Friday, November 11, 2011

I Started Activism At 10 -Esther Agbarakwe •Award-winning Environmental Sustainability Advocate

My Exclusive Interview with The Nigerian Tribune: Published Saturday, 05 November 2011

In this piece, SEYI GESINDE takes a look at the activities of Esther Agbarakwe, a Nigerian environmentalist, who at a time represented the African youths at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Copenhagen, Denmark.
One Nigerian youth who is so passionate about nvironmental protection is Esther Agbarakwe. Her interest in securing the environment has accorded her recognition on the international scene, fetching her the role of African coordinator of United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development (UNCSD) Youth and Children Major Group.
Esther, who holds a Bachelor of Science (B.Sc) degree in Education Chemistry from the University of Calabar, Nigeria, specialises in teaching, counselling, and coaching, besides, have also won merit awards to her credit. She has equally gone a step further to study courses in health, environment, humanities business management and sustainable development,
As an environmental advocate, Esther, in 2009, was in Copenhagen, Denmark to represent African youths at United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Conference of Parties (COP 15).
It was at this conference that her skills in training and creativity in managing and facilitating youth-led projects were further boosted. Her expertise which also spans system’s development and strengthening are currently being displayed as the coordinator of the Nigerian Youth Climate Coalition (NYCC), a group she co-founded.

Apart from this, Esther is also an active member of The Earth Charter Initiative’s youth network, and to boost the environmental initiative of this network, she founded in Nigeria, The Earth Charter Youth Group Calabar, through which, in 2009, she succeeded in managing the Earth Charter Youth Special Project-Nigeria in the aspect of peace development in the Niger Delta. In recognition of Esther’s efforts in the network group, she was invited as a guest speaker at the 10th anniversary of the Earth Charter (EC+10) in the Peace Palace at The Hague, Netherlands, with the Dutch Queen in attendance. The Earth Charter specifically takes a special interest in promoting youth activism in sustainable development, and as a group member of the “First Steps Campaign,” a youth group inaugurated in 2008, in Scotland, during the Civicus Youth Assembly. The following year, 2009, Esther represented Africa at the International Organising committee of the Fifth World Water Youth Forum in Istanbul, Turkey.

In May of that same year, Esther was supported by the German government for participation at the 17th session of the UN Commission on Sustainable Development programme held at the UN headquarters in New York for her work on Youth in Sustainability in Nigeria. Esther delivered the opening statement for the Youth and Children Major Group. Esther is also the focal person for the Young Commonwealth Climate Network in Nigeria. She has also volunteered, consulted for Actionaid International Nigeria and currently sit in its General Assembly as the only Youth Representative

Esther strongly believes in Inter-generational equity and partnership for sustainability. She is a young leader in Nigeria and has already achieved a great deal. She tells her own story: “I was 10 years old when I began ‘activism’ on issues of children rights, then in the old town of Calabar, where I was raised. In fact, I was still in primary school then. My dad was the chairman of the Parents Teachers Association (PTA) and that too helped me to live up to the expectation.

“Well, not until May 27, 1995, that I was asked to participate at the Children Day celebration at the Government House, Calabar with the wife of the then military administrator. “Now, did I stop there? No! I realised a calling for me in youth work that, when I got into secondary school, I was very active. The school brought out my interest and dedication, thus they sent me to various adolescents workshops and symposia on adolescent sexuality, education and career. “Another thing I got from my mom is giving back, so I started a Health Club in my school known as WAPI Health club. This inspired the authorities to make me the Senior Girl prefect. I had mentors both in the school and outside, which greatly helped me.

“My university days were even more interesting as I became more knowledgeable on issues on adolescent and youth sexuality, and leadership building as I volunteered for Nigerian Youth Aid Programme (NYAP), University of Calabar, as a youth counsellor and activist. Well, it was not easy combining academics and activism and peer-education, but as inspired and determined as I was, I just did it! Thank God, my parents supported me.”

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