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Aida Othman (standing), former UN Volunteer, with UNICEF Uganda colleague who worked on first ever African Youth Forum 2010 held in Entebbe, Uganda. (Photo: UNICEF Uganda, 2010)

Facilitating online youth engagement in Africa

“Work in the field is crucial to the peacebuilding process – it gives a chance for authentic understanding of the issues at hand.  But you can also contribute to the process even if you are working in front of a computer, behind a desk far away from the field. Everyone can do their part by leveraging on their respective personal strengths and knowledge.”

Aida Safura Niza Othman (Malaysia) is a former UN Volunteer who worked as a UNV Communications Officer in 2010 for UNICEF Uganda.  As part of the HPC/UNV Programme run by Hiroshima Peacebuilders Center (HPC) with the United Nations Volunteers (UNV) programme as its implementing partner, Aida completed six weeks of training in Japan delivered by HPC in collaboration with Canadian, Swedish and other international institutes.

Aida’s key role was to facilitate online youth engagement for the African Youth Forum 2010 (AYF 2010). The main objective of AYF 2010 was to provide a platform across Africa for youth to share views and concerns related to maternal and child health in their communities, to raise awareness of the issues and to promote the inclusion and engagement of youth. Aida and UNICEF Uganda worked in partnership with the Government of Uganda, other UN agencies and civil society.  

In the lead-up to AYF 2010, Aida worked with UNICEF to engage young people across the continent in online discussions about maternal and child health and to increase the reach beyond the location of the Forum in Kampala, Uganda. Creating, sourcing and maintaining content for Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, SMS campaigns and other online resources, Aida helped to expand the discussion.  Aida noted that her experience on this assignment confirmed that “there is both a potential and actual positive impact that youth have in affecting positive change among themselves, their community and their country.”

Aida participated in the preparation and promotion of online questionnaires, and coordinated their translations with Youth Moderators working in Ghana, Ethiopia, Egypt and Madagascar.  She also led a session introducing Ugandan youth delegates to the online sites and ways in which they could be used.  And, amongst other things, Aida liaised with communications colleagues promoting the Forum via radio and television in order to cross promote effectively.

“Work in the field is crucial to the peacebuilding process – it gives a chance for authentic understanding of the issues at hand.  But you can also contribute to the process even if you are working in front of a computer, behind a desk far away from the field. Everyone can do their part by leveraging on their respective personal strengths and knowledge.”
-- Aida Safura Niza Othman, former UN Volunteer