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Journey to Global Citizenship

It was the last day of a 5-day Business Development Workshop under the National Entrepreneurship Competition held at Protea Hotel, Nike Lake Resort, Enugu, Nigeria in August 2004. I was about heading for my room when Joachim E., a fellow participant walked up to me. “I would like to keep in touch with you, please can I have your contact number and email address?” he requested.

Today, as I recall that conversation and everything that has happened by that singular act of exchanging phone and email contacts, I cannot but celebrate the coming of Information and Communication Technology. My new found friend stayed in touch, and we became very acquainted with one another’s professional background and work. At that time, I was a self starter in the world of social activism in opposition to my friend’s years of experience and striking achievements in the sector. Anyone who knows the geography of Nigeria very well would agree with me that we were miles apart, as he was based in the Eastern part of Nigeria while I lived in Northern Nigeria. The distance was, however, bridged by the exchange of phone calls and emails.

In 2005, Joachim invited me to participate in a United Nation’s Water Habitat Project he was hired to facilitate. Impressed by my work output, Joachim recommended me to attend the Women Global Green Action Network’s International Grassroots Women Environmental Strategy meeting and the fourth world water forum in Mexico City, Mexico (From 12 - 14 March 2006). The entire application process happened online and opened me up to a world of opportunities I never knew existed on the Web.

That particular opportunity opened me and my work up to the infinite opportunities that abound on the Web, and created new possibilities for me. ICT has enhanced both my personal and organizational development. I have continued to use technology (digital media tools and platforms to build my capacity and also accomplish my mission of advancing women’s active participation in environmental management and stewardship.

Based on a ‘Needs Assessment’ conducted in 2008, within the various communities where my organization works, I became particularly concerned about the high prevalence of water related diseases, inadequate sanitary facilities and very poor hygiene practices in Attarkar. Attarkar is only one out of many rural communities in Nigeria plagued by water, sanitation and hygiene related problems. Initially however, not much could be done beyond advocacy, because my work thrived solely on self funding at the time.

Hope however beamed when the organizers of the 1st African Women and Water Conference which held in Nairobi, Kenya (30 June- July 5, 2008) extended an opportunity to me to apply to attend the event in the company of an associate. A ready choice was no other person than Anna Avong, the leader of Attarkar Women Association of Nigeria (AWAN). I was able to submit a joint online application, which was accepted and resulted in our selection. Our eventual participation in the august event remains a memorable accomplishment especially because with my support, a grassroots woman leader in my community was able to gain international exposure. Above that, our joint participation opened a new chapter in my organizations ability to deliver Water Sanitation and Hygiene Intervention Programs and Projects.

My organization, the Women Initiative for Sustainable Environment (WISE) has the potential to gain greater global recognition because we now have a website, which was a free gift from Lin Hightower, a professor of graphic art and design based in Atlanta, USA. I have never met Lin in person, yet the kind of interaction we maintain using digital media tools and platforms have been transformational. ICT has made my work easier as I can now run my organization from any part of the world I find myself; and also stay connected with my collaborators. By having access to technology, the reach of my work has expanded and I have become more efficient and effective in my work. I have become globally connected with many change leaders with whom I exchange resources. So much has changed for me as a result of having access to digital devices. Technology gave my work a global perspective and I am now a global citizen.

Comments

When I first worked in technology more than 20 years ago at Intel, I remember the goal of the hightech personalities; Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and others, was a self-serving goal to put a computer in every home around the world. It was naive and unattainable at that time when most homes did not have basics, much less reliable electricity. Less expensive and rechargeable handheld devices and smart phones have finally made the goal of connecting many in the world to the internet a reality.

The amazing connections that can be made across cultures and around the world is rapidly changing how we see each other and ourselves. We are lucky to be living at such a time! Thank you for sharing your experience.

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