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Fearless and courageous for the women of Nigeria

“For me #BeBoldForChange means being fearless and courageous in the work I do – to tell it as it is! If the government is doing well they get a pat on the back, if not, we point out where they need to change course to ensure their programmes affect lives meaningfully, especially for those of mothers and babies.”

Esther Agbon works as Health Finance and Advocacy advisor for the Evidence4Action - Mamaye programme in Nigeria where she leads on the analysis of health budgets and translating them into formats that can be understood by ordinary Nigerian citizens. Through the development of Health budget scorecards, the MamaYe programme has found success in ensuring that state governments are more aware of their poor performance in timely release of funds for service delivery.

In addition Esther engages civil society organisations (CSO) advocates to carry out meaningful Health Budget Advocacy, specifically in relation to provisions for Maternal Health at the States and Federal level in Nigeria.

“I also support CSO’s to understand how to engage in other international financing strategies adopted by the Nigerian Government such as the Global Health Financing Facility and Universal Health Coverage, with the ultimate aim of improving the lives of mothers and babies through adequate financing to RMNCAH programs”.

Esther’s catalytic role in health budget advocacy has led to the empowerment of Nigerian CSO advocates to bring about increased resources amounting to N798bn for Contraceptives and Midwife Service Scheme which had been totally omitted from the Federal budget in 2016, thus enabling service delivery to women and babies. In addition, following questions raised by Esther and the MamaYe progamme, over N2.6bn savings were made and reallocated from a huge lump sum allocation on a Public Private Partnership project.

Inspiring success, but bold achievements have not been without challenges.

“As a woman, you can often be made to feel that this what a man should be working on, you hear responses to advocacy such as ‘oh, so you do this?’ or ‘this is a field reserved for men.’’

And these are not the only challenges she faces. To name a few, information is not always released by the government, bureaucratic constraints block access to information and government may not always follow up on their promises. Therefore, it is telling that Nigerian spending per capita on health (30$) falls far below the target of 80$ per capita.

Esther’s story is one for all of us to learn from, to in her words:

"Speak up for the downtrodden wherever you find yourself, you never know when an opportunity may come."   

In a challenging context, she contributes to securing more resources for maternal and child health and the efficient allocation of existing resources towards saving mother and babies. With increased funding, service delivery can be increased, which means more women survive childbirth and more children are born healthy!

This International Women’s Day, we celebrate the contribution that women like Esther make in the world, and call upon everyone to #BeBoldForChange.

Why not start advocating for more resources for the health of women and children in your country!

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