Overcoming obstacles, discovering new horizons; My four weeks as an intern at CODE

Communications June 27, 2022 11

By Stephanie Iwunze

As a third year student of Public Health, a 6 month work experience with a public health or public health related organisation forms a compulsory component of my bachelors degree program. I looked forward to this experience from my first year in Baze because I just wanted an escape from writing tests and examinations. 

The days leading to my first day at Connected Development (CODE) were a bit difficult for me to process. I was no longer enthusiastic about skipping tests and exams, instead I was wondering if I was ready after all. 

I joined the team on a Tuesday in the middle of May. As an intern, the idea is to amass as much knowledge and experience as I can by working with all the departments in CODE. The programs department was the first department I worked with. Ruth Okafor, a programs officer was directly responsible for assigning tasks to me and the first task was to take notes for a meeting’s report. 

Turns out this meeting was a weeklong workshop to review all the projects CODE is currently working on. At first I had no idea what was going on until I barely managed to make sense of the abstract words and acronyms I heard. Eventually, there was something I could fully comprehend without opening my dictionary or losing my train of thoughts; Project Sabi, a project aimed at tackling Gender-based Violence supported by Oxfam Voice. 

Another project that resonated with me was EMOC (Empowering Oil Rich Communities) supported by the FORD foundation. The aim of the project is simply to amplify the demands of citizens in oil-rich communities. The strategy employed for this project which involves citizen participation is something I find interesting especially because progress has been recorded around government waste management in the focal state; Rivers State.

The “Girl Child Education” project in partnership with Malala Fund which seeks to address the current  state of our educational sector is one other project I quickly picked interest in. My interest in this project is simply because it aims at  ensuring  the provision of 12 year free and compulsory education with no hidden charges. I am really looking forward to the education summit in Adamawa during  the last week of July. During the summit, all the North-East governors will pledge their support towards improving girl child education in their states. 

Thankfully, the workshop acted as a crash course on CODE’s activities for me.I also got to meet other staff members including the Chief Executive, Hamzat Lawal. His humility and ability to cordially relate with everyone inspired me. I watched him motivate CODErs to think outside the box and acknowledge the little success stories they get. I was encouraged to put in my best while having confidence in my abilities no matter how small.  

I was still trying to fully settle into the system when I was asked to join a team to draft a grant proposal for conducting a research on Violence Against Women and Children (VAW/VAC)  from the Sexual Violence Research Initiative (SVRI). This formed part of my onboarding process alongside other relatively new staff members. It was a huge challenge because I had struggled overtime with working in teams and I had no idea what a proposal was supposed to look like. Overtime, I enjoyed working with my team. We went back and forth on different concepts, raised constructive criticism and learnt from each other before we finally sent in a concept note on our proposed research topic for approval.

My third week kicked off with a motor park town hall meeting for Project Sabi which is focused on stimulating a movement aimed at ending all forms of violence against Women and Girls with men as the advocates in the participating states; Lagos, Abuja and Enugu.

Apart from the fact that I could easily relate to the project, it was a big learning experience for me. I observed the project officers come up with ways to manage whatever situation was thrown at us within seconds. Some key stakeholders of the project like the NURTW, NAPTIP, NOA and MoWA were in attendance. They made their contributions to the meeting after which plans for signing a memorandum of understanding (MOU) commenced.

I was assigned to the Human Resource department in my fourth week and I worked directly under our HR manager, Nene Ibeku. We were working on hiring a few support staff members for a project running in seven states so I assisted with drafting the terms of reference (TORs)  for the different roles we were hiring. So far, this has been one of the most challenging tasks I have worked on but with Nene’s support and encouragement, I was able to put something meaningful together.

My time at CODE has been somewhat challenging but intriguing and I look forward to working with the several departments and doing even more challenging work before the end of my internship here at CODE.

Stephanie Iwunze is a third year student of Public Health at Baze University, Abuja. She hopes to use her experience at CODE as a stepping stone into an impactful Public Health career.

Ending Open Defecation in Nigeria: How Realistic is it?

Kevwe Oghide December 6, 2019 0

Kevwe Precious Oghide

A major concern in achieving the Sustainable Development Goal on Water Sanitation and Hygiene Is how to end Open Defecation by 2030. How realistic is this?

Nigeria is suffering from a defecation problem. Defecating in the open is one of the leading devastating menaces to public health in Nigeria. The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) estimates that about 122,000 Nigerians, including 87,000 children under the age of five die every year from diarrhoea, intestinal worm infections, cholera, hepatitis, typhoid and other preventable sanitation-related illnesses.

