“All men should let their wives start family planning” – Hawa’s Story

This is the first blog in a 4-part series sharing personal family planning stories from around the world – presented by CARE and Girls’ Globe in the lead up to the 2018 International Conference on Family Planning. Catch up on the whole series with stories from Parmila, Oun Srey Leak, and Olive.

Under the hot sun of Maiduguri, Nigeria, 23-year-old Hawa Ngoma is fanning herself with the end of her black hijab (a full head-and-body cloak that most Nigerian Muslim women wear) while sitting under the shade of a tree outside of a health clinic.

Hawa is married and has a five-year-old daughter and a two-year-old son. Her husband, Ali, is an ambulance driver for a United Nations project. Hawa came to this particular clinic after Ali learned about family planning from a midwife who works with him and heard that CARE was offering it here for free. “When my husband heard and saw the benefits of the family planning from his work, he asked me to start family planning and get counseled by this particular midwife.”

CARE Nigeria is providing much needed facility and outreach-based models of sexual and reproductive health service delivery in the most hard-to-reach areas in Northeast Nigeria. Over 250,000 women and girls most severely affected by the crisis have been reached with services including pre- and post-natal care, family planning, HIV testing, health education and post- abortion care.

“When I came to the health center, the midwife explained all the different contraceptive methods to me and how to use them, the good parts and the bad.” Hawa shared. When I came to the clinic, she was really welcoming and warm and took all her time to explain everything to me and gave me the chance to ask as many questions as I wanted and did not feel annoyed at all. This made me want to come back and visit again when the time to change the implant had
come.”

Hawa wanted to find the right method that fit her body and lifestyle, and something Ali would like as well. “I wanted to go for the pill, but my husband told me it makes you grow fat and he loves the way I am already, so I tried the shots. I loved the shots, but I decided to go for the implant because it lasts three years and this will help me rest and not worry about it for that period of time.”

Although Ali now understands the benefits of family planning and supports Hawa using contraceptives, that was not always the case. “After our first daughter was born, he refused to let me start family planning.” At this time, Ali lived in a different town from Hawa for his work. “My husband did not want to hear about family planning and since he was not living with us, it
was easy not to get pregnant. After we started living together, I got pregnant right away and gave birth to a baby girl who died a few days later. Then, because I was not using contraceptives, I got pregnant 40 days after the death of my baby.”

Hawa’s second and third pregnancies were difficult. “For my last two pregnancies, I lost a lot of blood and lost consciousness. After the second one, I had a blood pressure issue,” Hawa explained. “After my second pregnancy, I was introduced to family planning but my husband was against it. I guess the difficulties and challenges we faced during my third pregnancy made him realize it was a mistake not to space births.”

Although acceptance of family planning is growing in her community, many men still do not approve of it. Hawa sees that as a problem. “I’d like to tell men that they should let their wives start family planning as it reduces the risk of suffering and allows them to give birth to healthy babies. It gives you the time to rest and to give a better upbringing to your children instead of having a baby sucking on your breast, one on your back and the other one bothering you for being hungry or because they have messed their pants!”

Hawa hopes to be able to go back to school, find a job, and be financially independent. She wants to grow as a woman and give her children a better education and to raise them to be good people who will help others.

Learn more about CARE’s work in Nigeria here.

An Interview with Francesca Adeola Abiola, a Youth Champion for Women and Girls

Rise Up is pleased to launch our Impact Blog Series for the Women Deliver conference in Copenhagen, Denmark. This series highlights the work of two Champions for Change (C4C) leaders in Nigeria and one Youth Champions Initiative (YCI) leader from India. C4C’s Champions in Nigeria are working together to save the lives of mothers, children and young women through innovative advocacy and leadership development. YCI’s Champion in India is working to lead the sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) movement for the next generation.

This series brings a diversity of perspectives to the table to discuss their critical work in driving the progress in maternal, sexual, and reproductive health and rights, as well as sharing the impact they have made through partnerships, awareness raising and innovation.

