Youths for Change: How Innovative Strategies are Influencing Young People in Nigeria
Thanks to UNICEF Nigeria's “Give It A Shot” campaign, youngsters are learning about COVID-19 vaccines and passing that knowledge on to their peers.
Nigeria is at the forefront of the campaign to increase COVID-19 vaccine uptake in Africa, especially among the continent's young people.
The country already has the most vaccinated population in Africa.
Now, thanks to UNICEF Nigeria's “Give It A Shot” campaign, the country's youngsters are learning about COVID-19 vaccines and passing that knowledge on to their peers.
UNICEF’s Generation Unlimited Nigeria, also known as UNICEF GenU 9JA, has been a major factor.
Peer-influencing strategies, including knowledge-sharing webinars on career paths, hackathons, and boot camps, have helped drive UNICEF’s agenda to provide 20 million young Nigerians aged 10 to 24 with the tools, skills, and access to opportunities to take them from learning to earning.
GenU 9JA, which plays on young people's use of the term “Naija” for Nigeria, has also helped produce an impressive growth in the number of U-Reporters in the country.
U-Report is a messaging tool that empowers young people around the world to engage with and speak out on issues that matter to them.
Nigeria U-Reporters Lead the Global Way
Nigeria's U-Reporters went from 4 million in 2021 to over 5 million in less than a year. That meant it became the first African country to hit the five million mark.
In fact, now 1 in every 5 U-Reporter across the world is from Nigeria.
One of them is twenty-two-year-old Fathia Badmus, a 2nd year student of the Bayero University Kano.
She felt like she was breaking some imaginary code when she announced her decision to take the COVID-19 vaccine to her roommates.
They joked about it because they all shared the same mistrust about the vaccine due to the dreadful things they had heard.
Today, Fathia works hard to help debunk the myths and misinformation about the COVID-19 vaccine to her peers and community members as a trained Vaccine Champion.
She and her roommates are fully vaccinated, and she's not stopped there.
"I have got over ten of my friends to take the jab, and I hope to convince many more," she said.
The Give It A Shot campaign was held in seven institutions of higher learning across Lagos, Kano, Sokoto, Cross Rivers and Akwa-Ibom states.
It combined the COVID-19 vaccine drive with career fairs and fun activities to appeal to students, with the U-Reporters obtaining access to key stakeholders and mobilizing other young people.
U-Report and YOMA - Youth Agency Market Place - are UNICEF Nigeria’s main platforms under GenU 9JA for youth engagement and access to workplace readiness opportunities for young people.
Each Vaccine Champion Converts Others
In collaboration with the student union government across the seven schools hosting the campaign, about 2,100 Vaccine Champions were identified from among student influencers.
They were trained in basic communication skills and armed with trustworthy information to drive peer-to-peer influencing both within and outside the school environment.
Most of the influencers were non-vaccinated students who committed to taking the jab in front of their peers - a strategy to publicly show that the COVID-19 vaccine is safe.
Nigeria has the most vaccinated population in Africa. The country has administered over 29 million COVID-19 doses since March 2021, with 4.4 per cent population fully vaccinated.
Yet many young Nigerians between 18 -30 years, like Fathia, have been hesitant to vaccinate due to a lack of trust and fear of possible side effects.
Big Boost to Youth Vaccination Rates
To attract young people within and outside the university campuses to get vaccinated, other activities were developed.
These included music, games, sign-up drives for U-Report and YOMA, and career talks with Jobberman, a leading job-matching portal.
Over 90,000 young people took the COVID-19 vaccine during the campaign in the seven institutions of higher learning, and over 200,000 signed up to become U-Reporters.
Blessing Ejiofor, Communication Officer for UNICEF Nigeria, was in no doubt about the success of the campaign.
“UNICEF GenU 9JA’s peer-influencing strategies are helping to drive COVID-19 vaccine uptake among young Nigerians, engender work skills sharing, and reach more young people across youth platforms, including U-Report.”