Host: Welcome to the Indigenius podcast, a podcast series using creative oral storytelling to document and share real-life experiences of grassroots family planning leaders in Nigeria and the Republic of Niger, with the aim of facilitating knowledge exchange and highlighting what works and what doesn’t in reproductive health programming. I am your host, Seyi Bolaji. In today’s episode, we journey through the town of Isale Eko Lagos state in south western Nigeria, the hometown of our youth champion, Oluwa Enitan Sophie. This is a day in the life of Enitan, join me.
Enitan: I lived with these secret pains for many years and I even got gaslighted many times to get sexually active and make babies, to reduce my pain. My name is Oluwa Enitan Sophie, I am from Lagos Nigeria, Isale Eko precisely.
Today I am a youth Champion for sustainable development goals who is also very passionate about adolescent reproductive health and gender rights because I believe no young girl should go through the kind of trauma I went through.
I advocate for these issues that are related to sustainable development because growing up, I did not have the information I needed when I first had my period. I picked an infection and I had to live with this for many years. Now I understand the dynamics of both my initial Dysmenorrhea now diagnosed as Endometriosis. I still have heavy inconsistent flows but I have learned how best to manage them.
I also believe that kindness is a baton that we have to pass on to the next person when we enjoy certain privileges. I decided to give back to my community. I started by working as a volunteer in my less privileged community, which brought me closer to how far access to safe, accurate, high-quality, affordable and voluntary family planning is for many girls and women who want to avoid pregnancies and other health complications, health information can ameliorate. Most importantly, I noticed that in most of the advocacy programs I was a part of, we often didn’t include persons with disabilities. As a person with not-so-pronounced disabilities, I understood the implication of this gap being unattended. I remember my time in UNILAG while I volunteered with the visually impaired community, I never paid attention to my immediate community which is the visually impaired community and just right under my nose there, three of the girls I assisted, got pregnant. I felt very guilty and I knew that the stories of Sadia, Obianuju and Maria would have been better if I had shared the information I had with them.
No doubt, engaging young people in this part of the world, where speaking about sex and general reproductive health information is seen as something hard and unconventional, My team and I at NATINEE, continue to break barriers by providing empowerment and development services for the vulnerable through advocacy for inclusive sexual reproductive health rights, gender and disability rights. We visit schools and mentor young people, creating a judgement-free zone where they could talk to us, and I realised that many of these young people would rather speak to us, than speak to their parents and of course because they like to get discreet services and information, we connect them to such.
For me, I feel fulfilled knowing that many younger people can make informed decisions and take charge of their lives because the goal of our advocacy is to broaden the knowledge of other people, and to demystify myths around family planning and reproductive health. Imagine a young girl telling that because she has not started her period she couldn’t get pregnant or when she has sex. Somebody once told me that having sex and taking Andrew’s liver Salt would reduce your chances of infection. For us who are in Nigeria and we know how out of pocket our healthcare system is, it is heartbreaking that many young people leave their menstrual hygiene and reproductive health to chance due to the stigma, and taboo, this subject comes with. The statistics of 1 in 10 girls missing classes each school day could loosely translate to missing about 50 days in a school year.
I am 1 in 10 girls, I missed school many times. I even had to lose an entire session. Looking back, I wish I had this information on time, maybe things would have been different, and of course, we know that lack of this information would not only lead to poor performance in school, it also leads to loss of self-esteem and other infections that could cost a life. I am passionate about ensuring barriers to access to reproductive health services that lead to poor health outcomes are eliminated and I look forward to continuing this as I take charge of my health. I continue to do this because I realise that advocacy is a never-ending exercise, and neither will my campaign for a better world for women and girls as they go through their biological function end. I mean being a woman is hard enough, worrying about how to access this information and services when you need them is another thing.
The stigma and taboos surrounding this unavoidable process for women and girls, especially for those who are trying to avoid pregnancy is something that we should work towards. What can we all do to join this fight, we could start by looking within our community, advocating and sharing the information that we have.
Please do not be like me, I remember, Sadia lost her admission and her scholarship after she got pregnant and needed to have her baby. Each time I think about this, it breaks my heart. I hope that we can all work together to make the world a better place
Host: this is a powerful story Enitan, you are so brave. Access to accurate and adequate information about sexual and reproductive health is essential and we need to increase awareness of this and also dispel myths around menstruation using the old and new media.
Dear listener, we want to hear from you, what have you learned from today’s story? Please share your comments and questions in the chat box.
Thank you for listening to the Indigenius podcast.
This podcast is brought to you by Strong Enough Girls’ Empowerment Initiative in partnership with the Young Ambassadors for Reproductive Health and Family planning network in Niger. It is made possible by the support of the American People, through The Pitch season 2, a competition co-sponsored by the US Agency for International Development(USAID) and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
The pitch is created and managed by the knowledge success project with Johns Hopkins University. Information provided in this podcast is the sole responsibility of Strong Enough Girls’ Empowerment Initiative and the Young Ambassadors for Reproductive Health and Family planning network and does not necessarily represent the views of USAID, the Bill and Melinda Gates foundations, the US government or John a Hopkins University.
The featured soundtrack is by Advance Universe. Don’t miss an episode, subscribe to the Apple podcast, Google Play, Spotify, Anchor or wherever you get your podcast and turn on notifications.
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Take action messages
- Give back to your community by volunteering your services.
- Educate a young person about lessons you have learned from this podcast.
- Speak up against stigmatization of any kind. You can be the voice of reason.
- Be an advocate for girls living with disabilities.
- Debunk myths and misconceptions about menstruation wherever you come across them.