As reported after the 2006 national census, persons within the age range of 15 to 24 constitute almost 18.9% of the Bauchi State population of 4.65 million. These critical numbers of persons are significant enough to galvanize change in every facet of Bauchi society.
Engaging youths in tertiary institutions to advocate for improved maternal and newborn survival in Bauchi State is therefore a strategy to
- Bring awareness to the youths on the high rate of maternal and newborn mortality,
- Conscientise the youths on what to expect in the near future as prospective fathers and mothers,
- Introduce the youths to evidence driven advocacy in demanding for accountability from leaders, and to
- Prepare the youths for future leadership roles that will require them to be accountable.
To achieve this strategy, the MamaYe! campaign in Bauchi State drew participants (students and lecturers) from Abubakar Tatari Ali Polytechnic, Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University, Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University Teaching Hospital, School of Midwifery Bauchi and School of Nursing, Bauchi. Various CSOs, NGOs and media outlets also participated.
Briefs on roles and responsibilities of each political office in Nigeria was made by an independent legal practitioner in the State to guide activists in knowing the types of messages to develop for each political aspirant.
This was in line with the goal of the seminar, which was to improve maternal and newborn survival through youths making input into policies, demanding accountability and taking action. Objectives of the seminar were:
- To raise public awareness about key factors behind maternal and newborn survival among youths in tertiary institutions
- To involve the students in the process required to make maternal and newborn health a political priority
- To recruit activists that will design and carry out specific actions that will make maternal and newborn health a political priority before the 2015 elections (these actions include social media engagement for sensitization on policies and maternal and newborn health, blood donation, evidence-based direct engagement with policy makers, and so on.
Students and staff from invited institutions benefited from capacity building in using evidence to demand maternal and newborn health accountability from policy makers.
MamaYe! Nigeria’s film, Blood, bond and politics was also showed to take the participants through the use of entertainment as an advocacy tool to engage policy makers on leadership and accountability.
At the end of the seminar, participants took pledges in 5 key maternal and newborn health areas - giving blood to save a mama and a baby, spreading the word about the need for the improvement of maternal and newborn health, standing up for the plight of midwives, making the case by speaking to policy makers to commit to improving maternal and newborn health, and keeping track of safe facilities for mothers and babies.
MamaYe! Nigeria gave the students the opportunity to take part and win prizes in an essay competition, which should target a particular political post aspirant to prioritise improving maternal and newborn health in their communities.
Winners of the essay competition will be announced at the MamaYe! Bauchi State launch taking place in the first quarter of 2015.
Participants who have become MamaYe! activists will keep recruiting others so that individual contributions towards saving the lives of pregnant women and newborns may increase.
The Facebook page set up by the students already has an encouraging number of people signing up.