Approximately two-thirds of Nigeria’s population is under the age of 24, and over 18 million girls are between 14 and 25.1 However, most girls do not have enough support, power, or protection from their families or communities and are denied decision-making ability. Nigerian youth face a range of barriers to accessing sexual and reproductive health services, including providers who are unwilling or uncomfortable providing services, fear of being seen or mistreated, and distance to and cost of services.2
To address these gaps, WI-HER, a small woman-owned business, through the USAID Integrated Health Project (IHP), built the capacity of State Gender Youth Ambassadors (GYAs) in Bauchi, Kebbi, and Sokoto States to ensure gender-sensitive primary healthcare (PHC) services are supportive of adolescents’ needs. The team supported the GYAs to leverage and utilize locally available resources, including providers and managers of their nearby health facilities, to advocate responsiveness to youth needs and champion the health system’s utilization among their peers. Through mentorship and coaching, including peer-peer education and house-to-house mobilization, the GYAs led advocacy within their communities to encourage youth to utilize health services.
“IHP has assisted in building my confidence and has given me a chance to express myself. I feel happy to go from house to house to talk about youth sexual and reproductive health issues.”A GYA from Bauchi
Further, the GYAs were empowered to integrate and mainstream gender equity and social inclusion (GESI) at various levels and within existing community structures (e.g. Ward Development Committees). The Ambassadors gained practical skills to collaborate and respond to youth needs by creating locally-designed strategies that promote the use and availability of youth-friendly health services and address relevant issues, including child marriage, fistula, gender-based violence, and school retention.
In the past year, the GYAs, with mentoring and coaching support, reached:
- 1,931 adolescents (1,117M; 814F) in Bauchi State
- 2,112 adolescents (821M; 1291F) in Kebbi State
- 810 adolescents (330M; 480F) in Sokoto State
WI-HER, through IHP, will continue to address barriers to adolescents accessing and utilizing services by supporting local youth leaders to advocate for improved integrated health services that meet their needs. The GYAs are one of the locally designed and led strategies WI-HER uses to increase local youth participation and change in youth sexual and reproductive health.
1Olanrewaju, S. O., Olafioye, S. O., & Oguntade, E. S. (2020). Modelling Nigeria population growth: A trend analysis approach. Int. J. Innov. Sci. Res. Technol, 5, 997-1017.
2Sinai, I., Omoluabi, E., Jimoh, A., & Jurczynska, K. (2020). Unmet need for family planning and barriers to contraceptive use in Kaduna, Nigeria: culture, myths and perceptions. Culture, health & sexuality, 22(11), 1253-1268.