Social Mobilizers in Delta State, Nigeria, Get the Word Out to Increase Family Planning Access
Contributors: Tunji Adeleke and Arome Odoma
The Challenge Initiative in Nigeria gets people in the community talking about family planning through social mobilization – one of TCI’s proven approaches. This approach can also raise family planning awareness, increase knowledge about family planning, and strengthen the link between the community and services by providing referrals to services. TCI Nigeria works with State social and behavior change communication (SBCC) committees and local government area (LGA) health educators to enlist social mobilizers to get family planning messages out and distribute referrals. The mobilizers help with neighborhood campaigns, engage with community associations (like the association of market women or hairdressers) and leverage key life events, as well as indigenous festivals and community theater. The testimonials below demonstrate the power of this approach from a social mobilizer’s viewpoint, as well as those reached by their efforts in Delta State – one of the 10 states where TCI is implementing this approach.
Utele Ifunanya, a 28-year-old social mobilizer in Delta State, says using a family planning method influenced her decision to become a social mobilizer.
“I only used to hear about family planning, but I didn’t know much about it until after I got pregnant when I was not ready to; the nurse in the hospital where I registered spoke to me about family planning and how it can help me prevent unplanned pregnancy. I got family planning because I didn’t want to get pregnant again after having my first child at a young age and I needed to take care of my child. I also needed to work so that I can have money to take care of myself and my child. I am enjoying family planning, it doesn’t have any [negative] effect on my body. It is very good for everyone. I didn’t experience any side effects since I have been using the implant. I’ve now mobilized others to pick up a family planning method so that they can also enjoy the benefits that I am enjoying and not be afraid of getting pregnant. I’ve been using the implant for almost a year now and am enjoying it; I don’t have any complaints. I am not scared of getting pregnant and I have time for my child too. That is why I was happy to join TCI as a social mobilizer so that I can use myself as an example to other women and encourage them to pick up a family planning method. Thanks to TCI who brought family planning to Nigeria.”
Debunking Myths and Misconceptions and Improving Lives
Esther Amajatoja, a trader in Agbarho Town of Ughelli North LGA in Delta State, took up family planning services after TCI-trained social mobilizers visited her and referred her to a facility near her home. She said she had been afraid of family planning methods because of some misconceptions about side effects. .
“I was afraid that it causes bleeding, stops menstrual period and makes one stomach get big. So, I decided not to go for family planning. Some mobilizers came to me and educated me about family planning, its benefits and how it will help the mother, father and children and that any method I go for is free at the nearest facility, so I accepted and took a referral from them and rushed to Agbarho PHC Ughelli LGA and took the Depo-Provera Injectable free of charge. My life changed since the day I was visited by the mobilizers in my community who sensitized me on family planning. Since then, I can testify that the method is good in my body; everything in my body is functioning well, and I am looking very young and smart. I am very happy with this free family planning method and now encourage my friends and other women out there to go for family planning.”
Mrs. Victoria Asiofuba, a trader in Delta State, said family planning has improved her relationship with her husband and children.
“Before I meet with Mrs. Blessing Ighoadjebre (Social Mobilization Assistant), I was afraid of family planning because of what I had heard about it – that family planning makes someone to have high blood pressure and other problems. Mrs. Blessing told me about the different methods of family planning and their benefit. My doctor had told me in the past that I should stop having children because I have four alive and six dead. I also used to have problems with my husband because I was afraid of becoming pregnant. It’s a risk for me since the last pregnancy was terrible. So, after talking to Mrs. Blessing – she called on me for like two days – I decided that I’d give family planning a try and went to the PHC Ovwian where I fixed an implant. Ever since I fixed the implant, I see changes in my life. I no longer refuse my husband sex because I’m not afraid of getting pregnant. I see my menstruation every month, but the first month after I started family planning, it was somewhat heavier than before. But, it’s worth it because now I have peace in my family and am happy with my husband and the children. My husband is also happy because neither of us have to worry and I no longer refuse him.