WITH varying expertise in their different fields of endeavour, some Nigerian women have taken the lead to lend their voices/energies through advocacy, initiatives, projects, social media mobilization, storytelling, etc. to promoting Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Universal Health Coverage (UHC) in the country.
According to the United Nations SDG Action Campaign, the 2030 SDGs adopted by all UN member states in 2015 provides a shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and for the planet, now and into the future. At its heart are 17 SDGs, which are an urgent call for action by all countries in a global partnership.
On the other hand, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), UHC entails that all individuals and communities receive the health services they need without suffering financial hardship. It includes the full spectrum of essential, quality health services from health promotion to prevention, treatment, rehabilitation, and palliative care.
Meet the Nigerian women who are passionate about achieving the SDGs/UHC mandate.
Cheluchi Onuobia, Executive Director of CHELD
Cheluchi Onuobia is a lawyer with expertise in health law and policy. She is involved in several health promotion activities and organisations, including Centre for Health Ethics Law and Development (CHELD), whose team comprises lawyers, doctors, health professionals, social scientists, gender specialists, statisticians, etc.
“There may be scepticism about what difference we can make as individuals, even as non-governmental organisations, but standing still will not take us to our destination,” she said. “One day, the right to health will be a reality, not merely a rhetorical question.”
Onuobia is passionate about improving health outcomes in Nigeria through engaging practically with existing health challenges. Through CHELD and other initiatives, she has embraced the integrated healthcare model and multidisciplinary team approach, while advocating UHC in areas of community health, mental health and wellbeing, among others.
“In Nigeria, there are still institutions where people are kept outside because they have mental health issues,” she said. “Education is required. It needs to go hand in hand with legislation. There is still a lot of awareness that needs to be done.”
Adaeze Oreh, Family physician and UHC advocate
Adaeze Oreh is a senior medical officer at the Department of Hospital Services, Federal Ministry of Health and a 2019 Aspen Institute New Voices Fellow. She contributed towards the revision of the country’s National Blood Policy in the National Health Act of 2014. She currently writes a bi-weekly column with Premium Times NG and regularly contributes to several radio stations in Abuja, speaking on health promotion and disease prevention.
In her recent Leadership newspaper article entitled ‘Case for Improved Primary Healthcare in Nigeria’, she said that while foreign aids have identified primary healthcare as a major focus of their funding commitments in Nigeria, which is a welcome development, “this aid cannot replace government investment and our own responsibility for building a better health system for all Nigerians.”
Oreh continues to lend her voice in advocacy for UHC and better public health systems in Nigeria with strong commitment to providing accessible, affordable and comprehensive care at the primary and secondary care levels from a community health perspective.
“As Nigerian citizens, we too must insist that our leaders keep the goal of affordable, universal healthcare at the top of the agenda,” she said. “If this is not done, I fear I will continue to see too many children with preventable diarrhoea, and we will all continue to see millions of Nigerians suffering and dying needlessly from other preventable and treatable ailments.”
Foluke Michael, Founder of CYIAC
Foluke Michael is a project management consultant. She is the founder of Creative Youth Initiative Against Corruption (CYIAC) and the project director of Vision of the Child. She promotes SDGs through education, creative development, innovation and entrepreneurship in children, youth and women.
On what her organisation is doing to curb societal menace, she said, “we’re empowering children and youths to fight corruption through creative thinking.”
In 2017, she launched the CCB animated movie series to influence policymakers to implement effective changes that would establish a system based on integrity and accountability. The series was also designed to draw attention to the corrupt practices associated with their everyday life and its negative impact on society.
In a television programme in 2018, Michael emphasised the fact that “the biggest impediment in Nigeria for achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals is corruption which has led to the collapse of our systems and societal values,” adding that CYIAC is committed towards sustainable corruption prevention in achieving SDGs in 2030.
Basirat Razaq-Shuaib, Founder of The Winford Centre for Children and Women
Basirat Razaq-Shuaib, a Board Certified Cognitive Specialist (BCCS), an author, a public speaker and a social entrepreneur, is passionate about creating equal opportunities for children with disabilities to facilitate the achievement of the SDGs. The first Mansion House Scholar in Nigeria, she has implemented a school-inclusion programme, trained over 200 educators, published a children’s book that promotes inclusion entitled ‘I Am Not Naughty’. She also created disability inclusion awareness in over 350 primary schoolchildren.
Worried about the rate of exclusion of Nigerian children with developmental disabilities such as autism, ADHD, and cerebral palsy, she founded The Winford Centre for Children and Women (UN Global Compact partner) as well as The Winford Centre International to provide education and welfare support services for children with disabilities, so that they have a chance of achieving positive outcomes and fulfilling their life potential.
“Our mission is to break down societal barriers and stereotypes by providing information, education and welfare support services,” she said. “Our work promotes UN Sustainable Development Goals 4, 5, 10 and 17.”
In her recent article entitled ‘Making Inclusive Education for Special Needs Work in Nigeria’, she said, “I place a lot of emphasis on unbundling ‘inclusive education’. This is because Nigeria is a very diverse country. By looking at each disability-related barrier individually, you get a chance to look at all the dynamics of that barrier and what needs to be in place to ensure that disability-inclusive education can be practised for that category.”
Adaku Efuribe, Pharmacist and SDGs advocate
Adaku Efuribe is a clinical pharmacist, a wellbeing coach, a ONE Youth Ambassador and a blogger with expertise in integrated healthcare and medicines management. Part of her role as ONE Youth Ambassador involves encouraging world leaders to replenish the global fund and to help fight extreme poverty and preventable diseases like HIV/AIDS, Malaria and TB, especially in Nigeria. Her interest is mainly on SDG 3 (Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages).
“I’m a strong advocate of Universal Health Coverage,” she said. “My health promotion initiative, Ask Your Pharmacist with Adaku (AYPWA), partners with the UN SDG Action campaign. Periodically, I run health and well-being campaigns.”
Efuribe, who is also an independent prescriber specialising in pain management and general medicine, believes that “a health system which embraces multidisciplinary team approach where patient-centred care is offered through medicines reconciliation and medication reviews to help reduce medication-related deaths in Nigeria is achievable.”
Asked what she would do to encourage rural/community healthcare in Nigeria if she were the minister of health, she replied, “I would first of all complete a community health-need assessment to enable us identify those in greatest need and to ensure that healthcare resources are used to maximize health improvement; then I’ll train more community healthcare workers to help complete public health projects in the community to ensure no one is left out of universal health coverage.’’
Indeed, these women have contributed their knowledge and time to ensuring that greater percentage of Nigerians, especially the indigent ones and those in rural communities, could have better healthcare knowledge and services through SDG and UHC advocacy. Their magnanimity and sacrifice should be emulated not just by other women in the country, but also by men, corporate organisations and government.