Diene Keita: Prioritising Family Planning, Youth Devt

Abimbola Akosile looks at the zest which the new Representative of the UNFPA in Nigeria, Dr. Diene Keita, is bringing to the agency’s quest to improve family planning, youth development in the country

Starting off on a strong positive note, the new Representative of the United Nations Population Fund in Nigeria, Dr. Diene Keita, has underlined her major goals of helping the federal government to improve family planning and ensure youth development in the country.

The 53-year-old lawyer and economist, whose youthful good looks belie her age, believes that adults can get along better with the youths just by listening to the younger generation instead of imposing their wills on them.
Keita, the immediate past Representative at the UNFPA office in the Democratic Republic of Congo, works closely on the Democratic Dividend (DD) initiative with the UNFPA Regional Director for West and Central Africa, Mr. Mabingue Ngom, and sees it (DD) as a development catalyst for Africa; if properly harnessed.

She also believes that overseas migration by youths can be curbed totally if the youths in Africa are successfully engaged in productive ventures that can boost their incomes and provide the same employment which they crave in their migration.

In a chat with this reporter at a recent UNFPA programme in Abuja, Keita, the daughter of a Guinean envoy, who grew up in Italy and France, and whose husband and 23-year-old son are based in the United States, exuded joy at her opportunity to serve humanity in Nigeria, and has the benefit of her past experiences in DRC and other stations to tackle the challenges in her new task as the agency’s Head of Station in the country.

Keita, who worked for several years with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and took over the UNFPA position from former Rep, Ms. Ratidzai Ndhlovu in July this year, revealed her love for opera music, art, dancing and the gym for regular workouts, commended the new Green Dot initiative of the federal ministry of Health alongside other development partners like her agency, where women would be able to access information on family planning and other health matters at healthcare centres.

She also strongly believes the scourge of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and Gender Based Violence (GBV) can be effectively tackled through constant education of those involved in the practice and other stakeholders including cultural and religious leaders around the country, who will help to enlighten the populace on the harmful effects of FGM and the negative impact of GBV.

The UNFPA boss in Nigeria also thinks that if the youths in the country are effectively empowered, there would be a corresponding ripple effect across Africa and also an impact in the developed countries of Europe, because, to her, those developed countries would be denied the usual access to the best young brains in Africa, since those youths will stay back in the continent to help develop it.

Keita also told this reporter that Nigeria is her 12th country of assignment, having served in different places like Burkina Faso, Burundi, New York, Haiti, Addis Ababa (Ethiopia), Niger, Dakar (Senegal), Mauritania, Benin and DRC, and revealed that the complexity and diversity of her last station country (DRC) would help her work in a complex multi-cultural and multi-ethnic society like Nigeria.

Affirming that family planning is the best way to fight maternal mortality, she noted that her aim is to fight maternal mortality in Nigeria. She also expressed her excitement at being posted to Nigeria, where, according to her, she can learn from the sophistication of Nigerian women, while also imparting her knowledge and expertise on the society, especially the development sector. For Keita, “It is good to be here and I am ready to face the challenges of my work.”