Are we still villagers?

Zuriel Oduwole

I am in New York, where the United Nations 63rd annual CSW (Commission on the Status of Women) event is taking place till March 22nd, 2019.

The UN Secretary General has already spoken to open the event, and there are people they called ‘High Level Delegates’, dashing madly from one hall or meeting, to another. You can’t be late to these events, as it won’t look good on you, or worse yet – your country.

Consequently I am sitting at the end of a table, to my right are the First Lady of a country, the UN Permanent representatives of two countries, the Chairperson of the 2019 CSW session, who is the Irish Ambassador to the UN, a Gender Minister, a member of the ECOWAS parliament. And then, I looked slowly back towards the audience – a large crowd from more than 15 different countries, who have gathered to listen to what we all had to say.

For about 10 seconds – time just to froze, and I remembered 6 years earlier when I was just 10, getting ready to practice my first ever speech, about my Girls Education project. I thought I was ready.

No, I knew for sure that I was ready, so I made what at that time to me seemed to be a big mistake – ‘I asked my dad to listen to me practice it’. He agreed to.

I cleared my throat, and started, and just 20 second into it, he asked me – “what is that?” I thought – he should know. ‘My speech, I answered. Yes, I know, but why are you rushing it?” he asked. I didn’t think I was. He asked me to start again. I did, and he stopped me again, asking the same question – What is that? An hour and fifteen minutes later into what was meant to be a 12 minute speech, I was still going over it in front of my dad, tears running down my face by now. The whole episode played in my mind, as I watched the audience in front of me at this current UN side event, which was just about to start.

At that very moment, a simple smile crept into the corner of my mouth, and right away, I knew I was simply ready, and couldn’t wait to start. It seemed I had been practicing for this moment for the past 6 years.

What was I doing at 16 years old, in the company of all these experienced speakers? I had someone push me early, who believed I could always do, and be that much better at anything. My parents treated my house, like a village.

Around the house, I often heard stories about my dad talk about his years as a young boy, and if he did something wrong while playing outside or even at church, someone else’s parents would pull his ears, or at times – set his behind on fire, and when he got home, that same parent would tell my grandparents what my dad had done, and a few minutes later, he got what he called an additional instalment of his earlier “attention to correction”, and with interest.

That phrase I have heard before, which even Hillary Clinton used on her campaign trail – ‘It takes a village’.

I like to ask – are adults today still villagers, when it comes to raising my generation. Are other people’s parents still that concerned about a stranger’s child’s moral or physical wellbeing? Or are things so tough or different now, that they have little time to be concerned, when they are still worried about their own child’s well-being.

Yes, I hated to go over that very first speech, but after years of practice, I got better at my delivery.

Today, almost everyone has a smart phone, but most of the users are consumers. Are adults concerned that societies are becoming more consumers instead of trying to create? Are adults concerned enough that young people on the African continent are mostly unemployed, and are usually still waiting for someone to ask them to come work, instead of the young adults finding their voice or being the ones to create employment for their peers. You and I always read that Africa has the youngest population of any continent. So, where are the villagers who make policies, or the ones raising these young adults, to make sure that they have skills to make the continent a creator and producer of goods and service, instead of being mostly just consumers?

Where is that village today that wants all the children to do more, so they can be producers of mostly what they consume? Imagine that village of people (starting with parents who just pour all they have into others) becoming a country, and then imagine that country being emulated by others on the continent.

The result on the continent just might make the term ‘village people’, very cool again, because in 2019, it still would take a village, to raise this generation.

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