TCI’s Victor Igharo with Dame Edith Okowa, first lady of Delta State and TCI champion.

Delta State First Lady Dame Edith Okowa has emerged as one of the Challenge Initiative’s first major champions in Nigeria. Okowa became interested back in October 2017, when the Nigeria team visited her office in Asaba, the Delta state capital, during the Initiative’s implementation kick off there.

Victor Igharo, the Nigeria country director, briefed Okowa on the Initiative’s “business unusual” approach and congratulated Delta State for its success in the highly competitive selection process. The First Lady agreed to add her voice to those who advocate for the benefits of reproductive health and family planning. She pledged her support in making sure much-needed political will existed for family planning investments and Nigeria’s FP 2020 goals.

As a champion, Okowa was instrumental in getting maternal health included in last year’s celebration of Child Health Week in Delta State, which elevated awareness of family planning. Previously during Child Health Week, Delta State mainly focused on nutrition, hand washing and immunization of children below age five. Family planning commodities were made available at high-volume sites in preparation for increased demand during what was now known as Maternal, Neonatal and Child Health (MNCH) Week.

The week also created more visibility for the Initiative in Delta State with radio jingles that included a family planning component broadcast on select State media stations. For the first time, family planning had a dedicated exhibition stand with family planning service providers and counselors on hand to create awareness and refer clients to services. Social mobilization efforts created awareness, which generated more demand for family planning services in the state’s primary health clinics.

During the week, more than 2,000 clients across Delta State accessed modern family planning methods of their choice. Increase uptake of family planning services in health facilities within Delta State contributed to the Initiative’s goal of ensuring quality, affordable, accessible voluntary family planning services and products are available.