The dRPC’ work in the area of faith and development stems from empirical realities and research findings on the value and respect for religious and traditional leaders in African societies. Traditional and religious leaders are close to communities; they are custodians of culture and norms; and can therefore be effective agents of change in gender norms transformation. Despite the important place of faith and traditional leaders in the lives of the ordinary Nigerian, the reality both donor and government funded development programs is that they are excluded from participation of most of these interventions or are only co-opted in cases of community rejection as occurred with the polio and routine immunization national programs. The dRPC, from its inception years in the 1990s has sought to include Faith based organizations and Community Based Organizations as well as Religious and Traditional leaders in its approach to incorporating and strengthen civil society organizations and their leaders. Over the years we have supported religious leaders to attend leadership development in health overseas training programs; we have also supported FBOs and CBOs by providing seed funds to implement health and education projects. The dRPC’s flagship projects engaging faith and community leaders have been the Traditional Leaders for Women & Girls in Northern Nigeria funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation; the Muslim Opinion Leaders as Champions for MNCH funded by Grand Challenges Canada; and the Leadership development for RH/FP funded by USAID. Our approach in working with faith and traditional leaders is to first use a secular and technical approach to provide health information through training programs to a cohort of leaders. This is often followed up by an overseas study tour where they interact with and meet religious leaders who are active champions in health. While working with partner institutions such as Institute for Family Planning Research and Training in Alexandria, Egypt, the religious and traditional leaders also meet with religious scholars who provide them with religious justifications for their proactive role as champions in health. This phase of our programming is followed up by support to the leaders-now champions for their own initiatives making public pronouncements; visiting PHCs to ensure services are provided; and even going to the Local government headquarters to meet health officials on issues of sub-optimal service delivery. Religious and faith leaders of dRPC training Cohorts are supported to form Alumni and continue working even after the project’s end date.
The dRPC is the anchor organization in Nigeria hosting the Nigeria Research Network reports where we conducted several studies with Queen Elizabeth House, Oxford University on Radicalization in Northeast Nigeria. as well as other areas of research.
The article, Impact of Muslim opinion leaders’ training of healthcare providers on the uptake of MNCH services in Northern Nigeria, published in Global Public Health, Volume 14 Issue 2, by dRPC is now available for you to access via tandfonline.com