By: Esther Agbarakwe & Kikelomo Taiwo, Women Deliver 100 Young Leaders; posted on the WRA blog here
Globally between 350,000 and 550,000 girls and women die from complications due to pregnancy and childbirth every year, while 10-20 million girls and women suffer from maternal morbidities according to UNFPA. Each death represents a family’s loss of a sister, daughter, partner, mother, or friend. Early sexual exposure is an important reproductive risk factor among young people in Nigeria as many of them lack information and life planning skills to delay the onset of sexual activities.
In June 2010, the Women Deliver global conference brought well over 3000 people to the capital city of the United States of America to address issues that affect girls and women, particularly in the area of maternal health. The theme was “Delivering solutions for girls and women.” As part of the conference, 100 Young Leaders were chosen to attend a Youth Pre-conference to specifically discuss what needs to be done to effectively deliver solutions for women and girls with focus on MDG 5.
The Millennium Development Goals, developed in the year 2000, have been a tool in addressing maternal health, however, successes to date have been minimal and progress has been slow. Particularly in Nigeria, even though many programs are being implemented, the health of girls and women remains an area where more work must be done.
Among the 100 Young Leaders selected to attend Women Deliver -- a group of amazing, inspiring young people under the age of 30, working to build a world where the health and well-being of girls and women is a priority -- were four Young Nigerians: Esther Agbarakwe and Kikelomo Taiwo (authors of this article), Tonte Ibraye and Adeolu Ogunrumb. Together, we have met several times in Abuja facilitated by White Ribbon Alliance Nigeria (WRAN) and Education as a Vaccine (EVA) to discuss how young people in Nigeria can meaningfully participate in MNCH issues across Nigeria in a coordinated manner. Particularly to bring out the youth component of MNCH considering the fact that youths are the most vulnerable and affected.
On April 12th 2011, Kikelomo Taiwo, was invited as a youth representative to the Civil Society Organizations planning meeting for 2011 Safe Motherhood day and Campaign Opportunities organized by White Ribbon Alliance Nigeria. At the end if the meeting, we approached Save the Children UK (SCUK) to discuss how young people can participate in MNCH as youth were not considered as a stakeholder during the planning meeting. Save the Children then invited us to the meetings to discuss and explore the possibility of supporting a youth-led project on MNCH. After several planning meetings and mentorships received from EVA, WRAN and SCUK, Kikelomo, Esther, and Oja (NYSC Communication officer at SCUK) decided to organize a Youth e-consultation on MNCH, the first of its kind in Nigeria.
The Youth e-consultation was held on April 28th 2011 via Skype for youth activists across Nigeria working in the fields of sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR), poverty and employment and young medical professionals to gather their input regarding the participation and vulnerability of young people in maternal health issues in Nigeria. The goal of the consultation was to initiate the process of establishing a network of young advocates that will push the agenda of youth participation and involvement on maternal, newborn and child-health issues in Nigeria. In addition, the objectives were to discuss the issues of MNCH in Nigeria as it relates and affects young people and to come up with concrete and innovative strategies on how to engage in advocacy on MNCH issues in Nigeria.
The e-consultation was conducted in English and consisted of 8-10 open-ended questions distributed over the course of three hours. The first part of the e-consultation focused on identifying participants’ level of understanding, awareness and interest in the issues and their connections. The second set of questions asked participants about their willingness to get involved and what programs or campaigns their organizations or others are currently implementing. The last set of questions asked participants about whether they believed young people in their communities were informed about these issues, their recommendations on how to mobilize youth to take action, and their ideas for how to design an online campaign that targets young people.
Working groups were created to facilitate effective youth engagement on MNCH issues in Nigeria. The Terms of Reference will be developed by the facilitating secretariat and group-heads will begin work to recruit new members and develop specific action plans
1. COMMUNICATION AND ICT
2. HEALTH WORKER/YOUNG PROFESSIONALS
3. COMMUNITY MOBILIZATION
4. EDUCATION & AWARENESS
5. ADVOCACY & LOBBYING
An online group Youth Advocates for MNCH Nigeria was created at the end of the follow-up conference call held on May 12 2011 to facilitate communication and enhance capacity-building opportunities for members.
The results of the e-consultation showed that young people expressed much enthusiasm and interest in both SRHR and MNCH issues and the opportunity to get involved in both. However, a majority of them responded that they did not think young people in their communities were well informed on these issues in general.
A majority of participants said that a web-based campaign would be useful to mobilize young people to engage youth yet at the same time they cautioned that such a campaign would not reach young people in poor or rural areas who lack internet access. They mentioned the potentially wide reach of online media such as Facebook, Twitter as beneficial.
A draft action plan was just recently developed. WRAN, EVA and SCUK will continue to explore the possibility of engaging youth across Nigeria to become strong advocates on MNCH and engaging in advocacy activities.
If you are interested in learning more or in joining a working group please contact: Esther Agbarakwe, email@example.com.