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Most of the problems facing today’s youth are not necessarily traced to any particular ethnic or religious groups but with a holistic observation, it can only be concluded that the aftermath of these problems affects the entire nation. Most discussions on youths have focused on issues such as drug abuse, crime, violence, sexuality, and poverty. In addition to these callous acts, today’s youths are afflicted by new challenges, which could be an identity crisis, low self-esteem and a sense of hopelessness.
With poverty eradication, good education standards, good governance, crime reduction, national growth, security, technological development, and employment creation, Youth Empowerment and Development Initiative sights and has thus geared to strive to improve the living condition of the less privileged in the society.
Founded in November 2011 with the main focus on education, empowerment, and inspiration to the youth and communities in Nigeria using sound and proven models that produce results through the use of effective and innovative development approaches, Youth Empowerment and Development Initiative (YEDI) is committed to introducing effective development approaches that have been proven to work on the continent of Africa and ready for adaptation in the Nigerian setting. YEDI is dedicated to introducing tried-and-tested solutions by adapting, building and expanding these methods for the Nigerian youth, communities, and organizations that would benefit from evidence-based solutions and finally empowered to contribute to Nigeria’s future. With offices in Lagos, Ogun and Akwa Ibom states, YEDI currently runs two life-transforming programmes – Grass root Soccer and Urban Achievers.
The Grassroots Soccer is YEDI’s first sport for development program that educates Nigerian youth about HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases. Grassroots Soccer also empowers youth by providing important life and coping skills through participatory and fun activities in schools in disadvantaged communities, using two curricula – Skillz Naija and Skillz Girls for its community-based and in-school interventions.
Lucky Ihanza, YEDI’s communications officer said that SKILLZ NAIJA is a culture, mindset, and toolkit for educators for teaching young people about HIV/AIDS, malaria prevention and life skills. It creates simple but powerful connections between soccer and life skills. Helping youth to have the relevant and important decisions about life, take steps to achieve these goals, stay strong when faced with challenges, and protect themselves and others from diseases such as HIV/AIDS and malaria.
The second curriculum, SKILLZ GIRLS Program is a girls-targeted intervention program that combines activities-based HIV prevention and life skills curriculum with soccer and peer-led community outreach activities. It creates a safe space for adolescent girls to play non-competitive soccer, take action in their communities, and have vital conversations about HIV and AIDS and develop critical life management skills for their advancement.
Meanwhile, URBAN ACHIEVERS, the second programme, work closely with private sector employers to develop a cadre of youth, equipping them with skills and attitudes that meet the needs of the private sectors and assisting them to pursue economic opportunities and careers, while they serve as role models to their peers in their communities.
According to Lucky Ihanza, stated that since the inception of the foundation, YEDI has consistently demonstrated that football can effectively be used to mobilize and engage youth and communities for impacts and development. These interventions have reached over 50,000 people in different local government areas in Lagos, Akwa-Ibom and the Ogun States, equipping them with information to live healthily and make informed decisions in life, become change agents in their communities and broader range increase in knowledge about HIV/AIDS and malaria, sexual and reproductive health, and life-management skills.
Communities were not left out as they were provided with free HIV testing and counseling, free malaria testing and treatment, free insecticidal-treated bed nets, advocacy against stigma and discrimination on HIV/AIDS and gender balance. Amongst just a few, YEDI did not fail to develop role models by training over 400 Youths as Peer Educators to facilitate the Grassroots Soccer Programme.
Speaking on if NGOs can completely be independent of the government, YEDI’s communications officer opined that in cases where there is an overall national strategic plan in tackling issues of concerns, NGOs must work in alignment with the policies of the day especially when it is in line with achieving a national goal. She, however, concluded that NGOs should also advocate causes that will bring about change and save lives even when such causes are not popular.