Champions for Change (C4C) is pleased to continue our 'Meet the Champions' Series. This bi-monthly blog series highlights the work of 24 Nigerian leaders currently participating as C4C champions. C4C's Champions in Nigeria are working together to save the lives of mothers, children and young women through innovative advocacy and leadership development. Nigeria is Africa's largest economy, and yet tens of thousands of women and children die there each year due to lack of maternity care, preventable disease and poor health infrastructure, among other causes. This series brings a diversity of perspectives from around Nigeria to the table to discuss this critical moment in Nigeria's history and how Nigerians can work together to build a healthy future for all.
Our series continues this week with an interactive discussion with Samaila Garba and Emmanuel Amuta of Amana Rural People's Advocacy Foundation, an NGO dedicated to empowering rural people though education.
Meet the Champions Series Interview #2
Amana Rural People's Health Advocacy, Niger State, Nigeria
Amana Rural People's Health Advocacy envisions a world free from disease and poverty and where rural people's right to good health and a high standard of living are upheld. Amana works with women, vulnerable children and orphans through education to know their rights and claim those rights with regard to good health -- especially in regards to HIV/AIDS -- good nutrition, good education and freedom from poverty.
C4C: Why are you a Champion for women's and children's health issues in Nigeria?
Samaila: I was first inspired to advocate for women and children when I saw my neighbor's daughter die during her first delivery in the hospital, simply because there was no midwife on duty. The unacceptably high rate of maternal mortality in my community keeps me motivated to engage opinion leaders to implement existing legal frameworks related to RMNCH that would save many mothers' lives.
Emmanuel: I once saw a rural pregnant woman suffer in labor for six days without any medical help because doctors were on strike. The lack of enlightenment among males and the marginalization of women by their male counterparts have resulted in high rates of mortality amongst pregnant mothers in my community, and that must end.
C4C: What is the biggest challenge you face as an advocate for women's and children's health?
Samaila: One of our greatest challenges is in getting some religious leaders to understand that women have rights that must be respected. Some of them do not believe that women have any authority, even over their own bodies and health.
C4C: What's your vision for the future of health care in Nigeria?
Emmanuel: Simply put, I wish to see a comprehensive and accessible health system that caters to the needs of the poor.
Samaila: I envision a health system that is accessible to all, with at least a doctor in every community. One that is well-funded through a comprehensive insurance scheme, sustained by equitable contributions from all citizens and ensuring that even the poorest of the poor can get the best quality care.
C4C: Advocating for women's rights can be a difficult job; what's one of your most positive memories from your work?
Samaila: It's gratifying to be recognized for the work I've done to stop HIV with Amana. In 2003, I won the 'Breaker of Silence Award,' which is organized by Journalists Against AIDS and sponsored by Ford Foundation. It is presented each year to one person who is adjudged to have done the most in stopping the spread of HIV in Nigeria.
Emmanuel: I have many favorite memories from my work. However, it was a thing of joy that I completed a project with PACT Reach Nigeria; after training community caregivers for HIV/AIDS patients on micro-finance, they were able to form groups where they put aside a certain amount of money from their weekly earnings and thereafter loaned some amongst themselves to contribute to their small-scale businesses. After three months of trading with the loaned money, they returned the money with interest so that others could benefit from the loan system. This association addresses the challenges caregivers face in generating income for their basic needs, and has remained sustainable in spite of the project ending.
C4C: The most fun thing I've done in the last year is...
Samaila: Attending the Champions for Change inaugural training in Lagos. It enabled me to meet new and interesting people working to improve RMNCH in Nigeria, from whom I learnt a lot.
Emmanuel: The most fun thing I have experienced in the last year was C4C's executive coaching, led by international experts. It was also fun to travel by air for the first time!
C4C: What is your favorite thing to do when you want to relax?
Emmanuel: When I want to relax, I read in bed or watch TV. I also enjoy playing football and basketball.
Samaila: I enjoy tending my vegetable garden, taking long walks in the countryside or fishing by the river.
We invite you to follow us on Twitter at @C4C_Champions and use the hashtag #MeetTheChampions to engage more closely with the blog series, the work of the 24 leaders whose work is being highlighted, and the larger conversation surrounding reproductive, maternal, newborn and child health in Nigeria.
Champions for Change saves the lives of women and children in Nigeria by empowering local leaders and organizations to improve reproductive, maternal, newborn and child health through advocacy, education, storytelling and strategic partnerships. Champions for Change leverages a program model developed by its sister initiative, Let Girls Lead, which has contributed to improved health, education and livelihoods for more than 7 million girls globally since 2009. This powerful model drives change through the passage of national laws, implementation of programs and distribution of funds to ensure access to quality health care, education and economic opportunity.
Champions for Change and Let Girls Lead are headquartered at the Public Health Institute in Oakland, CA, a leader in global health and development for 50 years.