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Story and Perspective

SMART Advocacy: Strengthening youth participation in advocating for improved adolescent and youth sexual reproductive health in Nigeria

Bayo Ewuola

Participants at Pathfinder’s recent SMART advocacy training.

With over 200 million people, half of whom are under the age of 24, Nigeria has a population that needs sexual and reproductive health solutions for adolescents and youth. In spite of this, adolescents and young people often don’t have access to the reproductive care they need: Less than 10% of all unmarried sexually active or married women age 15-24 use a modern method of contraception, and pronounced disparities exist among urban and rural women in early marriage, early childbearing, and first contraceptive use. [1]

This is why, through capacity building and technical support, Pathfinder is working with young people to lead adolescent and youth reproductive health decisions in Nigeria. This means training them on how to develop an advocacy strategy using the Advance Family Planning  SMART tool, as well as providing young people with an immersive experience of setting clear objectives that will contribute to the overall goal of increasing budgets and developing better policies for reproductive health at the local, state and national levels.

What happens at SMART advocacy trainings?

Participants at Pathfinder’s recent SMART advocacy training.

SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Reliable, and Time-bound) advocacy focuses on near-term advocacy wins that each contribute towards an overall goal. SMART advocacy involves identifying decisions that will advance a long-term goal, seeing what can be achieved in short timeframes, and anticipating what will motivate the crucial decision-maker.

I have been able to understand the link between government financing for health and robust policies to young people’s health, and that there are many policies not working well. This training is timely for young people like me to help us develop data-driven tools that can help with our advocacy

Chidera Onyeaghala, participant in SMART advocacy training
SMART advocacy steps

For a cross-cutting understanding of the policy environment, Pathfinder’s SMART advocacy bootcamp unpacks barriers to health and human rights, with a focus on the reproductive health of adolescents and young people, and reviews Nigeria’s relevant laws and policies with participants. This includes the National Health Strategic Development Plan, the National Health Act, and the Adolescent Health Development Policy. The training raises questions about gaps that exist within Nigeria’s  laws and policies, and examines ways to improve policies, garner financial commitments towards implementation, and build capacity to improve the process of implementation.

The SMART advocacy approach focuses on actions that will have the highest level of impact in the near term. It then connects these near-term successes—or “quick wins”—with broader, long-term goals.​ Quick wins generally fall within three categories and result in increased funding, change in policy, or visibility for the issue at hand (e.g. FP).

A focus on adolescent and youth sexual and reproductive health (AYSRH)

Sa’adatu Lawal presents at Pathfinder’s SMART advocacy training.

SMART advocacy trainings have widespread impacts. Often, AYSRH isn’t a political or financial priority. This means that the development of young peoples’ health can be stunted:  a noticeable lack of access to quality health services, inadequate sexual education programs, and health services that are not youth-friendly continue the cycle of poor reproductive health outcomes for adolescents and youth.

I believe tools like the scorecard we just developed can be applied to hold governments accountable to deliver on their promises for favorable adolescent and youth sexual and reproductive health as obtainable in all existing law and policies.”

Ibeh Francis, a youth advocate who attended a recent training

The challenges to adolescent and youth sexual and reproductive health won’t go away without continued efforts, including youth-led advocacy efforts. Moving forward, Pathfinder International will continue to build the capacity of young people and partner with them to be part of the process and implementation, and ensure they lead advocacy, including through the media, for increased government support for their health issues.

Pathfinder and partners advocacy ‘WINS’ for adolescent and youth sexual reproductive health

  • Pathfinder supported the review of the National Family planning blueprint to ensure that strong language on AYSRH is captured in the blueprint.
  • Pathfinder supported the Ogun state Primary Healthcare Development Board to develop an Adolescent Reproductive Health Framework, which outlines efforts by each stakeholder geared towards the health and development of adolescents and young people.
  • Pathfinder facilitated AFP SMART trainings for young people from five AFP states (Ogun, Nasarawa, Niger, Gombe and Kebbi state) to lead advocacy efforts for AYSRH in their states. As a result, the Nasarawa state government, for the first time, created a budget line for AYSRH and earmarked the sum of $5 million naira specifically for AYSRH.
  • Pathfinder and partners supported the review of the 2007 National Policy on Health and Development of Adolescents and Young People in Nigeria. The revised policy places emphasis on the biological, emotional, and psychosocial contexts of their growth and eventual transition to healthy and productive adults. The policy also provides an institutional framework for coordination, monitoring and evaluation to ensure effective implementation of its broad goals and objectives with the foresight that accomplishing the objectives will require multi-sectoral collaboration with relevant Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), development partners, civil society organizations, youth serving organizations, the private sector, and communities and academics.

It’s been a really educating and enlightening session with Pathfinder International. Through their guidance, my team is headed towards engaging stakeholders and pushing for funding and implementation of family planning policies in Niger state & Nigeria at large.

Amrah Aliyu, GGA
Suleiman Murkthar, Faith Onu, Okwudiri Nkeiruka and Amrah Aliyu participate in a SMART advocacy training.



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