Opemipo Ogunkeyede: Acquiring digital skills are gateways to dynamic mindsets

Opemipo Ogunkeyede is a beacon of hope in the world. She is a bright shining light that refuses to go dim. In her own sphere, she is making a global impact. When many tend to shy away from Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), she stands as an ambassador for this worthy cause.

Young, talented and intelligent, Opemipo is the Founder of The Eco Emissaries, a Non-Governmental Organisation focused on climate action and action on plastic pollution, advancing circular economy, environmental sustainability, projecting the beauty of the environment and its resources across Africa, grassroots and globally. 

There is more to Opemipo, she is not the average female or a lazy Nigerian youth. With a knack for creating positive social change, she has many achievements to her credit. Omote Ro Dhe was fascinated with Opemipo's personality, her work, her projects and all she stands for. 

Read excerpts of the no-hold-barred chat we had with Opemipo below:

Can you tell us more about your journey into environmental activism and what inspired you to become an environmentalist at such a young age?

My journey into Environmentalism has been part of me right from childhood but commenced fully long ago in my secondary school days, Grade 11, being appointed as a health prefect of my school, however prior to then,I have been engaging in activities directly related to Environmentalism. However, that was a platform to be a change on a wider level and also drive a behavioural change in numbers of others within, being named the health perfect. After graduation, the journey didn't end there. As a young girl passionate about Health - of the planet, the public, the environment, its inhabitants, etc; the journey was spurred by the evident visible negative impact of these actions and wastes; Polluted oceans, threatened ecosystems, death of marine creatures, mass extinction of marine biodiversity, extreme waste dumping, clogged drains, flooding, poor air quality, polluted streets, poor waste management systems/policies, the harsh effects of the above on vulnerable communities I could see around. The journey of environmental activism spurred from knowing myself it's not just about identifying the problem but taking action and responsibility to address the problem. I further continued as I navigated an education phase with the World Health Organisation - one of the organisations which I bagged many certifications from - of my achievement as an 18-year-old girl with 121 Certifications, Badges and Honours from different internationally recognised organisations in the world; building and stacking up knowledge, knowing more and more about this cause, and a professional launch into the field spurred up from here, I launched myself into advocating for this cause. It has been 3 years since I got to know about the Sustainable Development Goals, and it has been 3 years since I started working professionally on my SDGs of interest - 4,5, 13,14 and 15, however, little was I aware I've been contributing long ago (about 6 years ago) to advancing the sustainable development goals; numbers of them - Quality Education, Life on Land and Clean Water and Sanitation majorly. A few years ago, I founded my NGO, The Eco Emissaries, a youth-led organization focused on climate action and action on plastic pollution, advancing circular economy, environmental sustainability, projecting the beauty of the environment and its resources across Africa, grassroots and globally, of my other 1 NGO and a Company addressing other social issues. One of the things that make my environmentalism journey really effective aside from research, innovations, projects, advocacy, education and communications, is due to another hat I wear, being a girl in tech; a girl in tech with 19+ digital skills and still upskilling, using technology to tackle some of the complex global issues including her passionate cause most especially- environmental pressing issues of plastic pollution, climate action, ocean protection, etc in the world. Recently, I had the honour of being featured with the Voice of the West Nigeria, named an African Voice and an extraordinary 18-year-old environmentalist and tech advocate making waves in the global change, among many other features.

Technologies such as geographic information systems (GIS), remote sensing, and drones have been a great practice contributor to my environmentalism journey.

How do you envision the impact of digital skills in preparing young individuals for the challenges of the digital era?

The pace of technological change is faster than ever, and each new generation is born into a world more deeply integrated with and reliant on digital technologies. Being able to understand, navigate, and leverage these technologies is becoming essential for young people to fully participate in society, access opportunities, and reach their potential. Beyond just using devices and platforms, truly developing digital literacy and skills empowers young individuals with a crucial set of tools to shape their own futures. Learning how to find, evaluate, and synthesize information online allows them to make more informed decisions and think more critically about the increasingly digital world around them while grasping concepts like algorithms and AI gives them insight into the forces influencing the information they consume. To truly thrive in the digital era, young people must cultivate competencies far beyond swiping screens or passphrase commands. They must develop higher faculties of discernment, ethics, and wisdom in a realm where the very nature of truth and reality are being reshaped. Firstly, acquiring digital skills is not merely a technical pursuit; it's a gateway to cultivating a dynamic mindset essential for success in a rapidly evolving technological environment.

