As the international community commemorates this year’s International Youth Day with the theme “Green Skills for Youth: Towards a Sustainable World” today, we are again reminded of the important roles youth play in the development of any nation. Needless to say that the level of development of a nation is directly proportional to the vibrancy of its youth. This means that the more a nation’s youth are empowered with jobs and developmental skills, the more developed such a nation would be.
As the world continues to transition towards a greener economy, it becomes imperative that Nigerian youths are equipped with the relevant green skills needed to drive a 21st Century green economy towards achieving the global sustainable goals and the African Union Agenda 2063.
The United Nations defines green skills as “knowledge, abilities, values, and attitudes needed to live in, develop and support a sustainable and resource-efficient society”. However, most of Nigerian youths lack the green skills to move Nigeria from a developing fossil economy to a developed green economy. This is important given that, in a sense, Nigeria is a youthful country with about 157 million of its over 200 million population being youths. With 53% youth unemployment according to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), urgent actions need to be taken by stakeholders to ensure the future of the teeming youth population does not become one of a destructive force. But rather effectively harnessed to enhance the productivity and national development of Nigeria. As the World Bank has rightly noted, “Protecting and investing in young people builds human capital and enables them to realize their full potential, sustaining long-term economic growth and preventing millions from falling into poverty.”
Disability is a Climate Change Issue
The intersection between disability and climate change is often glossed over in national policy and planning. This is also the case within the development space where climate-based CSOs and disability-based CSOs often do not work together in their programming.
A 2023 study conducted by the New Media Advocacy Project (NMAP) on ”Narrative Change Around Disability and Climate Change” in the Niger Delta found that the adverse effects of climate change “are further exacerbated for persons with disabilities and that “Both PWDs and people active in the climate justice space informs that PWDs are very rarely involved in climate action. Across the board, PWDs are often ignored even in the most immediate emergency responses.”
The is therefore a need for the voices of young PWDs to be mainstreamed in the national green economy conversation. A green economy would mitigate the effect of climate change on persons with disabilities who are disproportionately affected by its adverse effect.
Equipping Nigerian youths with disabilities with green skills would not only empower them to become more productive citizens but would also ensure a green economy, which would mitigate climate change, thus leading to sustainable development.
What then is the Future of Young Persons with Disabilities in green Nigeria?
Youths with disabilities in Nigeria lag in all indices of skill acquisition compared with their counterparts without disabilities. This is a significant demographic capable of contributing to GDP of the country if given equal opportunity. Research shows that half of the over 30 million persons with disabilities are 60 and above (PTCIJ). This shows that a significant number of the 30 million PWDs in Nigeria are youths.
Unfortunately, youth with disabilities in Nigeria lack the requisite (green) skills, whether professional, entrepreneurial, technological, IT or otherwise, to effectively engage the job market and contribute to the growth of the country.
Globally, persons with disabilities have less access to basic technology and the internet (ILO, 2022), as 864 million people in Africa, a large percentage of who are PWDs, are unconnected to the internet (Statista, 2023). Yet, if the quest for inclusive and sustainable development in Nigeria is to be achieved, leaving no one behind must also mean leaving no one offline (UNDESA, 2021). As of 2022 in Nigeria, an estimated 155 million people had access to the internet (NBS, 2023). And about 22 – 48 million people, that is 11% – 24% of the population (a large percentage of who are PWDs) are without any access to the internet. In fact, 24% of the over 30 million PWDs in Nigeria are not aware of the Internet (Vanguard, 2023).
It is thus imperative that the ongoing review of the National Youth Policy should take into consideration the intersection of disability and climate change and the need to ensure that youths with disabilities are equipped with 21st-century green skills and PWDs mainstreamed in the national green conversation.
Grace Jerry is Grace Jerry is a Music Artist, Disability Rights Advocate, and Peace Promoter. She is also a Mandela Washington Fellow, WASH Ambassador on Disability, and serves as the Executive Director of the Inclusive Friends Association. You can send feedback and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. She tweets from @gracejerry.