Community Information Boards in Nigeria
Igniting Social Change
© UNICEFNigeria/2008/Margaret Duniya |
Hajiya Maryam Katune leads the Rafin Alhaji Community in Kebbi State, Nigeria.
In 2007, the Government of Nigeria, with support from UNICEF, developed the concept of a Community Information Board (CIB). It is a simple board designed to capture basic social and development data that communities could use to track the health and well-being of their children and to drive community dialogues, collective decision-making and communal action to realize the rights of children and women. The Community Information Board (CIB) was developed through a process of pre-testing with community leaders and different groups (including women and youths) until it was deemed user-friendly. Boards were then produced for 222 focus communities. Guidelines for the use of the Boards and a training guide were developed with community leaders and resource persons, with technical support from Government officials, academics and UNICEF staff. By the end of 2008, 25 non-governmental organizations (NGOs), government experts and academics had trained 291 community focal persons and 3,128 members of community development committees on how to consolidate data from local records, update the boards, provide feedback to community members, and moderate community dialogue sessions.
By December 2008, 138 communities in 21 states had updated their Community Information Boards and were using them to monitor indicators of child survival and development in their communities. The Boards had become the focus of community and peer-group dialogues, the inspiration for local theatre, and the motivation for house-to-house counseling and other concrete actions that helped improve the situation of children, women and families.
The Community Information Board (CIB) is an innovative mechanism that helps communities track the health and well-being of their children and women and empowers them to participate in making decisions that affect their lives. The initiative is based on the human rights principles of inclusion, participation and self-determination that are seen as central to ownership of efforts to ensure the survival, development and protection of children as well as the well-being of communities.
In Nigeria, the efforts for scaling up the boards is underway. Over 80% of all the communities in the country could be reached by 2012 if the capacity of staff from universities with outreach programmes and national and local NGOs is developed. In practice the successful application of the boards to date has depended in part on the literacy level of resource people within the community. Information on the indicators remains incomplete in those communities which do not have a back up literate resource person to update the Board when the Recorder is unavailable. In some communities the highlighting of illiteracy in this way has spurred parents to send their children to school. In conflict-affected areas of the South-South zone communities have reported difficulties in retrieving information on key indicators from households. In these areas safety and security take precedence over updating of the Community Information Board (CIB).
Half way through to 2015, Nigeria is facing huge challenges in meeting the Millennium Development Goals. Partnerships with communities can accelerate the pace towards achievements of these targets. An analysis of campaigns in Nigeria indicates that intensified activities suddenly end once funding is no longer available (“money done finish” as the local saying goes) and immediate targets are met. As in the case of the Universal Coverage on Immunization, the gains quickly eroded after the campaign ended and the key issues were no longer in society’s eye. The key lesson here is that for ongoing engagement of communities in dialoguing on issues pertaining to the wellbeing of children and families, the issue has to be constantly kept in the public eye and on the general community agenda.
Nigeria has ample financial and human capacity to tackle basic child survival, development and protection challenges, yet there is inadequate government engagement and accountability in service delivery and management; local governments have not involved traditional and religious institutions, local networks or communities fully or very effectively. Communities have been exposed to prescriptive messages for years but not to the kind of information that might motivate them to openly discuss and then take collective action to improve the situation of children and families.
The Community Information Board is designed to capture basic social and development data in the community for tracking the situation of children and women, and to provide the focus for community and peer-group dialogues, local theatre and house-to-house counseling that lead to concrete actions that improve services for and the rights status of children, women and families. As a community tool, it requires the participation of every segment and group in all stages of its use. The principal moderators of the Board are the traditional leader, the community or village development committee, and the Recorder. The audience is the entire community—women, youths, children and men. The board is intended to complement existing community engagement processes such as community dialogues and community theatre.
The Board tracks 16 indicators quarterly:
- number of children born
- number of children registered at birth
- number of children under 1 year who have received the first dose of Oral Polio Vaccine at birth
- number of children under 5 years who have received Diptheria, Pertussis and Tetanus Vaccine (DPT3)
- number of children not gaining weight
- number of orphans
- number of children attending primary school (boys and girls)
- number of households with long-lasting insecticide-treated bednets
- number of households with latrines
- number of functional improved community water sources
- number of pregnant women attending antenatal clinic sessions
- number of women dying during or pregnancy or within 6 weeks of delivery
- number of children who died within one month of birth
- number of children who died before 5 years of age
- number of community dialogue sessions held
- number of village development association meetings held.
Development of the Community Information Board
Agreement was reached through a consultative process, involving local community leaders, government bodies and UNICEF, that the 16 child survival, development, protection and participation indicators would be tracked by communities using a Community Information Board. The Board concept was pre-tested with various groups within communities, including women and young people, before being revised to make it more user-friendly. Guidelines on how to use the Board were developed jointly by community leaders representing the six regions within the country as well as resource persons drawn from non-governmental organizations and universities with technical input provided by the Government and UNICEF.
Using a two-tier ‘cascade’ process UNICEF organized Training for Recorders and members of the Community Development Committees. First, university lecturers from across the country, together with staff from UNICEF non-governmental organization partners, participated in national level training of trainers (TOT) workshops. Second, training of trainers (TOT) participants, equipped with new levels of confidence, knowledge and skills, returned home to train local people on the selected indicators. The local level training focused on (i) increasing people’s basic knowledge of each of the 16 indicators both within and around their communities, (ii) demonstrating how to collect and collate information on each indicator and then enter it quarterly on the Information Board and (iii) developing a system to link the information on the Board to community discussions and actions. These local training sessions were organized by local or zonal UNICEF offices in collaboration with the relevant State Ministry of Information. UNICEF also helped to develop a Training Guide to be used primarily by non-governmental organizations as a resource for training and monitoring processes within communities.
