AHF establishes Community Advocacy Club in Benue to promote sexual and reproductive health education

A non-governmental organization, AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) Nigeria, has launched an advocacy club called ‘Power Voices’ in Adaka community, Makurdi Local Government Area (LGA) of Benue State. Its aim is to empower community members to identify their challenges and advocate for solutions.

AHF is a global organisation operating in approximately 45 countries and has a presence in 13 African countries, including Nigeria. The agency has an office in Kampala, Uganda.

Speaking at the community advocacy orientation and inaugural event on Friday, Steve Aborisade, AHF Nigeria Advocacy and Marketing Manager, said the advocacy club is an initiative of the organisation’s African Office.

“It is their initiative that we should establish Community Advocacy Clubs called Power Voices. The sole purpose is to empower communities so that they can identify the challenges they face and be able to advocate and solve these issues themselves.

“What AHF is doing is building their capacity to know what advocacy entails and what processes are needed for successful advocacy. We will also help them to build the partnerships needed to address the challenges they have identified.

“We are also building their capacity to implement a number of health awareness activities in the community, particularly on HIV education, sexual and reproductive health, tuberculosis and other issues.”

Aborisade said AHF is establishing the clubs in the seven states where they operate in Nigeria, stressing that “it is vital because to achieve anything, you have to start from the community where we all come from.

“The communities have been neglected and this is our way of getting them involved. So we are building their capacity to know that this is the problem and also how they can mobilize themselves for solutions,” he said.

He was pleased with the community leader, Chief Daniel Uzo, who welcomed and mobilized members of his community for the meeting. He said that AHF will in future work with the club executives to support them in addressing some of the critical issues they have identified that are affecting their community.

He also expressed his satisfaction that after the initial training, the leaders already demonstrated some advocacy skills that enabled them to build others and make a mark on the life of the community.
Also speaking, Kenneth Ode, State Adherence Counselor for AHF Nigeria, said the meeting was aimed at establishing an advocacy club to ensure that every community has a voice to address their challenges and specific issues that are not prevalent in the society.

He said the club, which has 25 members, will act as a voice of the community to the rest of society.

“It is a community owned club and AHF will work with them and guide them as they work. We started this in Akwa Ibom, Nasarawa, Anambra, Kogi and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and for Benue, this community is privileged because we are announcing this idea in Adaka community in Makurdi.

Chairman of the recently established Advocacy Club Adaka Makurdi, Moses Usue, was grateful to AHF for bringing the initiative to them. He said they have many problems in the community but they do not have a platform to air them.

Usue identified the challenges faced by the community such as lack of potable water, lack of health care, early marriage problems, drug abuse among youth, displacement of families especially women and children, increasing number of children out of school, poverty and many more. He noted that with the support of AHF, their pleas for help would be heard and responded to.

He promised to mobilize his people to ensure the club achieved its goals.

Also, the assistant secretary of Advocacy Club Adaka, Priscilla Tule, said: “We feel very fortunate. We have faced many challenges but we did not have a platform like this to make our voices heard. So we see this as a great privilege and we gladly embrace it.”

In addition to water and health problems, Tule lamented that insecurity has also led to high rates of theft, teenage pregnancy and drug abuse.

She said they are calling on the state government to establish standard government hospitals and clinics in future and send medical staff to the hospital. They should also equip the hospital with modern equipment so that those who cannot afford private clinics can also access quality healthcare.

She called for the establishment of entrepreneurship and skills acquisition centres so that these people can receive training that will enable them to become self-reliant.

Earlier, the central leader of the Adaka community, Leader Daniel Uzo, expressed his appreciation for AHF’s interest in the situation in the Adaka community.

Uzo said: “They discovered that we are facing three major challenges here: lack of water, health facilities and attacks by armed herdsmen. They offered to help us address the water scarcity issue and make the primary health centre fully operational.

“I am very happy because they came to encourage and support my community to get involved in development activities. We will ensure that when these things are done for us, we will take possession of them and protect them as our personal property.