Stories and podcasts Spotlight Feature Spotlight Feature: Oghenechovwen Oghenekevwe Name: Oghenechovwen Oghenekevwe Age: 19 Country and Location: Warri, Nigeria Area of interest in International Development: Environmental Affairs and Development Twitter Handle: @c_chovwen Website: Organisation/affiliations: Federal University of Technology Akure, Future Earth, The Green Institute, Dot Youth Global, Care About Climate, Commonwealth Correspondents, United Major Group for Children and Youth, Commonwealth Youth Council, Earthplus Africa, and World Oceans Day Youth Advisory Council. Background – Tell us a little about yourself? I now self-identify as an ambivert who loves to be open-minded and courteously probing in everything. I have stopped being ashamed of my mistakes, I will rather learn from them. When I was a child, I attended an interesting mix of primary and boarding secondary schools. Different places. Different settings. And it was during this time, I began to learn how to share in on other people’s perspectives and situations. My family, friends and teachers play a strong role in my life and if I could, I will change the feeling of hurt and sadness I always get when I have to make changes in my friendships and relationships. I have realized it’s a fair sacrifice for personal growth. It's never about neglecting loved ones. I would never practice gender discrimination, religious bias, or make first conclusions about someone. Writing and research are my super strengths. Tell us about your area of work? When I was 15, learning about troubles in geography and civic classes was not enough for me. I had to take action and be part of the solution. Asides from writing on human and social issues, and how they are sometimes influenced by environmental factors, I now volunteer and work within the environmental space – sustainability, climate action, and marine conservation. Often times, my changing roles are not frontline ones. Instead they are about advocacy, developing and supporting new initiatives, and offering recommendations and ideas. What issues do you consider to be the most prevalent to women and young people in your country? Ageism, women discrimination, and gendered violence are the persistent issues that draw us back from getting to the true society we deserve in Nigeria. Here, these prevalent problems are complex: at the same time, they are almost unnoticeable, widespread, and underreported. On a personal level, these issues are increasingly dreadful as so many people, including victims, try to rationalize and defend them, and the rights of the people who perpetuate them. What programmes are currently operational in your country and do you think they are working? If yes why, if no why? And what could be done better? I always want to highlight Follow The Money, an initiative by Connected Development (CODE). This initiative brings grassroots volunteers and experts from different work areas to visualize and track government and international aid spending, and let the public know how effective these monies have been in rural communities. With completed and on-going critical projects on health, education, and environment cases, Follow The Money is working in driving transparency and accountability in Nigeria. And I think it’s because CODE, in a simple way, has been able to recruit and collaborate with the right motivated set of people first. The developmental needs of rural communities and grassroots is clear to them and they prioritize them. I do not have a bird-eye view on their future plans or current challenges, but Follow The Money could be better if more communities across all 6 regions of Nigeria benefit from their bold actions. I believe this will happen as CODE grows. Being a strong voice on accountability and transparency in Nigeria is daunting enough. Every move must be right, at least. What do you think is the biggest obstacle that needs to be overcome in the field of International Development? I think the biggest obstacle is the bottom-of-the-barrel approach of individual countries or multilateral institutions when assisting other countries facing risks and challenges. We see capacity-building and education agreements not engaging the universities of affected countries. Also, assistance efforts (in funding or in-kind) are often mobilized and coordinated through development agencies and private consultancy partners alone from their own countries or institutions. What do you think are some solutions to these problems? As societies evolve and shared challenges become more complex and greater, universities – the world's oldest capacity-building institution – must provide roadmaps and solutions. Engaging universities will help sustain international development efforts. Also, approach for such efforts should be exchange-based (knowledge, experience, or expertise) and focus on local collaboration with communities and organizations. Finally, bigger stakeholders within the international development space could be deliberate on helping others build transparent and strong systems. What makes this sector so special for you? There is still so much we do not know about the values of our ecosystems yet and their interconnectedness to the existence of human life. This knowledge gap makes it so special. What future progress in International Development – regionally, across the continent, or even for your own personal future – excites you the most about this sector? The possibilities of artificial Intelligence and other tech could create in transforming areas of International Development excites me the most.