Following the local level training boards were placed in each of the 222 Focus communities identified in the joint cooperation programme between UNICEF and the Government of Nigeria.
Using the Communication Information Board
Each indicator is recorded on the Information Board, which is placed in a prominent position within villages, and updated quarterly by a Recorder who is generally an assigned member of the Community Development Association. The Recorders, several of whom are women, use information from daily and weekly entries in Community Information Notebooks to update the Boards. Each Recorder has a Community Information Notebook or register into which s/he enters information on each indicator when it is collected. At the end of each quarter the information in the Notebook is collated and entered on the Community Information Board.
Information is kept on the Board for one year when it is ‘archived’ or held in a secure place within the community. Recording of information then begins afresh on the wiped board at the start of another year. The Traditional Leader and the Village/Community Development Committee are principally responsible for maintaining the Community Information Board and ensuring the involvement of all sections of the community. All groups have a chance to participate in responding to issues that arise from a common analysis of the implications of information on the Board and in agreeing ways to address problems and move forward within the community. Participation takes place through one or more local level communication forum such as community and peer group dialogues, local theatre, and home counseling.
The project is a joint initiative between UNICEF, the Ministry of Information at the federal level and the Departments of Information at the state level. The Ministry of Information works with UNICEF to plan and conduct national orientation and training sessions which are attended by representatives from the State Information Departments who are responsible for organizing local level training and supporting communities at local level.
The Boards have been successfully adopted in over 60% of the focus communities. A total of 138 communities in 21 states (Abia, Anambra, Akwa Ibom, Benue, Bayelsa, Delta, Enugu, Ebonyi, Cross River, Delta, Imo, Kaduna, Katsina, Kebbi, Kogi, Kwara, Lagos, Rivers, Zamfara and the Federal Capital Territory) now regularly update their Community Information Boards and use information from the Board in their dialogue sessions, action planning and implementation of agreed corrective or reinforcing actions.
The Boards have been in use for three years. Nevertheless, feedback received from communities to date suggests that analysis and discussion of information on the Community Information Boards contributes to:
- increasing the focus on the day- to-day well being of women and children and recognition of their rights
- stimulating communities to discuss the best way of addressing issues on the board
- encouraging communities to track information on their own development
- creating a common understanding of development problems
- acting as a catalyst for local assessment, planning, implementation of action plans and thus build local ownership of services and programmes
In the words of a community leader from Sokoto, the process “…has generally expanded my knowledge of the importance of record keeping and appropriate and adequate information management, and availed me the opportunity of knowing happenings in other communities.”
The Boards have exposed communities to an organized and standard method of data collection in the community, and communities have learned to interpret data and understanding their usefulness. According to another community leader from Zamfara, “Records are available in every community, but we need to improve the way and manner they should be kept.”
The Boards have forged a link between data, dialogue and knowledge of key household practices. Some community leaders confessed that they had never taken the key household practices or record-keeping seriously and were only just beginning to put these into practice now that they have a better understanding of their benefits. As one leader from Kaduna noted, “At the end of the training received on the Community Information Board, I was able to know 13 key household practices and the objectives behind them.”
The process has enabled communities to appreciate the need to initiate, own and control the process of development in their localities rather than yielding to the dominant culture of relying on interventions from outside. In the words of a data recorder from Abia State, “The Community Information Board has afforded me the opportunity to know that we should not rely on government for our development. I have also learned that poverty should not be an excuse for not observing or implementing the key household practices in our community.” Communities report that they “can now identify problems” themselves. A participant from Enugu remarked during training that the Boards would “help us to know what is happening in our communities” and enable the exchange of “ideas on how to bring about change of attitudes in our communities.”
- Maintaining communities’ interest in dialoguing on issues related to the well being of children and their families requires that those issues are kept firmly at the forefront of public attention and on the community’s own development agenda
- The leadership and support provided by traditional leaders and community development committees is vital to the successful use of the Community Information Boards
- Using women as Recorders increased openness, encouraged greater cooperation amongst households and increased their willingness to provide data to the Board
- Providing communities with incentives for maintaining CIBs to a high standard, such as Letters of Commendation, should be considered.
Scaling up the initiative
In the South Eastern state of Ebonyi a local Non Governmental Organization, the Mother and Child Initiative, is championing a drive to extend the Community Information Boards beyond the initial 13 localities supported by the Government and UNICEF. Mother and Child Initiative seeks to get the state government to procure and distribute boards to all communities in the state. Over 80% of all the communities in the country could be reached by 2012 if the capacity of stakeholders involved in the Community Information Boards were developed:
- the capacity of more tertiary institutions, civil society organizations and community-based organizations must be developed to ensure that the initiative is not just introduced but closely monitored and supported so that it works properly and well;
- linkages will need to be reinforced with the Community Development and Planning offices at the local government authority (next administrative level) for more supportive supervision and data monitoring.
Plans are in place to produce an audio-visual training package—complemented with “significant change” stories from communities using the Boards—to help market the Boards as a community action tool in all states. In addition, the planned country office Task Force on Communication for Social Change and a UN Country Team Communication (thematic) Group will open up new possibilities to introduce the concept jointly in the UN Development Assistance Framework and other priority states.
UNICEF also proposes to support research and closer monitoring in sentinel sites to generate evidence that can be used to encourage adoption of the initiative in other states, motivate communities that already have Boards to sustain them, and leverage support from donors and state and local governments to expand the initiative.