EYESHENZHEN  /   Opinion

No letup in UNLEASH campaign

Writer: Zanna Samaila  |  Editor: Jane Chen  |  From:  

On Nov. 5, 2019, I joined 1,000 talents from 160 countries to converge under one roof in Shenzhen to work for the realization of the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

UNLEASH is a global innovation lab that brings together bright minds from all over the world to a new destination every year. The talents search for real and disruptive solutions to the SDGs through innovation challenges, inspiration and competition.

Nigeria is not left behind in this innovative process, and I felt proud to be Nigerian and represent the country at the high-level delegation of global talents.

In Shenzhen, I and three other UNLEASHers decided to come up with a robust project called SOUL to be executed in Yobe State, Nigeria, targeting girls aged from 12 to 17 who have no access to formal education by giving them a platform aimed at developing an entrepreneurial mindset and creative confidence skills. The project will involve a mentoring and a skills development program based on collaborative problem-solving, and focusing on real local community challenges, all backed by a mentorship support system and family engagement.

After returning home from Shenzhen, I collaborated with Spotlight for Transparency and Accountability, a nongovernmental organization. We conducted a community outreach targeting religious leaders, families and girls to see whether our project ideas are realistic for these particular communities, and we found that our project was welcomed in a society that is in urgent need of equitable and better education for all.

We are now appealing to UNLEASH to partner us with a funding organization to breathe hope into Yobe State, where the number of children who are out of school is alarming. More worrisome is the fact that the figure is rising. A Demographic Health Survey conducted in 2015 by the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) showed that the population of out-of-school children in Nigeria has risen from 10 million to 13.2 million. Yobe State had a whopping 658,770 out-of-school children.

The journey of salvaging the globe started in Denmark, Singapore and Shenzhen. Our Shenzhen event was an amazing one containing sleepless nights and morning yoga sessions, motivational dances, the Dragon Den, pitching ideas and a tight, busy work schedule.

UNLEASH is about sustainability. Time is not on our side as we are at the tipping point of saving the planet before 2030, and we UNLEASHers are now well prepared to change the old story by changing the world with our Denmark, Singapore and Shenzhen solutions.

(The author was one of the 1,000 talents at UNLEASH Innovation Lab 2019 held in Shenzhen.)