Although access to clean sanitation facilities has improved significantly, due to increased funding and efforts by UNICEF, the European Union, and other global development agencies working to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal 6 on Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH); the results are still far from quantifiable. Over two-third of Nigeria’s population suffer from poor hygiene and live without access to necessary sewage and sanitation facilities. And without proper sanitation facilities, people have no choice than to defecate in open and unsafe places, attracting unwanted health hazards and safety problems, especially for women and children.

Clean Nigeria Logo

Today, Nigeria suffers not only from poor hygiene but inadequate medical care, a menace that is linked to poverty. Thus, eradicating open defecation is an important part of efforts to reduce poverty. The general population forgo hand washing after using the toilet due to sanitation ignorance, lack of proper water supply systems and poorly maintained facilities. With the gaps in sanitation infrastructure, Nigerians can only dream of simple toilet facilities.

One prevalent challenge to ending open defecation is not just erecting sanitation structures or providing clean and safe toilets but changing people’s behaviour from choosing farm fields, railways, motor parks, stadiums, highways, streets, roads, playgrounds, bushes, forests and water bodies, to using the toilets. Many rural dwellers, for instance defecate in the open, not necessarily because they do not have access to toilets but because of deep-rooted cultural practices. How do we create awareness of the dangers and detrimental health effects of this practice? How can we share information that will spur behavioural change in an effort to bridge the gap between poor sanitation and the proper use of toilets? There is a mother in a grassroots community who cleans her baby’s faeces, rinses her hands, and continues cooking, though her hands are not thoroughly washed. There is a child who defecates in a corner and goes back to eating his meal nearby. There is a girl who goes to the bush to defecate and is at risk of rape, kidnap or death. The health and safety implications are terrifying.

Although the Nigerian Government is making conscious efforts to prioritize sanitation, with the launch of Clean Nigeria, the results are not encouraging. Many Nigerians understand the need for clean water but knowledge of sanitation is a far cry. 

Girl fetching water in Gandiya Community in Kano State

To achieve an Open Defecation Free (ODF) society, the Federal Ministry of Health and the Federal Ministry of Water Resources must prioritize sanitation, especially at a time when the country faces the challenge of standard and adequate medical facilities. While the need for clean water and sanitation, particularly in grassroots areas is understood, the relevant government, international development agencies and civil society groups must begin an urgent nationwide sensitization campaign about the necessity of proper sanitation and good hygiene practice as this has a significant impact on healthy living. To be fair, some humanitarian organisations like UNICEF, USAID, EU and Connected Development [CODE] have taken up this cause but it requires the efforts of every Ministry, Institution, the private sector, donor agencies and even individuals to make ODF a reality in Nigeria. Of the 774 Local Governments in the country, only ten are Open Defecation Free. Bauchi, Benue, Cross River and Jigawa State account for the ten LGAs that are leading the drive towards an ODF Nigeria.

It is worthy of note that Nigeria loses about 1.3% (N455 billion) of its GDP annually to poor sanitation as a result of illness, low productivity, loss of earning opportunities and other factors. Ending open defecation in Nigeria can mop up this economic loss.

To urgently tackle Open Defecation, relevant Ministries must set up strong sanitation policies and make budget provisions that reach even the most remote grassroots areas. Nigeria needs a separate budget line for sanitation with a special allocation to end open defecation and put measures in place for accountable spending. CODE, through its social accountability movement, Follow The Money, can track funding in the fight to end open defecation and ensure that monies disbursed for the cause are judiciously utilised. The government needs to initiate bills/laws to promote sanitation and take urgent action to implement an open defecation roadmap at State and Local Government levels. Corporate Organisations should prioritize sanitation in their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) —they can make budget allowances for erecting mobile toilets, repairing broken facilities, providing water supply to improve the practice of proper sanitation, in urban areas. There is a need to adopt all necessary means to sensitize the public on the importance of sanitation and hygiene. It is not enough to provide clean and safe toilets but also to change behaviours as a means to bridge the gap between building latrines and their proper use.

In 2014, India began an intentional and aggressive nationwide campaign to stop 623million of its population from practising Open Defecation. Today, India has recorded 94% success rate. If India, with its very large population can achieve this, so can Nigeria. 

Kevwe Precious Oghide is the Communications Lead at Connected Development [CODE]. She has a profound appreciation for great humanitarian service, demonstrates high ethical standards and has an outstanding record of generating high impact results through creativity and collaboration.
Reach her via Kevwe@connecteddevelopment.org