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The long walk to a hunger-free world: A Special Report On The Free School Meal Program by FoodClique Support Initiative

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Anne Frank once said that Hunger is not a problem, it is an obscenity, I couldn’t agree more. Hunger is a universal concept that has taken roots in every nation, wherever you find a lot of people, you will discover even more hungry people. When we listen to the news and hear reports of how the government or some organizations spend billions to fight hunger, we often feel a sense of sympathy for “those” who are hungry. Subconsciously, we feel it is their problem and not ours. This nonchalant attitude has become the bedrock on which the misconception of hunger is founded upon.

As opposed to popular opinion, hunger isn’t a problem for a select group of people. It may affect a particular spectrum of society directly (the poor and disadvantaged), but its long-term effect resonates in every home, city, and country in the world. If you are not hungry, there is a high chance that you may be attacked by a hungry person who has lost hope. So, you see, it’s everyman’s problem, and until we collectively make up our minds to fight it, we will remain victims of its repercussions.

 

The United Nations Organization has been spearheading the fight against hunger through its Food and Agriculture Organization; the annual World Food Day celebration is one of the avenues through which awareness is raised on hunger-related issues. There are over 821 million people in the world, and one in ten people suffer from chronic undernourishment. As staggering as these figures are, the world still feels relaxed in the fight against hunger. There is widespread concern about hunger in the world but what about our home? What about Nigeria?

 

Founded on July, 4th 2012, FoodClique Support Initiative has been the leading proponent in the fight against hunger in Nigeria. With over 1,550 volunteers, they are focused on the distribution of food items, reduction of food waste and educating the public on the problems that hunger breeds. Through strategic and sustainable community programs, they have been able to provide over 340,000 meals a feat that received commendation from within and outside the country.. One of their community programs has made an impressive impact on children; The Free School Meal Program.

When a child is hungry, he/she turns to the family unit for satisfaction, when such fulfillment is not derived from home, the child turns to the streets. The street may offer temporary solace from hunger, but that comes with negative influence. On the other hand, if the child gets relief from hunger at school, that child will be enthusiastic about learning, stay hopeful and turn away from the streets. It is with this understanding of the connection between the classroom and the child that FoodClique Support Initiative launched The Free School Meal Program in 2013 with Ansarudeen and Ebute Metta primary schools in Lagos State.

 

On Mondays, Tuesdays, and Fridays, FoodClique provides free energy-rich biscuits, nutritious drinks, noodles and milk to pupils from Nursery one to Primary two across schools. Interestingly, on Fridays, the best three pupils from each class are given a take-home ratio pack containing food items for the family as an incentive for good behavior. Five schools have benefited from this program thus far, and there have been a 13% increase in attendance in the schools and a record 100% in punctuality. With approval from the State Universal Basic Education Board in Lagos State, The Free School Meal Program compliments the efforts of diligent teachers and schools by ensuring that the average child has the best of both worlds, food, and education.

For this program to remain sustainable, it requires funding. Volunteers and kind-hearted individuals contribute their quota to making the program a successful one. This year, FoodClique has received two major grants; the first from Basheer Tosin Ashafa ( BTA Foundation) and Cantagali. While the second is from Share Your Bread Foundation, these grants made it possible for FoodClique to expand the Free School Meal Program to more schools. The collaboration with organizations such as Cantagali shows the miles we can cover on this long walk to eradicating hunger.

 

You may not have the capacity to feed a thousand children, but you do have the ability to feed one child. If we commit to feeding children both intellectually and physically, through the Free School Meal Program, we will be contributing our quota to the efforts made all over the world by taking kids off the street while putting smiles on their faces. We will never know what it means to be truly free as a people until we birth a hunger-free world.

 

 

For information on how you can volunteer or donate towards the Free School Meal Program, please visit

www.foodclique.org

NGOs - SDGs

Climate Launchpad: Beyond competition, a catalyst for change

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Climate Launchpad Competition 2023 Image.

Despite the success of The Climate Launchpad Competition 2023, Climate Launchpad through the support of Climate-KIC and Irish Aid provided additional support to the participants of the competition through the Post-Climate Launchpad Accelerator. Given that the majority of the participants are early-stage businesses, capacity building is a necessity. The post-competition support is divided into 2, The masterclasses that are being handled by the Climate Launchpad Global team which has participants from over 7 African countries, and The national capacity-building session handled by the Climate LaunchPad Nigeria Team. 

The Masterclass session featured a business-changing session on important modules like funding options & Instruments, Gender and Climate, Communications and Storytelling, Climate Impact etc.  The national capacity-building session focuses on marketing strategies, practical and optimal use of social media and analytics. As an early-stage business in Nigeria, one of the major challenges you face is reaching and communicating with your potential customers at the market entry stage. The modules were selected after feedback from alumni of the competition. 

The modules have been proven to be useful as we have started seeing the tractions of the businesses on social media. Overall, the post-competition support program has been no short of helpful to the businesses. We had 5 active participants from Nigeria who have expressed their gratitude for the post-competition support. Each of them will be given a grant of EUR200 to facilitate their marketing and social media usage.

The National Lead for Climate Launchpad Nigeria, Oluwatosin Ajide affirms the importance of the accelerator program “If we have more competition dedicating their support beyond just the pitching like Climate Launchpad does, We would have more green businesses with solid foundations”. He also thanked the Climate Launchpad central team and the sponsors the Climate-KIC and Irish Aid for their constant support in building the green ecosystem in Nigeria.

