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 Abiodun Owo and Ayodele Adesanmi of the Development Communications Network (DevComs), the leading media development organization in Nigeria with two decades of experience in science and public health advocacy through the media. The organization is based in Lagos but operates in all six geo-political zones.
What inspired you to become involved in Reproductive, Maternal, Newborn and Child Health (RMNCH) work? What is the one issue you are most passionate about in the field of RMNCH?
Abiodun: As a young person I joined the Health and Life Planning Club in my secondary school, an affiliate club of Action Health Incorporated (AHI). There, I was equipped with information by my peer educator, and was later trained by AHI as a peer educator on reproductive and sexual health. after secondary school I worked with AHI as a youth assistant, giving me more exposure to young people's health and development issues; it was then that my interest in maternal and child health issues developed. My quest to know more led me to seek and gain admission at the University of Ibadan to study Public Health. I have since been working on maternal and child health issues. One issue I am most passionate about in the field of RMNCH is reproductive and sexual health education for young people (teens and young adults). I strongly believe that if young people arm themselves with adequate information they will be able to deal with issues such as family planning, child care and other pertinent MNCH issues.
Ayodele: I got interested in the development sector during an internship with the DevComs Network in 2008 and subsequently learned about the worsening reproductive maternal and child health indicators in Nigeria. As somebody with ICT (information and communications technology) and media skills, I decided to create awareness about RMNCH issues. I am passionate about using traditional and new media (including social media) to create awareness about RMNCH issues.
Working in the field of RMNCH can be very trying, though equally rewarding. What is the biggest challenge you face in your work, and what are you most proud of?
Ayo: My biggest challenge is a lack of regularly updated data on RMNCH. Such lack makes it difficult to track the progress & outcomes of advocacy efforts and campaigns in a timely manner.
I am particularly proud of my contribution to the NOTAGAIN Campaign as a web administrator, media officer and social media strategist (www.notagaincampaign.org). You can follow us on Twitter @notagaincampaig and get a copy of our MP4 newsletter.
Abiodun: The biggest challenge I face in my work is getting funding for a new project, probably because we do not invest enough in research. However, I am very proud of the young people who look up to me for guidance regarding their sexual health. I am also proud of the relationships I have built with different cadre of individuals.
What is the most innovative aspect of the work of your organization?
Ayo: Development Communications (DevComs) Network is very strategic in media development and the provision of editorial support on development issues (including RMNCH) to the media in Nigeria. We promotes science, public health and social-sector development journalism through capacity building and mentoring of journalists, as well as facilitation of linkages between media members and experts.
Why did you apply to be part of the PHI/C4C program? What skills do you hope to acquire and what do you intend to do with these new knowledge and skills?
Abiodun: The C4C program emphasizes advocacy in maternal and child health issues. Advocacy was an area I needed to develop in and I love the idea of intensive coaching and training sessions which have been introduced by this program. I hope to acquire knowledge and skills in advocacy especially in the area of understanding legislative processes, how policies and laws are formulated, building relationships with power points and decision makers in my sphere of influence. With adequate knowledge and skills I will be able to work with my team from an evidence-based point of view and advocate for better lives for women and children.
Please complete this statement: I am a Champion for Change because...
Abiodun: ...I believe that women and children should be protected from all forms of discrimination.
Ayo: ...I believe every child deserves motherly care. So I will do my best to advocate for women's right to health.
What is your vision for the future of Nigeria Health System? What would be different if women, newborns, and children had adequate access to good quality health services and information?
Abiodun: I envision a health system in Nigeria with up to date equipment in health facilities, well-motivated and dedicated staff, clean hospital environments and respect for clients.
Ayo: I strongly believe that an effective health insurance scheme and proper orientation of the people will be of immense benefit to women, children and the entire citizens of Nigeria. Adequate access to good quality health services and information for all Nigerians will no doubt translate to improved RMNCH statistics and productive workforce for the Nigerian economy.
My favorite song is...
Abiodun: ...Hero by Mariah Carey
Ayo: ... It Is Well With My Soul by Buchi
Stay tuned for the continuation of this series featuring more Nigerian advocates. Meanwhile, 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 3 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 healthcare, 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.