My name is Tukeni Obasi. I am a Nigerian presently studying at McGill University. I joined the World Youth Alliance a couple of years back but it was not until the beginning of this year that I finally took the Track A training. It is difficult to put down my experience with Track A in words but the things I learnt from that training shook me up: the idea of the dignity of the human person challenged all my prior beliefs about the human race. It empowered me to seek out the truth and stand up for it in my everyday life. This summer, I started teaching at a primary school called Child Concern International School in the Gambia, in an area called Latrikunda German. Latrikunda German is an impoverished part of the second capital of The Gambia, Serrekunda. In this community, the illiteracy rate is high, illegal migration is not uncommon, and many of the teenage girls and even some girls as young as 12 are engaged in commercial sex to make ends meet. As expected, many of these girls are also school drop-outs and some of them have already had a number of children and as a result, are engaged in other menial jobs to take care of their children. Having observed and been informed of these facts, I knew I would have to live the truth in that community. Two days into my project, with the help of two grassroots organizations, I-representing World Youth Alliance- was able to organize a three-day seminar from May 8-May 10 titled ‘Dignity, Dreams and Development in Society’.
The turn-out on the first day was impressive given the short notice. We had at least 40 people in attendance. On the first day, we explored the concept of dignity. At first, very few people believed they had dignity but by the time the session was over, they seemed all convinced that their dignity was innate. I also pointed out the link between dignity and dreams explaining that because everyone had dignity, everyone has the power to dream and set goals for themselves and work towards them. By recognizing the dignity in others, we are also able to respect them and work in solidarity with them towards the common good.
The next day, May 9th, about 62 people showed up. I talked in detail about the circumstances surrounding the birth of WYA. Afterwards, I made them break into groups to talk about who should be having sex and the consequences of sex for the individual and the community. This was a very intense session because for many, this was the first time they were openly talking about sex. This was my favourite part of the 3-day seminar and I am grateful for the opportunity to shake up the youth and launch in the open, the one issue that had been left unsaid and was undermining real progress in their society. In spite of this, at the end of the group discussion, all groups agreed that sex was to be delayed until later on in life. Some people felt at the age of 20, some people due to religious convictions said only after marriage. I personally said that unless two people are able and ready to start a family, they had no business having sex because the family is the fundamental unit of society and children in a family unit are better able to grow and add value to the society. I also argued that sex kills the dreams of young people especially women and I explained in detail the consequences of sex (STDs and HIV/AIDS). Then I talked about the role of parents in the religious and moral education of the child, and showing unconditional love to the child. I also explained to them more about our work at WYA and some of the issues WYA and WYA youth are involved with presently. At the end of this session, many were blown away expressed interest in joining WYA and working with us to protect the dignity of the human person and address the many issues that plague society.
The next day, I focused on peer pressure and during their group discussions, I had them distinguish between things that were considered cool in the society and things that were actually smart/ wise- the right things to do. Many agreed that it was wise to go to school even though it was cooler to sleep around and make ‘quick’ money by dishonest means. After the group discussion, I introduced the concept of the Truth and living in the Truth even when everyone else is living outside of the Truth. I also talked about the importance of solidarity drawing examples from the Solidarity movement in Poland and the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa which I had learned in detailed during my Track A training. I encouraged them to work together and support one another assuring them that even though it seems impossible, living in the truth pays off. I encouraged them to think of ways to build a better community for themselves rather than seeking illegal ways to migrate to Europe and to work together in the fight against prostitution and promiscuity to combat the spread of diseases, guard their dreams and promote a healthier society for all.
The response to the 3-day seminar was encouraging. Many wanted WYA to come back and organize more seminars to empower them. They also said that they wished the program was longer (say a week) so that they could learn more. But all in all, many described it as a life-changing experience; some said it restored hope. Others said it was definitely an eye-opener and had changed their lives for the better.
As for me, I thought it was a fruitful exercise altogether and I am really grateful for the opportunity to empower the youth of Latrikunda German while sharing with them the very ideas and principles that changed my own life, the ideas and principles of the World Youth Alliance.