Network, Major Group for Children and Youth, and World Youth Alliance. He also volunteers as a graphic designer with youth-led organizations like BrainX Academia, The Humanities Archive, Kickstart Change, OneUpAction International and Statice Health International.