A trio of family planning and adolescent and youth sexual and reproductive health (AYSRH) champions supported by The Challenge Initiative (TCI) – Comrade Aliu Akokhia, Clement Erasor Anaweokhai, and Christopher Ogholoh – are the driving forces behind positive change happening in Edo State, Nigeria.
As part of not-for-profit community-based organizations operating in Edo State, these champions united with a common goal to enhance reproductive health and family planning outcomes. Their journey reflects a powerful commitment to improving the lives of the community they serve. Their collective concern for the well-being of their community prompted them to act after they observed troubling trends, which fueled their determination to make a difference and motivated them to change.
Such trends included the increasing presence of boys and girls under age 18 for whom the “street” has become home and a source of livelihood and who are inadequately protected. They are also concerned by the high rate of young people using unregulated sex-enhancing medicines, as well as the prevalence of myths and misconceptions surrounding family planning. Sharing these challenges sheds light on the issue at hand.
Comrade Aliu Akokhia said:
I couldn’t ignore the increasing presence of street children in Benin City (Edo State). These children often begged for alms to support their mothers, and the absence of fathers in their lives raised questions about responsible parenthood.”
Clement Arasor Anaweokhai added:
I was disturbed at the high rate at which our young persons’ in Edo-State were patronizing local contraceptives and unregulated sex-enhancing medicines such as “Oga abeg e don do” sold by local herb hawkers (also known as Agbo Sellers) from neighboring states, making a substantial daily profit at the expense of our young persons.
During the mapping of critical stakeholders’ workshop on Adolescent and Youth Sexual and Reproductive Health funded by TCI in May 2019, a key learning was the recommendation to explore innovative funding approaches, such as utilizing angel Investors and low-hanging fruits to mobilize resources for RH/FP and AYSRH programs in our state.”
Christopher Oghodoh recounted:
I had a practical encounter with a woman who viewed family planning as a taboo, believing that God solely determines the number of children a woman has. Our women and children were dying.”
United by purpose, all three recognized the need for significant resourcing and strategic planning to address these pressing issues. Although they understood the challenges, they remained undeterred and committed. Instead, they formed a consortium, pooling their expertise to advocate for reproductive health and family planning resourcing.
Their collective efforts yielded results when funding of N2,000,000 ($2,610) was received from 10 local government councils for a three-day orientation and enlightenment workshop on Sexual and Reproductive Health/Family Planning for 50 youth in September 2022. This initial success drove them to continue advocating for change, which led the team to pay several advocacy visits to relevant stakeholders – including the Chairman of the Local Government Civil Service Commission and the Executive Secretary to the State Primary Health Care Development Agency (EDSPHCDA) – to request further support for funding high-impact interventions in the state.
Christopher Ogholoh reflected on their persistence:
Despite the resistance and setbacks, we remained focused on our goal, bolstered by the unwavering commitment and support from The Challenge Initiative (TCI) like coaching us on ASK, used of SMART advocacy for engaging with decision-makers at PHC agency, and LG service commission.”
Eventually, their advocacy efforts paid off when the Chairman of the Local Government Service Commission directed all 18 Heads of Local Government Administration (HOLGA) to allocate and release funds for Family Planning In-Reaches in their respective LGAs, totaling N4,806,000 ($6,300).
Making a lasting impact with meticulous planning and technical support from TCI, the consortium seamlessly executed in-reaches across 42 communities in 14 LGAs between March and June 2023. A total of 6,192 men, women and young persons received family planning information and services to meet their reproductive needs and intentions.
The Edo State Ministry of Health provided essential family planning commodities and consumables, and the State Primary Health Care Development Agency approved using primary health facilities for the intervention. This inspiring journey demonstrates that reproductive health and family planning are collective responsibilities of all with government or non-state actors like this inspirational trio.