As the Founder and former Executive Director of the Child Resource Institute in Zimbabwe, an affiliate of the UC Berkeley Child Resource Institute, I worked with about 1,500 girl leaders and HIV-positive women on advocating for their sexual and reproductive health and rights and access to family planning services. My current work as the Champions for Change Program Manager for Rise Up enabled me to work with civil society leaders to demand commitment from the Nigerian government to ensure the implementation of laws and policies that support family planning and SRHR. We were successful in convincing decision makers in the Nigeria Federal Ministry of Health to shift policy in Gombe that will enable community health care workers to administer family planning services in their community.
I’m from Sub-Saharan Africa and grew up with cousins, family members, girls, and unmarried women in my community that went through unplanned pregnancies. They were stigmatized by family members and religious leaders. It was heartbreaking for me as a girl to watch them go through public and private ridicule. Many were not able to complete their education and I saw that poverty was their final destination. I felt their pain and thought that I wanted to be able to do something about this.
Working with civil society leaders in mobilizing domestic resources for family planning through evidence based policy development has been an uphill battle in my work. The involvement of religious leaders also often determines whether our efforts and momentum. I’ve overcome these challenges by providing intensive coaching to civil society leaders to catalyze their advocacy work, and through culturally relevant strategies to get buy in from challenging stakeholders.
Many Sub-Saharan African countries have committed to the Family Planning 2020 global commitment, but local levels are not seeing its implementation because of lack of budget allocations from their governments. Continued advocacy and demand from civil society are needed to mitigate these challenges. In addition, it’s important to engage religious leaders in this process and help them understand that family planning is central to healthy and prosperous communities.
I would like to see the basket of funding dedicated for Family Planning 2020 in Nigeria clearly articulated. In the next budget cycle, I want to see the initiative gain a clear mechanism for implementation. Personally I won’t forget the community of Buhera, Zimbabwe where I’m from. There is so much poverty amidst prosperity from diamond mines. I would love to do more work there around family planning and SRH. I also want to support more with leaders who work on youth SRH in Kenyan slums.