It is due to this background that ‘Ni Nyampinga’, organized a campaign dubbed ‘Akurane Itoto’ loosely translated as ‘Growing Up Healthy’ to raise awareness among teen mothers and young parents in general to adhere to children immunization programmes and improve nutrition.
Launched by Girl Effect in 2011, “Ni Nyampinga” is a Rwandan youth brand which empowers girls to navigate the pivotal time of adolescence, so they are enabled to make choices about their health, education and economic future through interactive platforms including a magazine distributed across the country, radio shows, a serial radio drama, digital platforms, a network of brand ambassadors and self-started clubs.
The campaign followed research that indicated gaps in immunization and improved nutrition programs among children in some districts.
The Country Director of Girl Effect, Tiva Kananura has explained that this Ni Nyampinga campaign took heed to sensitizing teen and young mothers between the age of 15 and 24 on improved nutrition and routine immunization.
The campaign also focused on the role of the society to properly raise children below 2 years old ensuring proper nutrition and access to vaccines.
Tiva Kananura said: “The campaign was conducted across all districts countrywide with a special focus on Gakenke, Huye, Kamonyi, Muhanga, Nyamagabe, Nyabihu and Ruhango districts which were identified with gaps in vaccination programs.”
In all districts with special focus on the seven priority districts, young parents were enlightened on the benefits of getting children fully vaccinated and how to prepare a balanced diet for their children to grow up healthy.
Ni Nyampinga encouraged Rwandans to take advantage of introduced vaccination policies for children’s smooth growth.
Speaking to IGIHE; Aurore Irangeneye, a researcher and gender specialist has explained that Rwanda has enough vaccines but some parents don’t enroll children into vaccination programs due to inadequate information.
“Rwanda has vaccines for all children, but some people don’t have access to related information. We organized an engagement with our beneficiaries, both male and female, to acquaint them with the relevance of vaccination programmes, update them on the right times to take vaccines and teach them how to prepare a balanced diet,” she said.
Ni Nyampinga distribution manager, who is also a researcher, Jolie Umunyana has revealed that the campaign was facilitated by ambassadors of “Ni Nyampinga” who assisted beneficiaries through different methodologies and trained them on reproductive health as well.
“We sensitized them on changing their mindsets towards the vaccination programme to understand that it is a shared responsibility among both parents to get children vaccinated. The child should not miss vaccine shots on specific dates because the mother is not present. The husband is also concerned. That is why barriers emanating from gender inequality mindsets should not get loopholes to impede routine immunization.” she stated.
“We also taught teen/young mothers how to prepare a balanced diet within available means. We distributed mini-magazine containing specifically tailored information targeting young mothers and displayed wallpapers with that information at health centers. Men also received leaflets and in-person engagement reminding them of their contribution,” added Umunyana.
Even though a lot has been done; Ilaria Buscaglia, Senior Qualitative Analyst at Girl Effect Rwanda has said that there is still a long way to go for people to understand the relevance of having both parents engaged in childcare which include nutrition and routine immunization.
“We have rolled out the campaign, but changes won’t come at once. There is still a long journey for every man to understand that getting children vaccinated is part of their responsibility. We should focus efforts to communicate relevant information to ensure children get all vaccines and eat properly for smooth growth,” she explained.
The campaign held recently reached 9 635 teen mothers, 7 783 young boys, 1 424 teen fathers and 9 932 older parents. Vaccination and nutrition content produced by Ni Nyampinga can also be accessed from 63,000 Smart Classrooms in schools and 348 access points in the 7 priority districts, as well as on a digital platform called 8-4-5 which uses IVR and USSD technology.
Some participants said that they had fallen victims of beliefs and lack of information and pledged to properly raise their children following the campaign.
“I used to think that two vaccine shots were enough for the child before reading Ni Nyampinga’s mini-magazine dubbed ‘ Ni Bo Ejo’. The campaign equipped me with the right knowledge and taught me that a child received vaccines up to 15 months,” said a 17-year old teen mother from Huye district.
“The campaign was very beneficial because I used to laugh at men taking children for vaccine shots. I have changed my mind, I recently took my child to take the vaccine we had missed in the past two months. Health workers were extremely delighted to see me coming with the child,” revealed a man from Nyabihu district.
The campaign was funded by the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (Gavi) in close collaboration with the Ministry of Health through Rwanda Biomedical Center (RBC) and was implemented in partnership with Girl Guides, The Ministry of Youth and Culture through the National Youth Council, Ministry of Education through the Rwanda Education board, the Gender Monitoring Office (GMO), ActionAid, AEE, AVSI Rwanda, Duhozanye, Empower Rwanda, Komera, Miracle Corners, PACT and RWAMREC.