This project started when Vaccine Network was awarded the WAVA Small Grants sponsored by the International Vaccine Access Center (IVAC) in 2017. The grant came at a critical moment in our quest to tackle the low immunization coverage in Nigeria that was reported in the 2016/2017 UNICEF National Immunization Coverage Survey report. Women of Influence sought to identify strong vocal women in communities; sensitize them on the importance of immunization; and collaborate with them on strategies that can be used to encourage other women to embrace vaccine uptake.
The project also sought to organize a pool of women from the community level up to the State level that will replicate and scale up the successes recorded in their own communities, in other communities and Local Government Areas (LGAs) thus, reaching the ultimate goal of increased State immunization uptake, and subsequent nationwide increase.
In carrying out these activities, it was determined that the project would be implemented in the LGAs of Tafa and Gurara in Niger State as well as Ushafa LGA in FCT. The State PHCDA was the first point of call. The project team met with the State Immunization Officer (SIO) who linked the team with the Local Immunization Officers (LIOs) of the LGAs. The project team had a roundtable discussion with the LIOs about the objectives and goals for Women of Influence. Together with the LIOs, strategies were devised on how to implement the project. At the community level, the Chiefs were the first point of call. All leaders of the communities in catchment areas assigned to the PHCs selected for implementation were invited to a meeting to discuss the project and issues it sought to solve. The project team also sensitized the community leaders on strategies to deploy in order to achieve the goals.
They pledged their support to take full responsibility of the wellbeing of their community members. With the help of the community heads, we identified, engaged, sensitized and mobilized strong and vocal women (women leaders, community women, female health workers, and women at the LGA offices).
Our objective was to tackle the issue of low immunization coverage nationwide using FCT and Niger as a pilot and to achieve 95% coverage in the communities.
- Consent and buy-in of the community leaders.
- Adequate capacity building of the women.
- Create a pool of strong, vocal and agile women immunization advocates. (Women of Influence).
- Create a model that can be used in other LGAs to achieve increase in immunization uptake.
- A pool of trained trainers for sustainability.
- Women are ready to work when engaged and community leaders are ready to work when properly mobilized and terms of engagements are clear.
- Most villages and communities have systems and structures which can be used to tackle any developmental challenge. These systems however may not be strong but can be strengthened through sensitization and training. Once the village heads understand the importance of the projects to their community they will ensure the job is done.
- The LIOs/immunization officers from the SPHCDA played a vital role of coordinating the process (The project was to enhance their job)
- Close Monitoring is also important; people tend to do more when they know they are being monitored.
- Clarity of purpose and efficiently communicate same to stakeholders. The project was a huge success and outstanding women were awarded gifts to foster their normal economic activities.