Ugochukwu Valentine was the laureate of the LabCitoyen 2016, a programme of Institut français Paris that gives the opportunity to young people from around the world, active in the field of human rights in their countries, to meet in Paris during a week to participate to debates and conferences. Now back in Nigeria, he gives us his feedback on the programme. 

“My name is Ugochukwu Valentine Agwuned. I am a Nigerian of Imo state origin. I’m 25 years old and currently enrolled to study political science at one of France’s finest universities.

I got active back in my university years being myself a trained debater, and later the president of the debate club of my university. I was two times representative of the students at the Senate of the University. I also had the rare privilege of volunteering with an organization called Progressing Association which worked on sensitizing young people in rural areas on HIV/AIDS and other illnesses related to sexual behaviors. Throughout those years, my desire to be at the service of humanity only grew deeper.

I had come to the Institut français in Abuja to develop my French and to seek assistance to further my studies in France when the competition for the programme Labcitoyen was launched. Immediately I saw the noticed I know it was that one opportunity I’ve been waiting for and I applied the same day. The competition entailed a presentation on the theme Human Rights and Health before a jury of experts from the French embassy (presentation in French). After some waiting, the call finally came through announcing my selection to represent my country Nigeria in France, all expenses taken care of by the embassy.

The programme was from the 3rd-11th July. I arrived in Paris on the 3rd of July. We were in total 50 participants from 39 different countries drawn from all the continents on the globe. And throughout the week, we all spoke the same language of human rights, of health and all in French. We had workshops and visits to globally renowned institutions like Institut Pasteur, Planning Familial, Cite des Science et de l’Industrie etc…

I was more than blessed by this programme for not only did I get the opportunity to represent my country at an international level but also I got to represent the entire continent of Africa. I was also on TV5 Monde (1st time on TV was on an International Television). I was also among the participants selected to give a final restitution of the entire week. And on the night of the picnic over the Seine River, I danced 4 straight hours non-stop to music from the Caribbean, the Americas, Africa, Europe, and Asia…

Knowledge and Confidence, I must highlight are some of the key things the programme brought me; knowledge that health is vital resource and Confidence to fight for the right of all to have access to this resource. I met someone who has been living with the HIV virus for over 27 years and is himself an activist encouraging other people to get tested and get the right treatment. I also came back home with more friends from all around the world and a lot of pictures.

I intend to continue these debates and impart the knowledge I acquired through the organization I founded (Positive Minded Students Initiative-PoMSI) and our current project, DH2-Network (Debates, Human rights and Health)

I’m grateful to the organisers of this event in Paris, Mathieu, Elodie, Vincent, Clotilde, etc. and here in Abuja, Aude, Ambroise, Léa, Anastasia, Saranne….for such a wonderful experience. Thank you all.”

Know more about LabCitoyen here.