Life Planning Ambassadors Improving the Lives of Young People in Plateau State, Nigeria
Contributors: Eje Chimzaram Chukwuma, Aisha Waziri, Nneoma Anieto, Dorcas Akila, Philemon Mamza and Andrea Ferrand
“Old minds have the power to create history, young minds have the power to change history”
– Dr. P.S. Jagadeesh Kumar, Professor, Stanford University
The Challenge Initiative (TCI) supports meaningful youth engagement to improve contraceptive uptake among sexually active young people. Meaningful youth engagement empowers young people to take an active role in decision-making that affects their lives. It also improves programs meant for youth, strengthens their capacities, reduces bias and builds positive perceptions of young people among adults. TCI supports state governments in Nigeria to implement homegrown, proven solutions to expand young people’s access to reproductive health information and services.
TCI’s Life Planning for Adolescents and Youth Ambassadors is a unique approach that identifies young people between the ages of 15 and 29 to actively drive the implementation of youth-focused reproductive health programs in Edo, Niger, Ogun and Plateau states – TCI’s adolescent and youth sexual and reproductive health (AYSRH) states in Nigeria. The Life Planning Ambassadors are a diverse group of young people of all genders, married and unmarried, in- and out-of-school interested in improving young people’s access to contraceptive services.
These Life Planning Ambassadors are embedded into state government and community structures to ensure that the needs of young people are understood and infused into program decisions, thereby breaking negative socio-cultural and institutional barriers to their health and development. Some of the state and community structures wh ere they contribute include the State Multisectoral Technical Working Group on Adolescent Health and Development, Community Based-Organizations and other non-state actors, such as the Advocacy Working Group, Social and Behavior Change Communication (SBCC) Committee, Interfaith Forum and the Media Forum. To ensure that the ambassadors can contribute effectively, they receive various forms of face-to-face and virtual capacity strengthening and coaching on AYSRH and family planning advocacy, SBCC messaging and techniques, use of social media, facilitation techniques to promote public dialogue and effective engagement techniques, among others.
In Plateau state, 26 Life Planning Ambassadors have been inaugurated by Dr. Livinus Miapkwap, the Executive Secretary of Plateau State Primary Health Care Development Board, with support from TCI. Since their inauguration, they have used their position to reach young people with family planning messages in a variety of innovative ways. For example, Francis Ebeh is a Life Planning Ambassador and social media influencer that shares videos and infographics through social media platforms to engage and educate his followers. Since becoming a Life Planning Ambassador, he has posted more than 225 tweets about AYSRH issues and more than 200 tweets about family planning. He also supports community mobilizers and his fellow ambassadors to identify spaces where young people gather and organizes different events to reach young people with AYSRH information. When asked what motivates him, he shared:
“I am motivated by the fact that I can contribute to the health and development of young people while also learning new skills around the professionals I works with.”
Isaac Ayenajeh and Joyce Asanato found their niche in visiting youth social events on different university campuses and other places across Plateau state to share information and refer young people for services. Because of their keen interest in social mobilization, Isaac and Joyce are often aware of most social events happening across Plateau. Joyce shared that being a Life Planning Ambassador has given her the opportunity to speak about the reproductive health needs of young people:
“My motivation has always been seeing young people like me complete their education and reach their maximum potential in life. In a community where we always look out for each other, it was sad seeing my friends and peers being expelled from school because they got pregnant or were having unsafe abortions and dying in the process. These are young people who had great potential and could have made great impact in society. All of this motivated me to be part of finding a solution to the problems of unplanned pregnancies, teenage pregnancies and the rate of school dropouts. Serving as a Life Planning Ambassador motivates me to work towards the future that I envision for myself and my community.”
So far, the Life Planning Ambassadors have reached 8,533 young people with AYSRH and family planning messages and referred 5,911 to services. Of those referred, 4,612 have completed the referrals across public health facilities in Plateau. This is a result of community mobilization efforts during national and international day of celebration, in-reaches and outreaches. In addition, the Life Planning Ambassadors conducted eight media engagements through phone-in radio programs across the four media stations with widest coverage in Plateau and reaching more than 3,500 young people via social media platforms.