Young people – Catalysts for change
In our efforts to advance adolescent health and well-being in Nigeria, Education as a Vaccine (EVA) has been working with partners to implement the Advocating for Change for Adolescents Toolkit in Nigeria. We have brought together like-minded young people to discuss the challenges they face and reach decisions on how they can support themselves in strengthening national and sub-national programmes that will meet their special needs.
On the 28th to 30th of October, our youth partners who served as focal points in Niger, Kano, Adamawa, Ondo states as well as Abuja who were trained using this toolkit, convened in Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Abuja for a workshop. This workshop was conducted to collate all the work done at their community levels, build their capacity on social accountability and support the development of a sustainability plan towards their advocacy efforts.
We all know that the goal of achieving Universal Health Coverage (UHC) which is equal access of all people to quality, promotive, preventive, curative, and rehabilitative health services without financial hardship cannot be realized if AYP are not direct beneficiaries of the health interventions in the country. That is why adolescent health and well-being has become a key development subject matter – though not prioritized enough.
Just like in many other countries, Nigeria’s AYP still face multiple barriers in accessing healthcare services especially sexual and reproductive health (SRH) information and services. They have to deal with the burden of costs or inaccessible healthcare centres, as well as the provider’s bias and the socio-cultural norms that continually limit them from fully expressing themselves for fear of harassment.
Conversations on this issue have spiralled in the space and the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn, Child and Adolescent Health (PMNCH) in collaboration with Women Deliver developed a toolkit known as “The Advocating for Change for Adolescents’ to advance the health and rights of adolescents and young people. EVA rolled out this country-specific toolkit which is a resource that guides adolescents and young people to champion advocacy efforts to push for better policies and laws that put young people’s health and well-being on the front burner.
Through this rollout phase, we ascertained that young people are the best force to inspire change on issues that concern them. Achieving UHC for adolescent calls for young people who are empowered to influence decisions and actions that affect their health and well-being through meaningful participation.
The workshop was an eye-opener for many of the participants as they got to experience what advocacy entailed in respect to all the work being done in their respective states; disseminating the toolkit to their peers, fostering partnerships, and engaging in advocacy visits and talks with policymakers on issues specific to their communities. The problems adolescents and young people face are common across the states. These include the fact that sexual reproductive health information and services are still mostly frowned at, shrouded in secrecy and mystified while decision-making by young people is rarely from an informed perspective. Education as a Vaccine in partnership with our youth network is working to ensure that the drum starts a different beat.
Sani Muhammad from Kano said, “Young people can drive the change they want to see, the PMNCH toolkit and subsequent training/engagements have yielded a growing number of conscious young people speaking up and advocating on both online and offline spaces on adolescent and young people’s sexual and reproductive health”.
We are building a movement of young people who are informed, who are empowered, who are confident, and can create change!
By: Sarbyen Sheni