Friday, March 22, 2013

Young People and Family Planning

2010 Women Deliver 100 Young Leaders, Washington DC| Photo credit, Women Deliver
When I traveled for the Women Deliver Conference  in the summer of 2010 with few Nigerian youths as part of the "Women Deliver 100 Young Leaders" I didn't envision that I will be co-facilitating Family planning youth advocacy in Nigeria. The Women Deliver 100 Young Leaders is 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. Throughout the year, they work in a variety of ways to strengthen their skills as advocates, academics, program staff, media, and social innovators.

This is true: When young people are equipped with the right tools and information, they are powerful and critical agents of change. We are seeing this in Nigeria presently with access to social media tools. In April of 2011, the Nigerian Women Deliver 100 Young Leaders and other youth activists met online for the first ever Youth e-consultation on Maternal Health and Family Planning, which lead to the creating of some working Groups, including the Medical Health Worker Youth Advocates under the Nigeria Youth MNCH /FP Advocates. The e-consultation was supported by White Ribbon Alliance Nigeria and Save The Children. The Nigeria Youth MNCH/FP Advocates have primarily been working online with few offline activities like MeetUp and participation at strategic meetings at national and state levels.

In 2012, with inspiration from the London Family Planning Summit and my international advocacy fellowship in Washington DC with Population Action International plus the amazing role of social media in engaging many people globally, myself, and Tope Fashola from EVA lobbied UNFPA Nigeria to promote the participation of young people in the 2nd National Family Planning summit. 

Historically, Youth participation in FP issues has never been ‘organically’ recognized and/or integrated. With UNFPA Nigeria Support, The first ever Youth Pre-Conference at the National Family Planning Conference was held which brought together more 50 youth advocates form across Nigeria to discuss and strategize how to effectively engaged in the conference and be better youth advocates. One of the  issues discussed at  the pre-conference was the way "family Planning" was been represented in the media and communication graphics as concerning only married couple with one or two children (usually depicted with a man and a woman holding a child). while many single young and unmarried people are sexually active, their interest and needs were not adequately represented in many "family planning" programmes and activities. Young people want this changed.  

Our advocacy worked!!!

Driving through the city of Abuja now, one will see new Bill Boards with information on family planning with a picture of a Man and woman (without the child) that appears  inclusive of young people. These advocacy efforts have now been recognized by both UNFPA Nigeria and the Family Planning Action Group (FPAG), the leading Think Thank on Family in Nigeria. Recently at the Family Planning Action Group (FPAG) retreat and strategy development meeting, which brought together leading experts and development partners to discuss the future of FPAG, I was nominated and selected as the Youth Representative in the new Management Committee of FPAG after series lobbing and advocacy engagement. 

Now recognizing our growth in the FP community and our passion to see more young people integrally involved in all FP design, program and implementation processes, a team of youth FP Advocates paid an advocacy visit to the Health Policy Project in Abuja on the 19th of March 2013. 

Advocacy Visit to HPP Nigeria, Abuja| Photo Credit: Don Dickerson
The Health Policy Project aims to strengthen policy, advocacy, and governance for strategic, equitable, and sustainable health programming in developing countries. Funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), HPP focuses on the policy aspects of family planning and reproductive health, HIV, and maternal health in Nigeria. Our advocacy visit was aimed at seeking support for strengthening our individual and institutional capacity for advocacy, and leadership, and  to explore how youth creativity and innovation in Family Planning and reproductive health advocacy can be nurtured and supported. We were received by Donald Dickerson, Program Advisor and Aliyu Ahmed, Progamme Manager. This meeting was one of the most successful meetings that we, the Youth FP advocates have had since the beginning of the year. 

Why is this important? When young people are denied clear, accurate information about sexual and reproductive health, they may be ill prepared for sex and unable to protect themselves from unintended pregnancies. Young people in Nigeria face additional risk as family planning is a controversial  issues because sex is involved. Without accurate information, the population growth will become a great population challenge.

According to Advocates for Youth, a US based Organisation, The challenges of preparing the next generation for adulthood are remarkably similar across developed and developing nations. Adults must recognize that unintended, early pregnancy often results from inadequate access to information and services, unwanted or coerced sexual activity, unprotected sex, or ineffective use of contraception. Youth's unmet need for contraception is greater than among any other age group. 

Watch out for the Youth arm of Family Planing Action Group, YFPAG



Friday, March 8, 2013


Violence Against Women

This often sounds very abstract and academic but one will be amazed at the number of children and women in our communities who experience one form of violence or  the other daily. Many times, these are close family members and friends and they die daily under the culture of silence. Growing up in a family of five children, one didn't necessary have to ask why many thing weren't working the way we wanted them to, why many children didn't go to school when many of their mates were in schools . 

I remember vividly one occasion  while growing up that changed my life and defined my vision and passion for my now adult life.  

I returned home from school on this particular day and while eating my cold lunch, I heard a loud scream coming form the house next door. It was a girl’s scream. It was my friend’s scream. I didn't see her to school that day. I wondered why?

I was curious. Even more curious as my parent didn’t want to tell me why the scream was so loud. As darkness  came upon us, I sneaked out and went to the backyard to where my friend was, she was still crying.  I asked her why the screaming, the crying and why she wasn't at  school that same day.

I was shocked when she showed her back to me, where her aunt had used a pressing iron to ‘press’ her back. Why would a women do this her?  I asked her. She said that because she didn't sell all the food items she was given to hawk and sell that day.

We were 13 years old. 

Tell me why this will happen to a 13 year old? Even after that incident, the beatings and screaming became a frequent episode.

This experience inspired me to join the Child’s Rights Bridge and Taking IT Global, an online community of change makers, empowered through access to technology.  On my first opportunity to learn about Child Abuse and violence against young women, I was inspired to make my voice heard.  I am empowered by my education and new technology even brings us closer to the issue as well as solution.  speaking with one voice to end violence against women

We need more girls and young women who can speak out against the evils of violence on women and girls. Providing access to education is key to ending violence against women. I am very proud to be among young advocates fighting to end violence against in Nigeria.