With TCI’s Coaching Support, Technical Working Group Now Generates Demand for All Health Programs in Rivers State

May 20, 2022

Contributors: Uduak Ananaba and Olatunde Raimi

Anty Fubara (right) supervising and mentoring a social mobilizer during a neighborhood campaign in Ikwerre LGA of Rivers State.

Demand generation activities aim to increase the desire to use family planning by helping to change potential clients’ attitudes or perceptions about FP or increase awareness or knowledge of family planning services and methods so they can make an informed choice. In Nigeria, The Challenge Initiative (TCI) supports state governments to lead and own these demand-side efforts. This helps ensure demand- and supply-side efforts are aligned and harmonized, and all resources and partners are coordinated for maximum reach and coverage.

TCI does this by identifying and/or strengthening demand-side structures, such as Social Mobilization Committees (SMCs) that deal with seasonal social mobilization in Nigeria, for example. This has evolved into the creation and strengthening of Social and Behavior Change Communication (SBCC) Committees and Technical Working Groups (TWG), which are charged with coordinating all SBCC and demand generation activities across health programs, including family planning.

Mrs. Anty Fubara, a retired chief nurse who is now the chairperson of the SBCC Technical Working Group (TWG) of Rivers State, explains the significance of this evolution in Rivers State:

We are now at the forefront [in the State] when it comes to demand generation especially for primary health care programs.”

As a result of TCI’s coaching support, the TWG now oversees mobilization for family planning, environmental health, immunization and other health/disease outbreak programs.

Before TCI’s engagement with the state, Fubara explained that:

We were known as SSMC, that is State Social Mobilization Committee. We only functioned in few programs both in the Ministry of Health and Primary Health Care Management Board [PHCMB] with no serious recognition from either side. There was no model structure. We had a leadership structure that was not fully functional. There was no proper recognition by the government. In addition, there were no strategic documents guiding our work, Terms of Reference (TOR) were not fully documented, and no regular meetings nor vision or mission statements.”

Understanding this context, TCI deployed a cluster of approaches over the years of its engagement in Rivers state, including raising awareness of the need for SBCC and its relevance and strengthening SBCC capacity and social mobilization, which triggered more dialogues and conversations about family planning at the household and community levels. TCI also deployed approaches to strengthen service delivery and demand generation integration, and complimented the community efforts with family planning media materials while leveraging community events and festivals to sustain demand. These approaches and more positioned and empowered the SSMC to morph into the SBCC TWG and gain recognition from the Rivers state government as a one-stop-shop for all demand generation efforts.

Since establishing the SBCC TWG and the partnership with TCI, several changes have been observed and documented. According to Fubara:

In all these changes, the most significant for me is the process of institutionalization of SBCC. When I mean institutionalization, it is a process, its ongoing but for now we [the SBCC TWG] have been able to have great leadership, built our capacity in various areas with regards to demand generation, we have a five-year strategic plan and TOR, functional leadership and very high visibility in the primary health care program and in all the taskforce meetings. Government [specifically through the PHCMB] now funds our meetings. We are now at the forefront when it comes to demand generation especially for most health programs… In fact, let me also add that my knowledge and my horizon is emboldened and I can think farther. I can also investigate other gray areas, look into boxes that ordinarily I will not be able to look into, all thanks go to TCI. For the SBCC TWG as a body, we are now much more aware, committed and our presence is being recognized.”