The 4th Youth Pre Specialized Technical Committee (STC) Forum

The pre-forum of the 4th Specialized Technical Committee on  Youth, Culture and Sports was held from the 18th to the 20th of May at the African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa. I was privileged to attend, representing the Network of Youth for Sustainable Initiative (NGYouthSDGs).

I hadn’t considered if I was someone who could work well under pressure, but I realize maybe it’s because of the part of me that is wholly artistic. I can thrive under manic pressure or chaos. I’ve come to this conclusion because I discovered that my flight was booked for the next day a day before. You see, somewhere along the lines, someone took one letter out for my email and that one letter made sure all correspondence I was meant to receive was sent to someone else across the world with the name Debby Johnson.

So I was working blind and was in Lagos for work and meant to return earlier, but my time there got elongated, so when I found out by 3 pm of the 16th that I was to travel from Abuja to Lagos by 1 pm on the 17th, you’ll understand why I had to panic and then create a working plan.

In no particular order, the panicking and the planning were definitely interspersed with one another, but by some miracle and the help of my community, I made it in time.

The first two days were of a decidedly stricter schedule, structured around conversation from selected speakers of note as well as a review of data collected from surveys and intense research, used to curate policies currently in place or used as background information for many applications and websites created by front runner organizations advocating for youth, women and girls.

Within all this, time was also spent receiving opinions from a few participants centred around problems and solutions concerning the four E + H, which are Education, Employment, Entrepreneurship, Equity and Health.

Although the days spent at the African Union were insightful and necessary, primarily because of the live surveys conducted and the online community of youth who were allowed the opportunity to air points of view and connect with the live cohort from the comfort of their various countries and homes, I found that the more intimate program held on the 20th in the event hall of the Kings hotel was an even more stimulating environment and allowed a more unrestrained mode of expression, this statement is solely based on my observation of the members of my cohort.

See, at this point, we had learned the data, listened to the speeches and reflected on the remarkable work that has been done as well as considered the reality of the level of “usefulness” this work in our own lives within our own communities and friends, were these policies impactful?

I don’t know if the smaller hall or the icebreakers were done at the start. Still, something about that day/space/function sort of gave the participants an “air” of ease to hold the discussion in, speaking about what they believed to be their personal and community’s struggle and or pain which were also relatable to the general population of African youth, and then provide viable solutions to them.

My favourite thing about that day, other than the marketplace session, which allowed participants to sort of advertise their efforts (with or without organizational support) to engage, encourage, and uplift the youth in many sectors; I enjoyed that part because of the possibility it showed within the young people in attendance, how eager they were to speak, not just for the sake of but rather in hopes that new connections will be fostered or the healthy habits and methodology found in their work would be replicated to effect change somewhere else.

But no, My favourite thing about that day was the engagement; we were split into groups and given tasks to handle; my group was asked to outline identifiable problems youth face with joining the workforce and then to create solutions to them.

I watched myself and everyone else apply themselves; there was no thought too small or unimportant, no contribution too mundane, and there was a visible language barrier, but when it came to solving the problems, all of that melted away into solutions and thoughts which were not discarded because Jonas and his team took them to be part of the briefs.

During the presentation, I saw groups of people who had not known each other until that event root very firmly for one another, cheering at their ideas even if they weren’t presenting them. I saw people who, if given a chance, were prepared to work together and try to create, build, encourage, or end something. These moments are now fond in my head; their possibility was a person, and I fell in love with her.

Honestly, only time will tell how much of an impact the pre-STC forum was, if it was just another gathering like many before it and like many after or if just by showing up and declaring with loud voices what needed to change, these wonderful young people were able to alter the course of the government into making a better life for African youth.

Upon returning to Nigeria, I experienced a weird culture shock, odd because I was only gone for a few days, but the body is as the body is, so it took me a day to settle back into being here.

I’ve kept in contact with a few colleagues, some of whom messaged because they wanted to see my poem about Africa, others who just wanted to share opportunities and keep a vine going.

It was a wonderful experience for me outside of the work part. I realized how many countries spoke French as a first language and how Nigerians have a next-to-flawless command of English even with poor education systems.

I ate Ethiopian food and danced with Ethiopian dancers. I felt our similarities and vast differences, and I think it is easy to feel like another part of Africa is ‘home’, Because of how much we have in common. I wonder if xenophobic people see how alike we are.

I watched the sun and watched the people; I got soaked in the rain twice and smelled incense, someone was kind to me and got me a sweater and gloves, and I performed a poem we could all relate to. I was cold but very warm in my heart and felt a combination of life from different people.

I will never forget it, and I hope in the future when I see policies being put in place that affect young people, I’ll see an idea or two that I know came from the 4th Specialized Technical Committee pre-forum.

That would be very great indeed.


This article was written by Debby Johnson who attended the pre forum of the 4th 
Specialized Technical Committee on Youth Sports and Culture with support from the 
International Labour Organization.