LAGOS, NIGERIA- On October 1, 2018, Nigeria’s Independence Day, R. Evon Idahosa, our founder and Executive Director, was a featured speaker at The Platform, the largest and leading one-day conference in Nigeria that culls together leading global experts, politicians, innovators and influencers to educate and inspire others into action. The Conference is aired live on national television and online, where it reaches thousands of viewers. Prior speakers who have graced The Platform stage include Nigeria’s current Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo SAN, Anne-Marie Slaughter (Former Director of Policy Planning for the U.S. State Department), Jared Cohen (Director of Google Ideas), Dr. Oby Ezekwesili (Presidential candidate and Former Minister of Education, Nigeria) and Ibukun Awosika (Chairman of First Bank of Nigeria, LTD.).
This year, the theme was “Beyond Politics, the New Tribe of Africans Fighting Poverty and Changing the Face of the Continent.” The Platform brought together leading young reformers and experts who are “using their gifts and talents to help the collective.” Other speakers included experts in the fields of communications, education, health, farming and technology.
Ms. Idahosa spoke on her work as an activist at Pathfinders, shedding light on the day to day realities and challenges of fighting human trafficking and on three lies which Nigeria has adopted about the value of our women and girls. She impassioned call to action implored those gathered and viewing to get involved in disrupting the narrative on the continent in whatever way they can. Below is an excerpt from her talk:
“Your voice will never count if it is not heard. Your intentions will never be known if they are not acted upon. What small step can you begin to take today to change our narrative? As a parent, can you commit to affirming the image and likeness of God when you see it in your children everyday? As a man, will you stand as a gender advocate, because we need you…men, we need you to teach our boys that women are not objects for male consumption; that women’s liberation is as much theirs as it is ours.
As a politician, will you shun corruption and devote a larger percentage of the budget to women’s empowerment programs? As the private sector, can you join us in job creation, in diversifying the economy, in economic empowerment? As a Nigerian, will you vote in 2019 for candidates that prioritize people over personal profits and are not simply benevolent dictators? Will you commit to using your social media platforms to raise awareness about trafficking? Will you help us launch Project Restore? If you see something, will you say something?
Now is the time to courageously confront the past, to debunk the lies and to speak truth to power because every minute that you wait, someone is forced to wait for you. Every day that you delay, someone is forced to endure. Miles Monroe once said, “die empty.” And to me, a life that negates the service of others is wasted.
In the words of Rabbi Hillel, ‘if I am not for myself, then for who? If not now, then when?’
Nigeria awaits, our future awaits. And is you listen closely enough, you will hear the voices of our children beckoning for freedom. Free people free people. Will you join me in stretching tight shoes?”
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