We organize safe spaces through an inclusive neighbourhood space (INS) for adolescent girls and women in rural communities. The INS focus on enhancing girl’s knowledge to promote and protect their rights to say no to early marriage, promote child spacing for adolescent mothers, and increases knowledge of menstrual hygiene management and other harmful traditional practices (HTPs).
This is organized as a 3-days intensive life skills and vocational training workshop for girls in the communities. After the workshop, girls are grouped into their skills cohort and mentored for 12 weeks on age appropriate sexual and reproductive health information. Thereafter, each cohort choses a team lead with assistance from community volunteers, and organizes the cohorts for engagement for at least one-hour every week in the community. This sustains the campaign and allows community take ownership in supporting women and girls’ rights.
The campaign combines engaging young men and community influencers to create community awareness and knowledge on child marriage; credible information on sexual and reproductive health and rights (menstrual hygiene, child spacing, antenatal etc.) and other HTPs. This improves the level of engagement by local structures to fight against child marriage. The awareness raising and mentorship strategy of adolescent girls promotes delay in early marriages and educate boys and community leaders on the gains of allowing girl children complete their secondary school, and also build a community support network for girls and women to advocate against HTPs. This all-round inclusive engagement are the key strategies for preventing child marriage. The INS create an enabling environment where adolescent girls and women thrive and join hands with community members to combat the root causes of forced child marriages and improve their sexual and reproductive health knowledge. The project approach used is inclusive, community-driven and engagement-based.
#SpeakUp Against Child Marriage: Smartphone Youth Video Project
The #SpeakUp Youth Video Project was launched by the Population Reference Bureau to provide quality and credible sexual and reproductive health information through videos to young people. Our #SpeakUp video addressing child marriage in Northern Nigeria was supported and screened by PRB to attend the 2018 International Conference for Family Planning in Kigali, Rwanda. After the launch of the “SpeakUp” video on 2nd December, 2018, it reached a global audience of over 31,000 people online since its release on various social media platforms promoting conversations to address early and forced marriages in Northern Nigeria. We were able to reach over 2000 adolescent girls, women and young people in Kano with same message addressing the consequences of child marriage.
The video shares the story of a survivor whose story inspired renewed action against child marriage by many youths in the region. After its release, it sparked peaceful and creative conversations against the problem. The video was shot in a rural community in Tofa local government area, Kano state.
Child marriage is a fundamental violation of human rights. It is closely associated with no or low levels of schooling for girls. Poverty leads many families to withdraw their daughters from school and arrange marriage for them at a young age. These girls are denied the proven benefits of education, which include improved health, lower fertility, and increased economic productivity. Child marriage, in many instances, marks an abrupt transition into sexual relations with a husband who is considerably older and unchosen. Parents frequently arrange marriages for their daughters without their input or consent.
In 2015, an estimated 6 million girls were married by age 15 and 36 million girls were married by age 18 nationwide. Child marriage is more prevalent in the Northwest and Northeast regions, where 48 percent of girls were married by age 15 and 78 percent were married by age 18. Northern Nigeria has some of the highest rates of child marriage in the world with an estimated 65% among children below the age of 18 years (National Strategy to End Child Marriage in Nigeria 2016-2021 (2015), Federal Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development).
Youth Video Campaign on Child Marriage & Youth SRHR
With support from PRB the Youth Video Campaigns project aims to mobilize youth in country-level advocacy by and for youth. Two teams of 10 young advocates were selected from Kaduna and Kano states in northern Nigeria to engage in grassroots messaging, advocacy, and video training about child marriage. Specific video themes are chosen by the two teams and refined through concept development coaching by BCAI and include a focus on the health dimensions of child and forced marriage. The target audiences for the videos include policymakers and community members. The purpose of the videos and other project activities is to reach a broad audience with a credible, persuasive, and youth-led message, and to build advocates’ skills and work quality.
Video training lessons include key message refinement, pre-production and storyboarding, production, editing, and messaging for launch. These core concepts are meant to support the teams with their video work and advocacy in general, imparting essential lessons about how best to learn from and speak to a community’s needs. Teams are supported throughout by the project coaches.
From the training, each team will produce a series of short videos to mobilize youth for policy advocacy around child marriage; the series will be disseminated through social media platforms, including Facebook, WhatsApp, and Instagram. The videos will use a variety of creative elements to convey a call to action for youth #TimeToActSRHR, which include organizing for policy change around child marriage and SRH service provision for youth.
Dissemination will also happen within communities where the videos are produced, and include community screenings, direct appeals to decision makers, and interventions at civil society and youth engagement groups.
Active Citizens Sessions
Bridge Connect Africa Initiative through its Active Citizens sessions engages online communities of young people and professionals to speak up about issues in their communities – child rights, sexual and reproductive health and rights, maternal health etc., and together, promote discussions on how to address them, as part of its goal of strengthening conversations around the Sustainable Development Goals and promoting cross-cultural dialogue. The project which started in February 2019 has reached over 500 young adults, in five separate sessions till date.
Youth for Family Planning (Y4FP)
The Youth for Family Planning (Y4FP) Programme is an extension of the Active Citizen Session. However, the Y4FP is a platform engages people on both offline and online spaces to dialogue on issues specifically around family planning – myths, accessibility, demand generation – with the view of leveraging technology to reach unmet needs and open discussions around it. Offline spaces are incorporated into our community-led programmes, while the offline program will primarily be on WhatsApp/Twitter platforms with FP experts moderating each session.
Adolescent Girls Club
This is a life skills programme for adolescent girls in secondary school where we teach them important reproductive health and life skills to lead better lives as young girls and as women when they later grow into adulthood. Our focus includes teaching young girls on menstrual hygiene management, HIV/AIDS and other STI and covering knowledge on other harmful traditional practices like child marriage and FGM in general. This will run 12 weeks in selected secondary schools in Kano. At the end of each cohort, the girls form a safe space called the adolescent girls club, where they provide support for each other and improve their knowledge on issues that concerns their reproductive health and life.