As digital technologies rapidly evolve, having technological fluency and a growth mindset allows young people to more readily adapt and learn new skills as they evolve. Those comfortable with technology may have an easier time pivoting as demands shift in the job market. As it'd be, in the professional realm, digital skills are instrumental in bolstering employability. Proficiency in areas such as coding, data analysis, and digital literacy opens up a plethora of opportunities across diverse industries. The digital era demands a workforce that can harness technology to drive innovation and efficiency. Young individuals armed with these skills become indispensable contributors to the workforce, navigating and thriving in roles that were once inconceivable. Core digital skills around using devices, software/apps, and understanding the internet open doors for pursuing passions, education, jobs, and exposure to new ideas. Those lacking access or skills face steeper barriers to entry. In a nutshell, prioritizing digital skills helps empower youth with agency and opportunity in determining their future, while enabling participation as active digital citizens who can help advance both local and global communities. A comprehensive digital education sets up young people for long-term success.

Being featured on various media outlets globally, how do you handle the attention and responsibility that comes with being recognized for your achievements?

Having the privilege to be featured globally over and over on media outlets, receiving a global recognition for my achievements and my being brings a greater responsibility - one I neither take lightly nor let overshadow my driving purpose. With more attention comes greater responsibility - to my fields, to the causes I represent, and to continuing to serve as a role model and mentor to both young, adults, men, and women from all walks of life. I strive to handle the spotlight thoughtfully and channel it towards a greater meaningful impact. When interviewed, I aim to broaden crucial yet nuanced conversations happening in my areas of expertise. The opportunity to share my stack of knowledge on a bigger platform allows me to educate and inspire positive change. Accolades like the awards received, certifications of achievements, invitations from esteemed individuals in the world and in my country, esteemed opportunities reached out to for, etc validate me, but the work does not stop there. I stay grounded in the understanding that the recognitions are a means to keep driving progress, not an end. It recharges my commitment to excellence in others and social impact. While proud of the records I've set and honours from the world so far, I know I have much more yet to do for the world and contribute. The legacy I continue working towards is one of raising and building others- the now and next(future) generation of young leaders of the world.

What challenges have you faced in your journey, and how have you overcome them?

Raising funds for my initiatives, Leading Ladies for Impact, The Eco Emissaries. I have a company "The SkillsBeyond" (registered) and two organizations. The SkillsBeyond is a digital skills training academy I founded in 2020, driven by a strong desire to pave the way for young people who are clueless and in dire need of the skills to survive in this digital era. "SkillsBeyond"; a company I founded as a young girl then who has acquired and upskilled on 19+ digital skills. The academy's mission is to redefine the traditional concept of education and learning by providing young people with skills that go beyond what is taught in the traditional academic setting, while The Eco Emissaries, is a youth-led organization focused on climate action and action on plastic pollution, advancing circular economy, environmental sustainability, ocean protection and projecting the beauty of the environment and its resources, and Leading Ladies for Impact is an organization raising the next generation of young female leaders in the World🌎 "Global Female Young Leaders", raising ladies into "Leadership", "Personal Development", "Tech", "Closing the Gender Digital Divide" and making Quality Education across all spheres accessible to every female. The challenges often faced is raising funds for my NGOs. This is to help the initiatives realize their full potential and amplify their efforts on a wide scale. I currently address that by applying for grants and other ways with my team while being expectant to secure one. However, currently, I fund the organizations with my personal funds as my passion for social impact irregardless, however, it's not enough to amplify the impact on a wider level as we would love to.

With an impressive list of certifications and honours, how do these achievements contribute to your advocacy and environmental initiatives?

The certifications and honours empower me to further my advocacy impact and environmental initiatives in tangible numerous ways. Most importantly, the spotlight is being utilized effectively; channelling the increased influence to accelerate even greater impacts, education and awareness.

Success is relative, what does it mean to you?

Success to me has a diverse definition It's about the difference I make in people’s lives and the world at large. Social impact. Success to me means leaving the world better than I met it. To me, it has diverse definitions which I can't exhaust all. However, success is a moving target. If you think you have achieved your greatest success, you clearly have decided to stop pushing yourself. Bringing significant impact in the world; a level of contribution that could help the human race to understand and live a better life. In the past, people from various fields have made immense contributions in terms of inventions in science & technology, medicine, literature, art etc. Because of them is what we are now and we should take the legacy ahead and make it better. The higher goal is the contribution to the human race which could help the next generation to define themselves much better.

What advice do you have for young girls pursuing purpose but seem confused if they are on the right path?

God has carefully crafted you with unique talents and dreams and He desires to guide your steps. Seek Him first, before all else. Spend time resting in His presence and soaking in His Word. Ask Him to light your way with His truth and wisdom. Hold onto Him. Pray. He alone has carefully crafted the right path for you and has the definition of what a right path is. However, here is one of the practical steps to knowing if you're on the right path. Identify your abilities. Understand that those abilities He has given unto you are pointers to your purpose.


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