We are featuring an interactive discussion with Francesca Adeola Abiola, a C4C Champion and Program Officer for Rise Up, and an assistant for Action Health Inc. (AHI), an NGO in Nigeria dedicated to promoting young people’s health and development to ensure their successful transition to healthy and productive adulthood; Wale Adeleye of Civil Society for Family Planning, an NGO in Nigeria dedicated to addressing various aspects of reproductive, maternal, newborn, and child health advocacy (RMNCH), with a special interest in family planning; and Gayatri Parameswaran of Love Matters, a global platform about love, sex, relationships, and everything in between for young adults in India.

In the second part of this series, Rise Up speaks with Francesca Adeola Abiola, Program Officer, Action Health Inc., Lagos, Nigeria and C4C Champion, Rise Up

Action Health Inc. envisions a world in which young people are guaranteed access to the basic information, education, skills and services they need to promote and protect their sexual and reproductive health and rights, as well as achieve their full potential. Over the last 25 years, AHI has worked to assure that both private and public sector programs include comprehensive, gender-sensitive, life skills and rights-based approaches to sexuality education and clinical services for youths.

Image 5-11-16 at 6.23 PMRISE UP: Why are you a Champion for women’s and children’s health issues in Nigeria?

Francesca: I was driven to become an advocate when I heard the case of a very young girl who had been raped, but the perpetrators were set free. A desire to help ensure that girls’ rights were upheld and the perpetrators brought to book inspired my work in advocating for women and children.

RISE UP: What’s the most innovative aspect of your work?

Francesca: AHI takes a multifaceted approach to ensuring that these public and private sector programs include comprehensive, gender sensitive, life skills and rights-based approaches to sexuality education for young people. Our advocacy for RMNCH is really important for communities and states in Nigeria because we are committed to ensuring that the lives of women and children are treated as “front burner issues” and receive the attention they deserve.

RISE UP: What is the biggest challenge you face as an advocate for women and children’s health?

Francesca: Low political will in addressing developmental issues is also a challenge we encounter in our work here in Nigeria, as we struggle to ensure government bureaucracy responds to the needs of women and children.

RISE UP: What’s your vision for the future of health care in Nigeria?

Francesca: I want to see quality, efficient, low-cost health care that is accessible and affordable to everyone, particularly women and children, regardless of their economic status. If women, children and newborns have access to good and quality health services and information we will see maternal and infant mortality reduced dramatically.

RISE UP: Advocating for women’s rights can be a difficult job; what’s one of your most positive memories from your work?

Francesca: One of my favorite and uplifting moments from work was during an international conference where a female student I worked with was presented with an award. Participants from the audience came congratulating me as well for my work, and that felt really great. It motivated me to do more for girls.

RISE UP: The most fun thing I’ve done in the last year is…

Francesca: I would say the most fun thing I did in the past year was attend a live concert with a friend. It was both an interesting and exciting experience. Generally when I want to relax I listen to gospel music — my favorite song is “I Need You to Survive,” by Hezekiah Walker.

RISE UP: What has been the impact of your work?

Francesca: Since the beginning of implementation, 20 girls were trained on sexual and reproductive health, six women are part of the community accountability watch group, and 13 women are part of the training on Youth Friendly Health Services. An estimate of total women and/or girls to be impacted by the end of the project would be 500 girls directly, and 700 girls reached by their peers and health provider interventions.
*****

We invite you to follow us on Twitter at @RiseUp_Together and use the hashtag #WD2016 to engage more closely with the Impact Blog Series for Women Deliver, the work of the three leaders whose work is being highlighted, and the larger conversation surrounding reproductive, maternal, newborn and child health in Nigeria as well as sexual and reproductive health and rights in India.

Champions for Change is a Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation-supported program of Rise Up and improves the lives of women and children in Nigeria by empowering local leaders and organizations to advance reproductive, maternal, newborn, adolescent and child health through advocacy, education, storytelling and strategic partnerships. Champions for Change leverages a program model developed by its sister initiative, Let Girls Lead, which contributes to improved health, education, livelihood and rights for nearly 40 million girls globally. This powerful model drives change through the passage of laws and policies, implementation of programs and distribution of funds to ensure access to quality healthcare, education and economic opportunity. Rise Up is headquartered at the Public Health Institute in Oakland, CA, a leader in global health and development for 50 years.

