MY PERSONAL EXPERIENCE IN THE #STANDTALL CAMPAIGN
In brief, the #stand tall campaign was launched to encourage young women to pursue careers in the energy sector. It was conceived by the ECOWAS center for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (ECREEE) as a global campaign “to raise awareness of the under-utilized potential of women in the energy sector”. The campaign came with a clear message; that “women and girls should be proud of and confident in their abilities, qualities, capacities, talents and skills. Women and girls have something to offer towards ending energy poverty and bringing sustainable development to their communities”.
“To raise awareness and strengthen advocacy on the issue, ECREEE invited young men and women (16-32 years) from the ECOWAS region to participate in its online writing competition. This is where I joined the campaign. My article for the youth writing contest was awarded the second prize by the panel of judges.
The writing competition came with monetary prizes but that was merely a tip of the iceberg. UNIDO got interested in the #stand tall campaign and invited me to participate in the Vienna energy forum 2015(VEF2015). The World Bank also got wind of the campaign and was eager to sponsor my travel and participation in the VEF2015. This was of course mediated by ECREEE, all thanks to Ms. Monica Maduekwe who is very passionate about and is spear-heading the campaign.
This was how I was sponsored to travel to Europe for a life changing educational experience; practically on platter of gold. I literally walked into Europe! Just because I joined the campaign!
Attending the forum was my first time in Europe. My friends have asked me “what was your experience? How do you find Europe?” I have conjured a quick but honest answer. “Indescribable!” perhaps the experience would have been easier for me to describe if I were a better story teller!
The high point of my experience was at the networking event on the 19th June when I was called upon to present a youth perspective on closing the gender gap in the energy sector. I was almost overwhelmed by that singular gesture, even though I was given an advance notice.
Now you need to understand my reaction. The event was declared open, and chaired by the clearly intelligent and ebullient Dr. Pradeep Monga of UNIDO. I shared the stage with the abundantly brilliant minister of energy, mines and industry of Uganda, and my speech was to be followed by a lady I would find difficult to describe, Hai Helen, a UNIDO goodwill ambassador.
Above all, the assistant ambassador of Nigeria to Austria and the DG of energy commission of Nigeria were in due attendance just for my sake and to encourage and support me.
Beside the immeasurable education available from the high level panels and speeches at the side events was the one to one interactions with other participants. Those were even more refreshing and educating. But sharing the podium with seasoned and world renowned technocrats was for me, a little out from the blues!
The experience reinforced my conviction that we have to advocate gender equality in energy sector. For me, the campaign is just begun!
I have had a modest experience in public policy (research and analysis) and a very rigorous training in physics. I intend to bring my talent and skill to bear on gender-energy dichotomy; not because of the goodies that come but because of what I said in my interview in Vienna biz: “I believe women are important in the energy sector and if we fail to close the gender gap in the energy sector, we overlook an opportunity to advance human development.”