Young persons in Nigeria and Cameroon have revealed how they started their own organizations after attending the annual Youth Organizing School (YOS) organized by Yiaga Africa. They revealed this during an experience-sharing session at the ongoing YOS 2021, which kicked off on 15th April 2021.
Every year, with support from the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), Yiaga Africa plays host to 35 to 40 entry-level community organizers and young leaders who receive training on direct action organizing, leadership, policy advocacy, non-violent change, storytelling and public narrative, coalition building, community mobilization, and digital organizing.
A community organizer based in Cameroon, Nancy Saiboh said she registered her Civil Society Organisation after attending the Youth Organizing School (YOS) in 2019. Nancy revealed this at the ongoing annual YOS organized by Yiaga Africa, saying she returned to her country and applied all the knowledge gained from the annual organizing and advocacy program.
She said, “YOS 2019 was a turning point in my career and for me as a leader. YOS changed the way I see myself. As a leader that can contribute to my community, I now run campaigns and effective advocacy in my Country (Cameroon) because I understand my purpose.”
She said, “I took time to understand my purpose and reorganized the strength I have to help build my community”. She urged the 2021 YOS cohort to take this seriously and act on it; saying, “it is not a coincidence that you are here; you are at the right place.”
During her own testimony, Olanike Uge, YOS Alumni 2017 said she came to YOS open to learn, and she got more than expected. What stood out according to her is the storytelling, leadership models, and how to convert the resources you have into power. The resources received from YOS enabled me to register my CSO in 2018 and it made the development of my mission and vision much easier. “Under 12 months of full operation, we got mini-grants from International organizations including ActionAid Nigeria and Ford Foundation. This is because we were able to organize effectively as we learnt that before causing social change, you must be able to organize”, she said. She further urged the cohort to be open to learning while building valuable relationships in order to learn from one another.
Another beneficiary of the program, Maureen Tare Amanana from Bayelsa state said, my experience at the YOS 2017 turned my advocacy and activism around. According to her, “YOS built my capacity and helped me with the right tools for community organizing and engagement.” She said, “Now, I have built a network of young people in my state and I am now a better leader while leading a series of engagements around democracy, governance and development”.
Another alumnus, Naufal Ahmad revealed that attending YOS opened his eyes to a lot of possibilities, gave him a lot of courage, built his confidence, and introduced him to a lot of skills and experiences needed to maximize the impact of what he is doing. He said, “I was also able to build the capacity of other young people by stepping down the training I got from YOS”.
He said, “graduating from YOS, I was able to put what I learnt into good use including helping to get the Not Too Young To Run Bill passed into law in my state, Katsina. I was also able to build the capacity of other young people by stepping down the training I got from YOS. It made me a local act to be reckoned with. I was also invited to join the CSO coalition in Katsina state.”
Also, he said, his engagement after YOS enabled him to join the Katsina state government as a focal person for youth investment to enable young people to get economic and political inclusion. Naufal also urged the 2021 cohort to learn, make the best of knowledge, take action and build networks.
In her welcome remark, Yiaga Africa’s Director of Programs said, the organization believes in building movement and investing in community. She said historical events like the struggle for independence have revealed that movement-building has never been about individuality, but collectivity and interconnection of different sectors of the society, across generations and borders.
According to her, “to demand for social transformation, we cannot engage from a single person approach but as a movement”. She said the YOS will expose participants to organising for social change and how young people can influence conversations around elections and take leadership.
“At the YOS, we will approach leadership as a practice that everyone has been blessed with specific potentials to provide leadership at different points in time within their community. We believe organizing is about action. We cannot just complain or get frustrated or angry without doing anything, as taking action is what makes you different.” she said
Speaking during the introductory session of the 2021 YOS, Head of Governance and Development, Ibrahim Faruk said, over 240 young women and men from across Nigeria and six different African countries have benefitted from this program. “We are proud of the change they are making in their communities,” he said.
The Youth Organizing School (YOS) was established eight years ago to build a new generation of community organizers across Nigeria and West Africa with the capacity to drive social change and transformation. The School combines the theory and practice of organizing in building the capacity of young activists, youth organizations, and young leaders.