Follow Champions for Change on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/C4C_Champions

An Interview with Wale Adeleye, a Youth Champion for RMNCH in Nigeria

Rise Up is pleased to launch our Impact Blog Series for the Women Deliver conference in Copenhagen, Denmark. This series highlights the work of two Champions for Change (C4C) leaders in Nigeria and one Youth Champions Initiative (YCI) leader from India. C4C’s Champions in Nigeria are working together to save the lives of mothers, children and young women through innovative advocacy and leadership development. YCI’s Champion in India is working to lead the sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) movement for the next generation.

This series brings a diversity of perspectives to the table to discuss their critical work in driving the progress in maternal, sexual, and reproductive health and rights, as well as sharing the impact they have made through partnerships, awareness raising, and innovation.

We are featuring an interactive discussion with Francesca Adeola Abiola of Action Health Inc., an NGO in Nigeria dedicated to promoting young people’s health and development to ensure their successful transition to healthy and productive adulthood; Wale Adeleye of Civil Society for Family Planning, an NGO in Nigeria dedicated to addressing various aspects of reproductive, maternal, newborn, and child health advocacy, with a special interest in family planning; and Gayatri Parameswaran of Love Matters, a global platform about love, sex, relationships, and everything in between for young adults in India.

In the first part of this series, Rise Up speaks with Wale Adeleye, National Coordinator, Civil Society for Family Planning, Abuja, Nigeria and C4C Champion, Rise Up.

 

Headshot - Adewale AdeleyeRISE UP: As we know, there are many international non-profit organizations working in Nigeria. Why did you opt to be part of the PHI/RISE UP program specifically? What skills do you hope to acquire and what do you intend to do with this new knowledge and skills?

Wale: I am involved in the PHI/RISE UP program because it is going to build my capacity to really become a champion and push for the reproductive health rights of women. It will also well position me to advocate for necessary policies. I hope to acquire a strong set of advocacy skills which I intend to use to further the work of improving the lives of mothers in Nigeria.

RISE UP: Why are you a champion for women’s and children’s health issues in Nigeria?

Wale: I once worked for a health reform advocacy organization, which gave me insights into what women face in terms of their sexual and reproductive health rights. I vowed to become an advocate for women’s rights because reproductive health must be valued as a “best buy” by the Nigerian government and as a vehicle for improved maternal and child health. The area I am most passionate about in RMNCH is women’s sexual and reproductive health rights.

RISE UP: What is the biggest challenge you face as an advocate for women and children’s health?

Wale: The biggest challenges I face in this work are religious and cultural factors which inhibit our advocacy efforts.

RISE UP: What success are you most proud of in your professional career?

Wale: One major success was the recent approval for the enlistment of Emergency Contraceptives on Nigeria’s Essential Drug List (EDL) and of course the signing into law of the National Health Act.

RISE UP: What’s your vision for the future of health care in Nigeria?

Wale: My vision for the future of Nigeria’s health system is such that health is not only equitable, but accessible and affordable to all, irrespective of status. When women, newborns, and children have adequate access to good quality health services and information there will be new life and new possibilities.

RISE UP: What has been the impact of your work?

Wale: Since the beginning of implementation, 11 women (ages 20-50) who are leaders of various CSOs were trained on policy advocacy using AAFP SMART tool. Indirectly, at least 22 women will benefit from step down training from the 11 trained CSO leaders’ (women) organizations. By the end of the project, 30 Female CHEWs will be impacted directly by this project when task shifting policy is adopted by Gombe state. Through this project, 11 women from CSOs who are our allies were trained in policy advocacy. Currently 2 women are working on the project directly. All these put together will impact 43 women directly.

We invite you to follow us on Twitter at @RiseUp_Together and use the hashtag #WD2016 to engage more closely with the Impact Blog Series for Women Deliver, the work of the three leaders whose work is being highlighted, and the larger conversation surrounding reproductive, maternal, newborn and child health in Nigeria as well as sexual and reproductive health and rights in India.

