Harnessing the Power of ‘Area Sisters’ to Reach Youth with AYRH Information and Services in Ogun State

by | Mar 30, 2020

TCI’s effort to support Ogun state in Nigeria to implement high-impact reproductive health solutions targeted at adolescents and youths is called Life Planning for Adolescents and Youth (LPAY). LPAY aims to increase the capacity of state governments in Ogun, Niger, Edo and Plateau and local government areas (LGAs) to implement high-impact adolescent and youth reproductive health (AYRH) solutions in a manner that promotes sustainability, local ownership and long-term investment.

In Ogun, a rigorous net-mapping exercise revealed that young people said community-embedded and local influencers known as “Area Sisters’  were key to promoting reproductive health issues and positive behaviors. Area Sisters are viewed as warm and accessible because they are willing to make friends with youth. As a result, young people consider them to be a trusted source of information and advice about social and reproductive health issues.

A typical Area Sister is a middle-aged woman, with moderate or no formal education, who may be married or unmarried and lives within the community and understands the culture. Because of their rapport with young people in the community, Area Sisters have helped lead to more open discourse about sexual and reproductive health (SRH) issues and contributed to increased demand for SRH information and services among young people.

Omolola Ajayi is an ‘Area Sister’ in Ota LGA in Ogun State, Nigeria.

Omolola Ajayi is an Area Sister in Ota LGA, Ogun state. She is a trader and mother of three who loves to make friends with young unmarried boys and girls that have been labeled wayward in the community. She discusses safe sex practices like using vibrating underwear, including contraceptive use, with them and gladly refers them to facilities for contraceptive counseling and method uptake.

Omolola works with TCI coaches to engage and mobilize young people to participate in youth-focused discussions to not only reach them with critical contraception information but also create an enabling environment in the community for them to access contraceptive information and services. She works with a network of social mobilizers to follow up with young people referred to health facilities to ensure they complete their referrals. During a recent youth-focused outreach conducted in Ota LGA in January 2020, Omolola volunteered to identify and mobilize young persons. After the outreach, she made sure young people that indicated interest in taking up contraceptive methods went to the health facility to obtain their method of choice.

Young people need older people who will listen to them, make friends with them and counsel them without being judgmental or biased. There are other women in the community who act as Area Sisters to young people who are also very passionate. They will be very helpful in ensuring that young people, who need contraceptives, access these methods and I am willing to help identify these women so that they can help.”

– Omolola Ajayi

TCI continues to support other communities in Ogun state to identify Area Sisters and leverage their influence to increase access to contraceptive information and service uptake among young people.