SOUTH BURLINGTON, VT – Ephraim Okon grew up in the quiet village of Ikot Akata in Nigeria. His life in the village, and the fun of going to the farm in large groups to help with the crops, was an enjoyable one. But it wasn’t all rosy for him and his nine siblings. Almost 40 years later, Ephraim was named Chief and today, Chief Ephraim is bringing his perspective on family planning and poverty to his clan and the rest of Nigeria.
“I was unanimously chosen by the [Okon] clan [comprised of heads of 18 villages], the titled chiefs, and the Okon Development Union for the title of Abom Okon 1 of Okon. Abom in Annang-land means kingpost which holds weight of the roof of the house,” says Ephraim. But when asked why being Chief is important to him, he says simply, “It is not very important. To me, it is recognition of what others have seen in me. It does not change me from Ephraim Okon.”
It’s this practicality and dedication to hard work that has led Ephraim through his life and brought him to work with Population Media Center, an international development NGO dedicated to reproductive health, family planning, and gender equity.
“I am aware that I am the youngest person ever to be given such a title in the history of my clan and I am not oblivious to the responsibilities that come with it,” says Ephraim. “I only hope to inspire others on the fact that they can achieve their life’s goals with hard work, dedication, and perseverance.”
In fact, Ephraim’s motto is “Labore est prospere,” which is Latin for “Hard work is success.” Ephraim hopes that his dedication and hard work around unpopular issues will result in change for the village of his childhood and for all of his country.
“I have become a more noticed face of PMC in as much as issues we address, especially population and family planning issues, which are not very popular issues around where I live and come from. My Chieftaincy is honorary and has nothing to do with the day-to-day running of my clan, but my opinion will be sought on issues of development and welfare of the clan and I am ready to offer my advice that could be accepted or rejected.”
Ephraim explains that he got involved with PMC, first as Executive Assistant to the Country Representative and then as Country Representative because he was impressed with what PMC was doing to address barriers to sustainable growth. One of ten children, his family’s farm blessed them with enough food, but his father, despite being a school teacher, struggled to afford their education. This inability to care for a large number of children is common, he says.
“Breaking the informational and knowledge barrier to overcoming the self-inflicted dance steps around the poverty line inspire me to work for PMC. This is the reality about Nigeria as a whole.”
As for Ephraim, when he’s not spending time working on the health and human rights initiatives of PMC or pursuing higher education or serving on a number of boards and organizations, he’s spending time with his wife (pictured with Ephraim at the ceremony) and their two small children.
“I actually set out to become a Catholic priest at first and then later gave some thoughts about focusing on politics,” Ephraim says. “I am now an evangelist in the gospel of population issues, especially planning one’s family and making informed health and economic decisions for the better and rounded growth of your family and the world.”
ABOUT POPULATION MEDIA CENTER (PMC):
Population Media Center is a nonprofit, international nongovernmental organization, which strives to improve the health and well-being of people around the world through the use of entertainment-education strategies, like serialized dramas on radio and television, in which characters evolve into role models for the audience for positive behavior change. Founded in 1998, PMC has years of field experience using the Sabido methodology of behavior change communications, impacting more than 50 countries around the world. www.populationmedia.org
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