PROMOTING AND DISTRIBUTING AFFORDABLE FEMALE CONDOMS IN NIGERIA
An interview with Ms. Victoria Archibong, Society for Family Health (SFH)
Coordinator Universal Access to Female Condoms (UAFC) Nigeria
Author: Gertjan van Bruchem, Oxfam Novib Programme Officer, UAFC Nigeria
Country Liaison Officer
What is the main difference between the promotion of male and female condoms?
"I believe the introduction of the male condoms was relatively easier. This could be because it
was easier to target men as the “dominant” party in relationships and the ones who will wear
the condoms. There was also a lot of support from donors and IPs. The female condom is
regarded more as a “woman thing”. Some men may feel threatened as the female condom will empower women in demonstrating their sexual and reproductive health rights. For Female
condom programming, programmers have to be more creative and strategic."
What are the main challenges and solutions?
"One major challenge is low acceptance for female condoms. The key factor for success is the
acceptance of female condoms by both men and women. The second challenge is convincing
people to use the female condom at least once or twice as this will make them more
comfortable with the product (satisfied users) who will ultimately become female condom
advocates with their friends. Myths and prejudices about the female condoms constitute
another challenge. A major challenge is insufficient quantity of female condoms in country
programmes to enable sustained product use in order not to loose the momentum. So far, this has been the main challenge in all female condoms programmes, even now in UAFC Nigeria.
Despite the challenges mentioned above, UAFC is making efforts to address these challenges.
Such efforts include male involvement as men will be targeted in the mass media campaigns
and other intervention activities. SFH and its partners deliberately maintain a minimum of 1/3
male trainers and promoters. Another solution is reaching out to religious leaders as they have
a large influence and can promote female condoms acceptance among their constituency. SFH
demonstrated this by inviting an Anglican bishop to open the UAFC official launch. Part of
our documentation, linking and learning will capture the experience shared by both male and
female new users who we expect will progress to become satisfied users. Finally, it is very
important to adopt a flexible approach and adjust where necessary."
What are the target groups of the programme and how do you reach them?
"The overall target group are women and men of reproductive age. It is targeting both new
users of family planning devices and increasing the options for existing ones. Different
strategies are required to meet different sub-groups. For instance it is difficult to reach
unmarried girls and boys through the conventional distribution and promotion channels like
pharmacies and public health centres. Informal channels are identified instead like NGOs and
peer educators. At schools it is not accepted to actively promote condoms, but students come
out and ask for it. Other specific sub-groups include People Living with HIV and AIDS,
specific professions, youth, female Sex Workers and market women, men and women in
uniform. UAFC key strategies will include: capacity building; awareness and demand
creation; inclusion of female condoms in existing programmes and service packages and
managing the supply chain."
What is the approach and message?
"The basic message is dual protection against unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted
infections like HIV/AIDS. There is definitely also an element of pleasure in the approach. The
name of the special brand condom under the programme in Nigeria is “Elegance” and the buy
line (motto on the cover) is “Free your mind …. Enjoy”. The hidden message is increased
control for women. If this message would be explicit, it could discourage traditional and
How did you develop these approaches?
"It is based on SFH programming experiences and those of other counterparts. SFH has gained a lot of experiences introducing and promoting male condoms and work at community level.
From others it was learned that targeting Commercial Sex Workers stigmatises the product.
Prior to UAFC, SFH had no major experience with female condoms. Female condoms
programming is relatively new to SFH. For me, it is also my first involvement with female
How replicable will this pilot project be in other parts of Nigeria and beyond?
"The three pilot states are all in Southern Nigeria, which is generally more receptive, less
conservative and open to these kinds of ideas. It should be relatively easy to scale up the
programme in the South West and South South geo-political zones in Nigeria. A different
approach will be required in South East Nigeria (predominantly Catholics) and the North
(predominantly Muslim). Probably new pilots will be required to best address the cultural and
religious differences and biases. It has been a good decision to start in relatively “easy” states.
The pilot will definitely be relevant to other countries. Together with WPF, the experiences
will be documented and shared with intending programmers. Again UAFC Nigeria will share
experiences, lessons learnt and best practices within the pilot with all stake holders to enhance
linking and learning."
Do you have any additional tips and suggestions?
"It is important to involve civil society, government, media and private sector. Be open,
flexible and willing to learn. Try the female condom yourself first! Listen to your partners and
their experiences. Be very careful when setting incentives especially monetary incentives. The
expectations of all counterparts should be levelled from the beginning (planning stage). Roles
and responsibilities should be shared and agreed upon. All partners should make a
commitment on the extent to which they will bear the costs of leveraging on existing
programmes with female condoms programming. The issue of motivation is essential because
when people are happy they will be supportive."
The project is part of the global UAFC campaign. UAFC was set up in 2007 as a Dutch
collaboration between Oxfam Novib; I+Solutions; World Population Fund (WPF) and the
Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs. It now has an International Steering Committee and
covers the elements research and development, lobby and linking and learning and large
scale country programmes. In October 2007 UAFC Nigeria formally started as the first pilot
country. Cameroon is the second and Mozambique the third. In Nigeria three pilot states were
selected: Lagos, Edo and Delta. Objective is to distribute some 4,000,000 female condoms
during the next three years. The Society for Family Health (SFH) as the contract partner is
the main promoter of family planning devices in Nigeria. It distributes some 80% of the male
condoms in the country. Among the additional partners in the project are Oxfam Novib
Counterparts Girls’ Power Initiative (GPI), Lift Above Poverty (LAPO) and Baobab for
women’s human rights, UNFPA and the Federal Ministry of Health. On 13/07/2009 UAFC
Nigeria was formally launched in Lagos.
Bron: OxfamNovib Network