|Overview and history of IWHC's work in Nigeria|
Since 1988, IWHC has fostered intensive and collaborative relationships with a small group of Nigerian organizations working to effect change in their communities and across their country. During that time, many of our partners have grown from individuals with visionary ideas to national, regional, and global leaders on adolescent health, sexuality education, curriculum development, and sexual rights.
Given the overwhelming youth of Nigeria's population (more than half of Nigerians are under the age of 20) and the particular challenges and health risks these young people face, many of our partners have chosen to focus their efforts on adolescents. Girls are particularly vulnerable: in a country with one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world, 40 percent of girls will give birth before they turn 18. Although abortion is legal only to save the life of the woman, an estimated 24 percent of sexually active adolescent girls have had at least one illegal abortion—and in one regional hospital study, 60 percent of women treated for complications from unsafe abortion were adolescent girls. HIV is also a major threat: in 2002, there were twice as many HIV-positive girls aged 15 to 24 as boys.
Across Nigeria, our partners are working to provide Nigerian girls—and their male peers—with the information, skills, and care they need to make a healthy transition to adulthood. Beyond serving their communities, our partners are also effecting changes at the policy level: in August 2001, Nigeria's federal government approved a National Sexuality Education Curriculum that several of our partners had helped design, and which many of them are currently implementing at the state level.
Working across generations and borders, our partners have also mentored fledgling groups within Nigeria, provided expertise to organizations working on comparable issues in Cameroun, and shared their experiences and insights with government, NGO, and youth representatives from Mozambique during a 2001 IWHC-sponsored learning exchange and several subsequent visits.
In addition to these mentoring efforts, a number of our Nigerian partners are coming up with new ways to identify the impact of their own work at the individual and community level. For example, the Southern-based Girls' Power Initiative (GPI) is working with a U.S. expert to develop non-traditional, qualitative evaluation methodologies that capture such elusive variables as changes in girls' self-esteem and the impact of community-level advocacy. These innovative approaches—still being explored in the U.S. research community—represent yet another opportunity for our colleagues to make a significant contribution to their field.
Other partners have cultivated a strong presence in Northern Nigeria, where Shari'ah Islamic law, introduced in 12 northern states in November 2000, threatens women’s human rights and limits all people's access to accurate information on sexuality and reproduction. In Kano state, the Adolescent Health and Information Project offers vocational, literacy, and leadership training along with basic information about health and sexuality. In Niger state, the International Center for Reproductive Health and Sexual Rights supports and advocates for a wide range of disenfranchised groups, including sexual minorities, out-of-school adolescents, commercial sex workers, and HIV-positive women who have lost their husbands to AIDS. Both organizations have contributed immeasurably to their communities, and as a result, they have begun to cultivate partnerships with government, religious, and traditional leaders around subjects of high political and cultural sensitivity.
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