Empowering local leaders in Nigeria with the resources, training, and networks they need to improve health for women, children, and youth.

The Challenge

Although Nigeria is Africa’s largest economy, the country has the world’s highest rate of maternal mortality: One in every 13 girls and women die around childbirth, primarily because they lack access to skilled birth attendants and emergency care. Skilled attendants are available at only a little over half of all births. This rate is getting worse in northwest Nigeria, where many women give birth completely alone—without even a family member present. Moreover, six in 10 Nigerian women have no access to family-planning services or information.

Without information or means to control their own fertility, women in Nigeria face a high number of unintended or high-risk pregnancies, which has devastating consequences for families and communities in the country.

Champions for Change

Champions for Change (C4C) works with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to provide funding for local Nigerian programs that improve the health of women, children, and youth. C4C supports local leaders or “champions” by giving them the financial resources, tools, training, and networks they need to address the biggest needs in their communities. This combination of field-tested methodology and motivated local advocates helps Nigerians rise up to create sustainable change together.

C4C intentionally selects organizations that work with vulnerable groups, such as girls, prison populations, and women in northern Nigeria. More broadly, C4C aims to integrate services for vulnerable youth in primary health-care facilities; increase budget allocations for family planning; and increase the quantity and quality of media coverage on reproductive, maternal, newborn, and child health.

In this way, C4C creates change at the local level and inspires the political will for improved approaches to health care and services across Nigeria.

Impact: Abdulrazaq Alkali’s Story

In Nigeria, C4C believes that by giving motivated, passionate local leaders the right tools, they can change health outcomes for their communities. That’s because local leaders understand their community’s needs and conditions—even if they have no background in health.

This was true for Abdulrazaq Alkali, a graduate in finance and accounting who ended up being an unlikely ally for reproductive, maternal, newborn, and child health in his community of Kano. In 2003, Alkali began working for Youth Society for the Prevention of Infectious Diseases & Social Vices (YOSPIS), which asked him to collect data for donors supporting a health and family-planning project.

Through his local outreach, Alkali recognized the community’s need for family-planning services, and he was motivated to do something about it. Today, Alkali is executive director of YOSPIS, and since receiving training as a Champion for Change, he has learned new ways to help address his community’s challenges.

“The training to become a Champion for Change truly benefited us,” he said. “Our capacity has been built as a strong advocate for reproductive, maternal, newborn, and child health.”

Now YOSPIS is looking at ways to influence policies in Kano and analyzing how the government is delivering family-planning services. This underscores one of the strongest values of the C4C program: It inspires people to make change in their communities and beyond to advance progress on health issues across Nigeria.