Chizoba Onyechi, communications advisor in Abuja for the Health Communication Capacity Collaborative (HC3) in Nigeria has been named one of the 120 Under 40 family planning champions for 2017.
The award is organized by the Bill & Melinda Gates Institute for Population and Reproductive Health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, with sponsorship from Bayer and is given to young professionals who have made significant contributions to family planning at the local, national or international level.
Growing up in Nigeria, Chizoba Onyechi always knew she wanted to work with people, helping them to improve their health and their lives. She began her career in public health supporting HIV/AIDS outreach, but her time working with these communities soon made her aware of another pressing health issue that needed her skills and passion.
Onyechi was constantly being asked for advice about family planning.
“There was a huge knowledge gap among young women,” Onyechi says. “They were stranded in many ways. They didn’t want to become pregnant but they didn’t know how to prevent pregnancy. Often, they were being misled. I feel that if people are well-informed then half of our problems are solved.”
Now, Onyechi, 36, spends her days making sure women have current and accurate information about family planning.
Through her work with community members, leaders and health workers, Onyechi is making a measurable difference. Previous research has shown that Onyechi’s work helped increase the use of long-acting reversible contraception such as IUDs and increased the number of men who accompanied their spouses to clinic appointments where contraception was discussed, enabling them to make family planning choices as an informed couple.
It’s these results that give her the motivation to continue her work even in hard to reach areas of Nigeria.
But it’s not just numbers that keep her inspired. She proudly says that one of the biggest endorsements of the work of HC3 happened recently, at a high-level national family planning consultative meeting. At the meeting, a religious leader, Alhaji Yakubu Abdullahi, Marafan Bauchi – the Advocacy Core Group (ACG) co-chair for Bauchi State, presented on how HC3 facilitated religious leaders in becoming advocates of childbirth spacing in the state. The ACG is comprised of mainly religious and traditional leaders who are working to foster an enabling socio-cultural environment for practice of childbirth spacing.
“It shows that we are making a difference,” she says.
Read more about Chizoba Onyechi on the Johns Hopkins Center for Communication Programs’ website.