Being empowered to change Nigeria’s lukewarm narrative on climate change

The writer of this article, Janet Ogundepo, is one of the fellows of MFWA’s Climate Change Journalism Fellowship Programme. In this piece, she shares both the excitement and the experience she has gained from the fellowship programme so far.

After an uneventful flight and seamless immigration checks, off I went to meet with my host, whom I was seeing physically for the first time.

As the car meandered through the streets of the capital of a country once called Gold Coast to our lush apartment at East Legon, I discovered that Christmas lights competed with the lights from the electric bulbs to illuminate the areas. Christmas was still in the air on January 10!

It was nice to see the lights welcome me to Accra, Ghana. But I came to this city for a reason; to become a certified Climate Change Journalism Fellow! As the only Nigerian journalist in this Climate Change Journalism Fellowship, I looked forward to meeting my colleagues from nine (9) other West African countries.

Meeting my colleagues would happen the next day, January 11, 2023. I checked into my apartment, a beautifully painted and set room with POP, tiles, an air conditioner and a mattress placed on a wooden bed frame. All thanks to the organizers, Media Foundation for West Africa, and the funders, Deutsche Welle Akademie, for making this journey pleasant, comfortable and exciting.

After settling in, we went to get food. I finally had my first taste of the long-contested Ghana Jollof!

The next day, after registering a Ghana sim card to make access to the internet and calls easier, I finally arrived at the premise of the Media Foundation for West Africa East Legon. There, I met and interacted with the other Fellows!

Sadly, with my almost non-existent knowledge of the French Language, I could barely communicate with my Francophone colleagues without an interpreter.

But it was beautiful to see, regardless of the language barrier, how we communicated and laughed at each other’s “broken French and English.”

Despite being the only Nigerian, I did not completely feel out of place. Interestingly, some of my colleagues and organisers at MFWA bore a semblance with some Nigerians I know. But the language barrier was a fault line – it is sad what colonialism has done to Africa.

As the days went by, I quickly picked up a few French language lessons as well as dived into learning about the World’s changing climate and its implication for Africa.

A few weeks after institutional and site visits, training workshops and wading into the ocean of climate change lessons and discoveries, I have learnt that Africa, especially my country Nigeria, still has a long way to go in respect of the implementation of its plans for renewable energy.

The training sessions have further beamed a torch on the current state of things, climate-wise, its short- and long-term effects and what needs to be done.

Not only does the fellowship focus on climate change but it is structured to arm participants with holistic knowledge through inclusive leadership, emotional intelligence, public speaking and communication skills to fully bake us to stand out, while honing our journalistic skills and prowess.

I’m being empowered to change the slow-moving narrative on climate change in Nigeria and to compel policymakers and implementers to put action to the result-oriented commitments made over the years.

I’m certain that by the time the fellowship is over, I will gently say that I am a better person, journalist, climate change advocate and West African (with a French accent!).

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