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. It’s another episode and today we are walking through the city of Calabar, Cross River, South-South Nigeria, where we listen to the story of our youth champion, Felicity Nneome Ike. This is Felicity’s story, come with me.
Felicity: Over the years, I have always wondered why there are lots of teenage pregnancies in my community until I had an encounter with Uduak.
In November 2018, during my first year at the university, I had an appointment with a medical doctor in a general hospital. On that fateful day, I went to see the doctor. It happened that the doctor was not yet in his office so I decided to wait at the reception hall. While I sat down there waiting for the doctor, I noticed a young girl of about 14 years, she was standing in the reception hall. She looked so worried, so helpless and sad, honestly, I was really curious to talk to her.
So I walked up to her and I said, “Hi good morning, how are you?”, and she replied to me, ” I’m fine” in a very sad voice. I went ahead to say, “My name is Felicity, What’s your name?”, she replied, “Uduak”, I smiled at her and said, “I like your name, it’s a beautiful name”.
She didn’t say anything, she was mute. I went ahead to tell her “come sit with me Uduak”, she sat beside me. I told her “Uduak, look at me, what’s the problem, you look worried, really
sad, talk to me”. She didn’t say anything, I still went ahead to tell her that “Uduak I can help you”, She said, “Ms Felicity, I don’t know what to do, I think I’m pregnant. Last three weeks I slept with my neighbour Kenneth and I know that if I tell my Aunty about this, she will beat me.”
So I told her that “Uduak”, I held her hands, “don’t be sad, calm down and she looked at me, She smiled” I went ahead to reassure her “Udauk, don’t worry about this. Like I said, I will help you okay?”. I told her “can you sit here and wait for me, let me go and meet a nurse”.
Uduak sat there, I went inside, I met a nurse and I told her about Uduak’s story. She told me, “Is Uduak with me right now?” I told her yes, I brought Uduak to the nurse and the nurse asked her some questions, went ahead to counsel her and also gave her antenatal services. The nurse insisted that she bring her aunty but Uduak insisted that she doesn’t want to tell her aunty that if not her aunty will kill her. So the nurse assured me that she would take it up from there and we were able to get her number from Uduak.
So this encounter with Uduak is the single story that made me decide to become a sexual and reproductive health advocate. I knew that there are so many Uduaks out there in my community who don’t have information about their sexual and reproductive health or even know how to get access to them. This led to why I applied for UNFPA Youth Cohort for 2019. Fortunately, I was selected and I began my journey as an advocate for sexual and reproductive health.
I engaged young people with meaningful conversations. Listening to their stories and their challenges at the youth-friendly centre which is like a safe space for these young persons. I also create safe spaces online. For instance, on WhatsApp, I engage with young persons through meaningful conversations and also engage them to be champions in their local communities. I work with a network called AFRIYAN Nigeria which comprises over 75 youth-led organisations that advance the sexual and reproductive health of young persons in their communities. I work as the communications officer where I carry out grassroots campaigns in communities and also engage young persons in schools through sensitization programs.
From my life-changing encounter with Uduak, I was inspired to advocate for the sexual and reproductive rights of young people including those with special needs in my community through organisations like the United Nations Population Fund. I know that there are so many Uduaks out there. Sometimes I ask myself, what if Uduak had information about how to practice safe sex, would she be pregnant?, and the answer is obvious No, she would not be pregnant. She would be able to make informed decisions about her sexual and reproductive health.
However, I call on NGO actors like UNFPA, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Mariastopes, Ministry of Health, to create more safe spaces like the youth-friendly centre. Where young persons like Uduak in my community can access friendly information and services and also share their stories and challenges as well. This I believe can help a lot of young persons out there like Uduak to make informed decisions about themselves. I believe that if young persons can be involved in family planning service design, it would go a long way to improve their access to services and not just services and information but equal access to services and information. Thank you.
Host: Wow! That’s a bold step, Felicity. There are many girls like Uduak in our communities who do not know about sexual and reproductive health and this makes it difficult for them to make informed decisions. We must also ensure that there are safe spaces for girls to speak about their issues.
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.
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Take action messages
- Show empathy when others share their stories with you. Be kind!
- Sex is not love! Do not compromise your safety. Always stay protected.
- Parents/Guardians/Teachers/Healthcare workers, be the safe space that the young person around you seeks.
- Be an advocate for sexual and reproductive health rights amongst your peers. Keep them informed.
- Create an online safe space platform. Spread the right sexual and reproductive health messages through your social media pages