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‘Empowering mothers will curb drug addiction in youth’

Isioma Kemakolam is the Programme Coordinator, Justice and Security Dialogue of the United States Institute of Peace (USIP). In this interview, she said their findings…

Isioma Kemakolam is the Programme Coordinator, Justice and Security Dialogue of the United States Institute of Peace (USIP). In this interview, she said their findings show that once mothers are empowered, the prevailing drug abuse among the youths could be reduced. 

What programmes do you facilitate generally?

 The programme we are piloting here in Nigeria is called the Justice and Security Dialogue (JSD) and we are partnering with the West African Network for Peace-Partner (WANEP). Our programmes are evidence based.  By evidence based, I mean we don’t just start designing an intervention without first conducting an empirical study to find out what the reality on ground is. We had a baseline study of the conflict in Jos North and at the same time mapped out the Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) in Jos North working in conflict areas. 

So after the baseline and conflict study, we found that the gap areas or the reason for conflicts is the contestation over Jos North, poor relationship between the police and the community and the third is drug abuse among the youths. After these findings, we began to map out CSOs that are working in these areas to support them. We discovered that CSOs have been working in those areas, but had no coordination and effective collaboration among them, with the security agencies and community members. So, we decided to facilitate a dialogue and programme among the stakeholders to sit them together, discuss and form partnerships on how to resolve the issues.  

One of such programmes is the Teens Against Drug Abuse (TADA), which is a fallout of our research findings. We found out that the young ones are actively involved in drugs – both in selling and consumption. Many of them come from families where the major business or means of livelihood is through the sale of these illicit drugs.  We felt that while working at the upper level to see how the enforcement of law against drug abuse can really take effect, we needed to do something to help the young ones who are vulnerable. 

We then decided to go to three public schools in Jos North which had such challenges and then organised an intervention programme. The schools are Government Secondary School West of Mines, Government Secondary School Angwan Rogo and Government Secondary School Gwom Nasarawa. The students were taught how to avoid use of drugs, and we rehabilitated those already addicted. 

In doing this, we are working with the parents teachers associations and the teachers at the local government area. We have launched the TADA clubs. We are also collaborating with the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), and they visit these schools, give them pep talks on drug abuse and at the same time design questions for quiz competition for the schools. We are trying to replicate the concept in other schools and fine tuning it. 

Do  you have programme that would bring mothers on board, to help halt drug abuse among their young children?  

We are also working with mothers, because we know the roles of mothers in the family. In our JSD programme we have about 15 mothers and their role is to reach out to the parents teachers associations of schools and discuss with them how to educate their children at home on the dangers of drug abuse. 

We have the USIP programme called Women Preventive Extremist Violence Programme. That one  works with mothers and there is a mothers’ school where they are taught how to bring up their children and how to detect early a child that is beginning to get himself or herself involved in crime or drugs. This particular programme is done in collaboration with the police, not to arrest such children but to bring them out and begin to mentor them so that they can desist from such behaviours. 

Have you recorded as success story so far?

Yes, several. For instance, we had a woman who suspected that her teenage son had joined an insurgent group because he disappeared suddenly and then came back with lots of money. His mother, having passed through our mothers’ school and gained knowledge, instantly understood that something was wrong. So, what she did was to hand over the child to the police and they began to quietly investigate. And true to her suspicion, her son had fallen into the hands of an insurgent group and they had begun to engage him and entice him with gifts and cash; although he was yet to be fully integrated. 

The child was eventually liberated. So, this is a success story for us because we have saved that child. We have several other success stories. Basically, that is how we bring women into the programme and teach them how to detect extremism/crime and drug abuse in their children early.

Recently, we also had a programme in Rikkos community in Jos, Plateau State, where members of the community volunteered their resources towards rehabilitating 25 youths who were into drugs. The police helped in profiling those youths who were addicted, and then handed them over to NDLEA to technically rehabilitate them. The youths were moved out of their homes, accommodated and fed. Some that needed medical attention were treated in collaboration with the Ministry of Health.

What are the likely signs mothers should look out for in their children to know if they are involved in drugs or other crimes?

The common indicators, for crime, are when you see your child having what you have not provided for him or her. When you see such, you should begin to question that child to know where he/she got such from. For instance, you see your child with an expensive phone and you know that even to feed at home is a problem, then you should know that something must be wrong somewhere. 

When it comes to the issue of drug abuse however, the case is more complicated. This is because most women are not economically empowered and so still depend on their husbands. And for many of them who want to engage in something that would bring income, you find out that they would be involved in selling alcohol, local drinks like ‘burukutu’ and ‘ogogoro’ and even illicit drugs. In that case, the children will automatically be involved in drinking alcohol or taking illicit drugs.

For instance, we have a woman from Plateau State in our mothers’ school who sells ‘burukutu’ and other illicit drugs to bring up her children. She became an alcoholic herself and all her children became alcoholics and drug addicts; that was a disaster for such family. Somebody invited her to the school and when she came she told us that she cannot leave the business because that was her only source of income and that it was the only way she feeds her family. 


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