By Nabila Isma’il
Marakisiyya Habibu, an 18-year-old physically challenged adolescent school girl, lives in Shuwaki Cikin Gari ward of Kunchi LGA in Kano state, North-western Nigeria.
Most unmarried adolescents in Marakisiyya’s community lack access to adolescent sexual and reproductive health (ASRH) information and services due to the systemic stereotype attached to sexual and reproductive health for both married and unmarried adolescent and youths.
In collaboration with the Girl Child Education (GCE) Unit of Kano State Ministry of Education (safe space intervention), Lafiya SFH ASRH Concept Note 4 projects (an FCDO-funded project implemented at the national level and in 5 states in northern Nigeria) trained twenty-five students from 12 selected schools (of which Marakisiya was a participant).
The students were trained as peer mentors on the following modules: Life Management skills and Behaviour Change, Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health issues, and Promotion of Personal/ Menstrual Hygiene. The project also facilitated the provision of safe space for in-school adolescent girls and boys to learn key life skills and share experiences related to ASRH needs. This was achieved through the development of contextualised session guidelines, adapted from the existing National peer-to-peer manual.
Marakisiyya’s efforts contributed to regular peer discussions among students of Government Secondary School Kasuwar Kuka, leading to increased awareness among her peers. As a result of these efforts, most of the girls in her school who were not informed are now aware of the major signs of urinary tract infections, sexually and non-sexually transmitted infections, menstrual hygiene and the nutritional value of different classes of food, via the ‘say and do’ mimes. Students are now able to correctly demonstrate and describe key messages on these topics, leading to improved health seeking behaviour and increased uptake of services through referrals to the facility.
In the words of the school principal: “The training of the female students on ASRH is long overdue. As a male principal, with male Guidance & Counsellor, it is a huge relief for us to refer young shy girls to their peers for detailed information. And the trained facilitators are making us proud! they are very confident and receptive of their peers.” Ado Hassan Saye (Principal, GSS Kasuwar Kuka).
The guidance and counselling focal person of the school also had this to say: “Thank you Lafiya SFH programme for this intervention. We have never heard of such an intervention. This is the very first time we are having a donor-funded intervention in our school. It is rewarding and timely, and responsive to our needs.” Gambo Habibu (Guidance and Counselling).