CYC caught up with Jennifer Uchendu from Nigeria to discuss SustyVibes
Jennifer: I want to thank the Commonwealth Youth Council for recognizing my work and featuring me on this platform, I am working on so many great and exciting projects to increase youth participation in the SDGs and general sustainability. I am looking to partner with as many organisations on all of these and to build international ties with other youths also doing great work in their own spheres.
One very interesting project that I would love to share is our Susty Celebs project, we are in talks with some African celebs and are partnering with them to use their influence on social media to talk about sustainability, we would invite them to our susty parties and have everyone discussing about a worthy cause!
Why are you so passionate about sustainable development and consumption?
I am working to achieve Sustainable Production and Consumption because I have come to understand that this is one goal that empowers youth, promotes the health of people and the environment at the same time.
I live in a country that produces food waste worth $750 Billion annually (Danfoss) and yet has so many hungry citizens, that same report also revealed that for “every ton of food waste generated, 1.9t C02 eq/t is emitted;’ insisting that half of Nigeria’s population faces “threats of hunger and starvation. I think it is disturbing to have an agricultural rich continent with hunger problems derived from so many factors that this goal aims to achieve and more.
For me, I am very particular about waste and pollution, having talked with top recycling actors in Nigeria, I am now launching this new campaign on waste management called #StareDownOnPollution , the campaign seeks to discourage the act of littering and pollution in our environment whilst creating awareness on the various recycling initiatives in Nigeria. With this, we provide two solutions at a time.
Achieving Goal 12 is very important for a country like Nigeria with an ever increasing population, we want a cleaner environment, we want safer farming practices and we want to encourage young people using local produce for their various businesses thus promoting our economy directly or indirectly. There is therefore a great avenue for young people to create more opportunities for themselves in sectors like recycling, sustainable farming etc
With my organisation, SustyVibes, we try to reduce our ecological footprints to the barest minimum, we rarely ever print documents on paper, our complimentary cards are recycled and also I decided to publish our articles on sustainability online instead of printing, that way we are very environmentally friendly.
SustyVibes tells us about their impact:
A: So far, I have taught over 350 school children and over 100 youths the SDGS, teaching young children as young as age 5! For an organisation that is only 3 months old, I have seen how far passion can take any project, apart from being featured in mainstream media, I am now getting involved in bigger projects to implement the SDGs at sub-national level, this makes me really excited because I have fun doing what I do and I am also changing lives , promoting the environment and inspiring other young people in the process.
Via our Susty Person of the Week features, youths are getting inspired and networking with sustainability champions in various sectors every week.
Our SustyParties give young people a chance to relax and discuss sustainability under fun environments, watching and listening to green themed movies and music, playing games, shopping from local fashion products etc, it has been our most successful project for youths so far and I hope to extend it to other major cities in Nigeria.
Our SustyPlaces project promotes ecotourism, climate action and sustainable living, it has taken 50 youths to a park where we witnessed wildlife, had fun and planted a tree.
Our Susty Business column encourages businesses to think green and incorporate sustainability into their framework.
I have read testimonies from young people saying how what I do has changed their views on the environment and how they look forward to our next campaign or activity, what this does for me is to stay inspired and keep creating more and more ideas to drive sustainability in Africa,
Though SustyVibes is not where I want it to be, mainly because, I run all financial costs so far from my personal savings and so can only work on small projects within my capacity.
SustyVibes makes a call for partnership:
I am looking to partner with organisations that like what we do and want to support us, organisations who want to implement the SDGs one way or the other, I am looking for both financial assistance and marketing/media/Technical assistance, I want to replicate most of the activities in many more states and countries in Africa and give these projects the required visibility, I believe I have the energy, will power and passion and I am surrounded by so many passionate young people and together we can a sustainable Africa.
In another 2 years, I really hope to have reached a larger number of African youth and just inspire them to think and act for Sustainable Development, I would want to let them know how much Gender Equality affects our lives and how simple things like recycling and good waste management can be rewarding – good health, gifts and a cleaner environment.
Where do you see youth in all of this?
For me, I believe the youth have the energy and will power needed to drive the SDGs, I say this because once young people understand these goals, their targets, indicators and the consequences of not achieving them, it becomes alarming because we are the next generation going into leadership, having our own families and so the SDGs are really for us, if we don’t follow through with their achievement then we would be setting ourselves up to suffer, especially in Africa where there has been alot of mismanagement in almost every sector, young people are the hope our continent has to get us to where we need to be. So first, youths must know the SDGs, they must add their voice to the implementation of the goals, I have achieved this by engaging with some leaders on social media each time we have events or discussions, I send reports to our Minister of Environment so she knows what the youths are thinking. With this, youth are able to hold leaders accountable and even themselves accountable because some of these goals require active citizen participation as much as government’s.
My advice for young people would be to find themselves and what they really hope to achieve in their lives as early on as possible. For me, I already knew I wanted a future in Sustainability at the age of 18, as an undergraduate in the University; I was so drawn to the environment and to women development that I could not stop developing myself in the field. That is what I think young people should do, find their passion and run with it. It is true that we do not have the best environment to cultivate and develop passion in Africa, so there is a need to be tactful and have good mentors that can guide you, I did not set up SustyVibes at the age of 18, I waited 6 years to build the network, qualification and experience needed to excel in the field and I am still learning. Life is one journey and we as young but fast growing people need to keep investing in ourselves, young people need to understand that we are in the age where we have the least form of distraction (family, parents etc) and this is the best time to develop ourselves to be competitive and knowledgeable, we have to find ways to face our fears and start doing the things we are passionate about, as long as it impacts lives, promotes the environment and helps add colour to your country then it is totally worth doing.