Women for Health: The Journey is a report of the evolution and progress of the Women for Health programme in five states in northern Nigeria. This report tracks the evolution of the implementation phase of the Women for Health programme. It notes specific achievements to date and highlights the critical factors that have contributed to its success. It reflects on important lessons that have been learned over the course of the programme and suggests steps for future action which can be used to inform scale up of future initiatives.
Several factors in the success of the Women for Health programme include: the engagement with and advocacy to key policy and decision makers; the transformation of health training institutions; the engagement with and empowerment of women in focal communities; and the establishment of a Foundation Year Programme.
The creation and maintenance of strong partnerships with regulatory bodies, legislators, and government officials, has been central to the programme’s success. It has allowed state governments to understand the barriers faced by women to accessing health training, the importance of health training institutions, and has paved the way for increased state ownership of the programme.
The transformation of health training institutions has increased the capacity to train female health workers. Through resources and technical assistance, the Women for Health programme has supported schools in gaining, maintaining, and increasing their accreditation and now there are now 19 accredited schools in the five Women for Health states. Schools have also implemented Gender Management Plans which removed many of the barriers to women’s participation.
Engagement with communities, including families, fathers, husbands, religious leaders, and the women themselves, has proven key to the success of the programme. Women in the health training institutions are there with the encouragement of their community, and there is a sense of pride in that woman when she returns to her home to practice as a female health worker. She is then able to act as a role model and encourage other women in her community, and raises the status of women.
The Foundation Year Programme (FYP) has enabled more women to access training by investing in their academic, personal, and social capital. Women who learn on the FYP subsequently have sufficient academic credits to be able to train on the mainstream nursing, midwifery, or health worker courses, when previously their lack of sufficient academic credits would have been a barrier to qualifying for training in the Schools of Nursing and Midwifery.