Nigeria Toolkit: Advocacy
Family Planning/Child Birth Spacing Champions
What is it?
Advocacy with family planning/child birth spacing (FP/CBS) champions entails engaging with individuals who believe in the benefits and values of FP/CBS, and actively support and promote FP/CBS in their communities, helping to create an enabling policy environment for FP/CBS. They can be found in different sectors of the community and can play a variety of roles in advocating and promoting FP/CBS. Their expertise, contacts, position of authority, social recognition and acceptance can help influence societal and individual perceptions, attitudes and decisions, which support a state’s family planning program.
Why is it important?
- Build support and acceptability of FP across communities, including among religious, political, community leaders and other community members.
- Enhance credibility to family planning advocacy activities, since champions are positive voices from within the community.
- Advocate for positive policies and needed infrastructure for family planning programs.
- Dispels myths and misperceptions about family planning services as trendsetters and initiators of change, champions can speak positively to their communities about the importance of family planning
What are the steps for implementing this approach?
Step 1: Identify & Select Champions
The FP/CBS champion must be willing, supportive, influential, have or belong to a platform, able to communicate or command respect and visibility within sphere of influence and or control. champions are change agents and must be made up of people that can speak at the policy, institutional and community level. FP/CBS champions are usually drawn from a cross-section of society representing different segments and interests who are nonetheless passionate about maternal health issues, including family planning.
As a result, identify FP/CBS champions based on criteria, such as:
- National and county leaders
- Religious leaders
- Opinion leaders
- Community health workers
- Health care service providers
- Satisfied contraceptive method users
FP/CBS champions can be identified by the net-mapping exercise or members of the ACGs, described under Enabling Environment.
Step 2: Orient Champions on FP/CBS and Advocacy Topics
Religious, community and political leaders may benefit from an orientation event to better prepare them to talk about FP/CBS at the national, community and individual levels.
As part of this orientation event, review the National Reproductive Health Policy (2017), family planning goals of Nigeria and the State’s, as outlined in the Costed Implementation Plan, if one exists for the State. Give orientation on FP/CBS and its benefit and AFP’s SMART Advocacy approach.
Step 3: Provide Printed Information Packages with Targeted Messages
Pages 10-12 of the National Family Planning Communication Plan (NFPCP) (2017-2020) provide a sample of standardized messages for use across-communication channels and communication-support materials at National, State and LGA levels (with slight modifications) for women, men, health workers, teachers, policymakers, religious leaders and traditional rulers, community members and the media.
In addition, TCI Nigeria uses the following materials with religious leaders: the Christian Perspective on Reproductive Health & Family Planning in Nigeria and Christian Sermon Note on Childbirth Spacing/Family Planning (CBS/FP) or the Islamic Perspective on Reproductive Health & Childbirth Spacing in Nigeria and The Islamic Sermon Notes on Childbirth Spacing in Nigeria.
And, TCI is working with the ACGs to develop State-specific policy briefs and position. In addition to the information packages, it’s important to provide tips on how to deliver the messages, which is covered in the AFP SMART Advocacy training.
Step 4: Identify & Share Platforms Where FP/CBS Champions Can Deliver FP/CBS Messages
This can be part of an action plan developed with the FP/CBS champion, depending on whether or not the champion has already been speaking about FP publicly and is looking to expand their reach beyond their community to the LGA, state, national and even international levels or is new to making public pronouncements and may need some structured support to get started.
Step 5: Recognize FP/CBS Champions
The ACG or other State technocrats decorate the FP/CBS champions in an effort to recognize them publicly for their support. These events are conducted at various forums at the community level, including World AIDS Day, World Population Day, World Contraception Day, or International Women’s Day. In addition, inviting the champions to various meetings and trainings is also a form of recognition. You may ask them to deliver a keynote address or participate in a discussion forum.
Recognizing that religious leadership is very strategic and key to the success of the Family Planning response, TCI Nigeria has established active and vibrant Interfaith Forums. Some of the forum members have been identified as CBS/FP champions as well.
Mallam Suleiman Usman, the Sarkin Malaman Toro of Bauchi, Nigeria, shared:
Prior to the advent of TCI, CBS [child birth spacing] was a very sensitive and delicate issue to discuss. I can remember even the health workers having issues discussing CBS with women of reproductive age because of the kind of religious interpretation that was given to it. There were misconceptions on the part of the Islamic clerics. They normally interpret CBS as controlling population. But, after our interaction with them using the Islamic Perspective and Sermon notes on child birth spacing [provided by TCI], a lot of them have now understood that spacing in between births benefits the health and wellbeing of the mother and child and is also promoted in the Holy Quran. … We are now preaching on CBS to our followers with confidence and based on evidence from the Holy Book and Hadith; now we are using every opportunity to educate more religious leaders on correct messaging of CBS based on Islamic perspective. … There is a wave of attitudinal change among the Islamic religious leaders. Some have gone a step further to get more knowledge on what the Holy Book says about CBS. Those Mallams who were against child birth spacing are now champions of CBS because the facts from the Holy Quran are very glaring. … It [CBS] is now almost freely discussed in the mosques, at learning centers and other gatherings.”
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