Champions for Change is a Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation-supported program of Rise Up and improves the lives of women and children in Nigeria by empowering local leaders and organizations to advance reproductive, maternal, newborn, adolescent and child health through advocacy, education, storytelling and strategic partnerships. Champions for Change leverages a program model developed by its sister initiative, Let Girls Lead, which contributes to improved health, education, livelihood and rights for nearly 40 million girls globally. This powerful model drives change through the passage of laws and policies, implementation of programs and distribution of funds to ensure access to quality healthcare, education and economic opportunity. Rise Up is headquartered at the Public Health Institute in Oakland, CA, a leader in global health and development for 50 years.

Follow Champions for Change on Twitter

 

 

Misogynist Ideology of Nigerian Kidnapping

Written by Zainab Khan and Paula Kweskin

Eighteen-year-old Deborah Sanya went to school to take her final exams before graduation. She never expected what happened next: a mass kidnapping of her and over 200 of her fellow students. Deborah and her three friends are some of the lucky ones; they bravely ran when one of the kidnappers wasn’t looking, found refuge in a local village, and eventually made it home.

Four weeks later, there is no trace of her friends.

Islamic militants known, as Boko Haram, are believed to be behind the kidnapping of the girls from their school in Chibok. The literal translation of this radical, extremist terrorist group means “Western education is sinful” in the Hausa language.

The group is fueled by the ideology that Western influences have corrupted their society and a pure Islamic state can restore the country of Nigeria. The group wants to impose Sharia, or Islamic law, in Africa’s most populous and economically developing country.

Boko Haram is one of the most dangerous manifestations of the global resurgence of radical Islam. It utilizes brutal, violent, inhumane tactics to force a skewed, political ideology upon innocent people.

Since 2002, it has claimed thousands of lives through attacks on Christians, school children, and government targets.

The group’s leader Abubakar Shekau, warned in a video obtained in March that all students should leave universities and girls are to drop out of school to get married.

“In Islam, it is allowed to take infidel women as slaves,” Shekau said. “In due course, we will start taking women away.”

And this is precisely what was done.

Civilian victims targeted by these insurgents are frequently women and girls. The concept of “Western education” being deemed as dangerous is nothing new because the education of women and girls is an affront to the twisted ideologies of these terrorists.

Malala Yousufzai, the poster child for girls’ education globally, was shot on October 9th, 2012 by the Taliban en route to school. She, like her sisters, in Nigeria,‘dared’ to demand an education and to lift herself out of poverty.

 

For these terrorists, there is nothing more intimidating.

Educated women and girls are the agents of change in their communities and an indicator of progress and enlightenment. As such, they are the first targets for extremist groups.

Reports have indicated some of the abducted girls have been sold as brides to soldiers for $12, and some were forcefully converted to Islam.

It is horrifying to imagine what these innocent girls are undergoing. They have been captured and sold into sexual slavery in a practice reminiscent of the Middle Ages.

The Nigerian people are now on the battleground of two ideologies: one which views their women and girls as seeds of peace and harbingers of a better future; and the other, an extreme ideology of hate and oppression which views women as chattel to be sold and used, abused and discarded at will.

After the girls were taken in Chibok, Nigeria, their school was burned to the ground. The flames consumed their books, papers, and end of year exams. Their actions were clear: education, especially of girls, should be destroyed.

How will our voices respond?

Learn more about the oppression women face in honor-based societies. Watch Honor Diaries, a film featuring Zainab Khan and eight other courageous women’s rights advocates in a dialogue about gender inequality in Muslim majority countries.

Cover Photo Credit: Michael Fleshman, Flickr Creative Commons

#BringBackOurGirls

Photo Credit: Naijamayor, Flickr Creative Commons
Photo Credit: Naijamayor, Flickr Creative Commons

The world was shocked when on April 14, Boko Haram Islamic militants burst into a school in the Chibok community in Borno state, Nigeria. The militants kidnapped 276 girls from their beds. Only 53 girls managed to escape, and 223 girls are still missing.

Schools should be places students can learn without fear.

In Northern Nigeria, girls endure violence to receive an education. In 2008, the net enrollment of girls in secondary school was 22%, which is less than a quarter of girls receiving a secondary education. Child marriage is rife, with 78% of girls marrying by age 18. The region also has the highest rate of fistula in the country.