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NGOs - SDGs

GEANCO Foundation and Archewell Foundation Announce Mental Health Initiative for Nigerian Youth

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The GEANCO Foundation and The Archewell Foundation has announced an expansion of their partnership, currently serving girls and young women across Nigeria with menstrual health products and education, to include mental health resources and training for young men and women. 

This expanded partnership kicked off with its inaugural Mental Health Summit, taking place over two days and serving nearly 200 students in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital. Prince Harry and Meghan, The Duke and Duchess of Sussex and co-Founders of The Archewell Foundation opened the Summit by delivering inspiring remarks to the young people in attendance.

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GEANCO intends to hold summits throughout the country over the next year, providing teenage girls and boys with the information, skills, and coping mechanisms necessary to flourish mentally.

“Youth in Nigeria are critically underserved in terms of mental and menstrual health”, said GEANCO’s CEO Afam Onyema.  “I am deeply grateful to The Duke and Duchess for partnering with us to address this crisis and provide this vulnerable but inspiring young generation with what they need to thrive in body, mind and spirit.”  

A strong stigma also surrounds mental health in Nigeria, which is critically neglected in the country. The World Health Organization estimates that only 3% of the federal government’s health budget goes to mental health, and while up to one-third of Nigerians have mental health challenges, fewer than 500 mental health professionals serve the country’s 200 million plus citizens.  Nigeria’s teens and youth in particular have little to no access to mental health support.

The expanded partnership will also continue the ongoing work to support young girls with menstrual health products and education. An estimated 37 million women and girls in Nigeria experience “period poverty”, meaning they are unable to access or afford menstrual products like pads, tampons, and underwear. Because of the material difficulties caused by period poverty and the deep stigma surrounding menstruation, millions of girls in the country miss school every month, crippling their educational advancement and deepening Nigeria’s already vast levels of gender inequality.

GEANCO Foundation provides critical health care and education services in Nigeria. Its David Oyelowo Leadership Scholarship provides full tuition, medical care, and social and emotional support to young female victims of terrorism and gender inequality in Nigeria.

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NGOs - SDGs

Laila Bastati on the importance of diversity in shaping Africa’s future

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Laila Bastati, Chief Commercial Officer, APO Group (Source: APO Group)

As we observe International Women’s Month with the theme of ‘Inspire Inclusion,’ it is essential to contemplate the importance of diversity within organizations and its crucial role in shaping a more equitable and inclusive society. This year’s theme calls on us to inspire others to understand and value women’s inclusion, not just for the benefit of women but for the advancement of the African continent. 

Women across Africa face unique challenges, from cultural barriers to limited access to resources and opportunities. However, despite these difficulties, they continue to defy the odds, breaking barriers, and making significant contributions to their communities and economies. As we recognise such achievements, it’s crucial to underline the importance of promoting the role of women in driving more diverse, competitive, and future-looking workspaces.

“At APO Group, we’re proud of our extremely diverse team of professionals from all over the world. The diversity we see in age, gender, locations, backgrounds, and experience all combines to forge a formidable team that brings the best of APO Group to our clients. In an industry that has achieved, in recent years, a good gender balance, we strive to lead by example, leveraging our platform to advocate for broader gender equality and diversity initiatives, aiming to inspire other organizations to follow suit.” said Laila Bastati, Chief Commercial Officer, APO Group.

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“For us, such diversity reflects a leadership that values and promotes the unique perspectives and contributions of women, at all levels of the organisation. It also clearly demonstrates that we’re an organisation that values inclusivity and equality, and that the different voices and ideas of our team reflect a unique understanding of the African markets in which we operate. The result of being firm proponents of an environment in which all contributions are valued, and where collaboration is part of our culture, is that innovation and creativity come naturally.” Laila Bastati Added.

The importance of embracing diversity

Embracing diversity, especially gender diversity, is essential for any organization aiming to create a balanced, fair, and dynamic working environment.There’s no doubt that for any type of organisation, embracing diverse perspectives and expertise, highlighting achievements and success stories, and advocating for equal opportunities and recognition, are all aspects that contribute to a more equitable and inclusive environment where everyone has the chance to succeed based on merit and talent. 

Successful companies intentionally cultivate diverse leadership at all levels. While this may initially appear coincidental, the process of building diverse teams is a deliberate and strategic endeavour that underscores a commitment to creating spaces where women’s leadership and insights drive innovation and strategic decision-making.

What makes a diverse team?

Firstly, promoting diversity in leadership is crucial. Actively recruiting, developing, and promoting the right female candidates into leadership positions ensures women’s perspectives are represented at the decision-making table. Secondly, reviewing and revising policies to ensure they are gender-neutral and promote equal opportunities for all employees is essential. Thirdly, providing equal access to training, mentorship, and career advancement opportunities, with a particular focus on supporting women, is key.

Additionally, creating a supportive work environment and nurturing a culture of inclusion where all employees feel valued, respected, and supported is paramount. Regularly monitoring and evaluating diversity metrics to track progress and identify areas for improvement is also important. Finally, embracing a culture of work meritocracy where individuals are recognised and rewarded based on their skills, contributions, and performance, rather than on gender, race, or other characteristics, completes the foundation of a diverse team.

In the context of this special period of the year, I urge organizations across Africa to recognize and harness the unique strengths women bring to the table, not only to promote gender equity, but to ensure these organizations will continue to have a place in the workspace of tomorrow.

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