Boko Haram has led a murderous campaign against education in Nigeria. In Borno state alone, more than 800 classrooms have been destroyed. Boko Haram, which translates to ‘Western education is a sin’, does not want to see girls attend school in Nigeria. The story of Boko Haram is not new. Like the Taliban, and various other terrorist groups that have attacked girls’ education, they are afraid of the power of an educated girl. They are afraid of the power of education. The independence and freedom of women and girls terrifies them. It is their fear that leads to them suppressing the power of girls.

Educating girls has been proven to be the highest return investment for solving poverty. An extra year of primary school boosts a girl’s income by ten to twenty percent. An extra year of secondary school boosts a girl’s income by fifteen to twenty-five percent. When a girl in the developing world receives seven or more years of education, she marries four years later and has 2.2 fewer children. Children born to educated mothers are twice as likely to survive past age five. Educated girls are more likely to change the world.

Why would Boko Haram be afraid of girls’ education, when there are countless benefits?

It is believed that the Islamic militants have had mass wedding ceremonies where they forced the girls into marriage. It is also believed that they have sold some of the kidnapped girls for 2000 naira, or $12. Not only have these girls been denied their right to an education, but they have been forced into a marriage, against their will and have been trafficked.

No girl should be denied access to a quality education.

No girls should be forced into a marriage.

No girl should be trafficked.

The world needs to wake up to the severity of this issue. The voices of the 276 girls kidnapped can not and should not be silenced. The voices of the 276 girls kidnapped can not and should not go unnoticed. The voices of the 276 girls kidnapped and should not be ignored.

The kidnapping of the Chibok girls could have happened anywhere. It could have been your daughter, sister or even your niece. Recently, eight other girls have been kidnapped by the militants, highlighting how serious of an issue this is and why the International Community must get involved. We need to stand up for the Chibok girls so that this mass abduction will not inhibit the school attendance of other girls.

Stand up for the Chibok girls so their voices can be heard.

Stand up for the Chibok girls so they can return to school.

Stand up for the Chibok girls so they can be freed.

Learn More:

Take Action:

Cover Photo Credit: Rosemary Lodge, Flickr Creative Commons

I Demand Justice

Recently, I was walking in my neighborhood in Lagos, Nigeria, with my sister and my father. As we walked, I explained to them my fears of walking through the streets when it was so dark. My sister confidently replied, “We will be safe if anything happens because we have a man to protect us.”

This should not be the case. Men should not have to protect women from violence.

In many communities, women and girls need protection because violence against them is so prevalent. According to the World Health Organisation, 35% of women and girls around the world will experience intimate partner or non-partner violence in their lifetime. Every two minutes, a woman is sexually assaulted in the United States. That equates to 30 women every hour, and 7,200 women every day. In a recent post by blogger Diane, I learnt that some girls in India are born into brothels and are “bred” for a life of abuse, exploitation and violence.

Violence against women and girls must stop.

When I hear stories of girls who experience violence and stigmatization, I am infuriated. In October 2013, a Nigerian girl was gang raped by three unidentified men. This young girl committed suicide because of stigmatization and shame. She was ostracized in her community because she was raped. She did not deserve to experience such pain and trauma. At this moment, 223 school girls are still missing in Nigeria after being kidnapped.

It is for girls in Nigeria and around the world that I demand justice.

I demand justice because:

  • No girl should be raped, sexually abused or exploited
  • No girl should be cut
  • No girl should be trafficked
  • No girl should feel her only option is to commit suicide because of shame and stigmatization.

I demand justice because all human beings were born equal with the same inalienable human rights.

A young girl once told me “to be a woman is to feel pain.” I want this to change. Imagine a world without violence against women and girls. We would be free to walk on the streets without fear. Girls would not experience the pain and trauma of rape, FGM, abuse or neglect.

“There is one universal truth, applicable to all countries, cultures and communities. Violence against women is never acceptable, never excusable, never tolerable.” Ban Ki-moon, Secretary General of the United Nations

I demand justice for the millions of girls who experience violence everyday. Do you?

Share your ideas below or tweet us @GirlsGlobe

Cover Photo Credit: Stefano Peppucci, Flickr Creative Commons