Rotary International: Journalism for Reproduction, Maternal, Neonatal and Child Health

Rotary International Together for Healthy Family in Nigeria (THFN), organised a three-day journalists’ workshop in Ado-Ekiti, Ekiti State, through the Rotary Action Group for Reproduction, Maternal, Neonatal and Child Health (RMCH), with the sole target of equipping media practitioners on how to effectively get involved with RMCH and help in reporting and driving initiatives.

The workshop started with the arrival of participants and facilitators on July 1. Workshop and training were from July 2nd to July 4th, 2024, while departure was July 5th. The workshop was filled with activities such as extensive facilitation, learning tools and games, roleplays, short dramas and field works to mention a few. It was well attended with over twenty-one journalists in attendance, drawn from both private and public, print, broadcast and online media houses within the state.

The first day started with registration of participants and opening ceremony, with welcome remarks from the Rotary-RMCH Country Director, Prof. Emmanuel Lufadeju, who was ably represented by the RMCH Communication Officer, Olubunmi Afolabi. This followed by goodwill messages from individuals such as the Permanent Secretary of Ekiti State Ministry of Health and Human Services, Mrs. Olusola Gbenga-Igotun, who also represented the Honourable Commissioner for Health and Human Services, Dr. Oyebanji Filani.

Other speakers at the opening sessions included the Director of Public Health, Dr. Ibrahim Yekin, the State Officer of Family Health Department, Mrs. Abiodun Ayinde, and the State Health Promotion Officer, Mrs. Olubusayo Ige. Other invited guests and speakers were the State Chairman of Christian Association of Nigeria, Chief Imam of the State, and Head of Traditional Leaders in the State as well. 

An overview of Rotary-RMCH, previous projects executed, and the PHFN programs of scale (PoS) was provided by the RMCH Communication Officer, Olubunmi Afolabi, who was also a journalist and the lead facilitator for the workshop. He also handled session 1 of the day activities, which was the importance of the media in improving the health sector in Nigeria, with focus on the Reproduction, Maternal, Neonatal and Child Health (RMNCH) space.

Session 2 was on Rotary projects and journalism in Nigeria, and it was taken by Dr. Olubunmi Ibitoye, the Ekiti State Rotary Representative, with focus on how the Rotary Foundation  funds projects and how it functions to improve the lives of people, especially in Nigeria. This was followed by an overview of how important journalism is to health reporting in Nigeria, facilitated by Olubunmi Afolabi.

Reproductive maternal and child health situation in Nigeria was extensively discussed in session 3, with focus on myths and misconceptions about RMCH and their impact on life in Nigeria. This was handled by the State Health Promotion Officer in the State, Mrs. Olubusayo Ige. This was followed immediately by session 4 with the theme – Understanding key health metrics and statistics. It was handled by a data expert, the State Health Management Information Systems (HMIS) Officer, Mrs. Olayemi Ojo, with focus on how to interpret health data. Understanding key terminologies was taken through a game of identification of terminologies and their definitions.

Lunch was observed after this, and Session 5 – Cultural and Religious Contexts of Sexual Reproductive Health and Family Planning – was taken after. During this session, the pushback from religion and culture towards family planning (FP) and RMNCH issue was looked into, and this was made more explanatory by stage plays rehearsed and acted by three groups comprising the participants. It was facilitated by the State Health Promotion Officer.

A game called Headline Hustle, where the most captivating and concise headline for a short report will be selected as the winner, was used to introduce session 6 with the theme – Ethics and Sensitivity in RMNCH Reporting. Handled by RMCH Communication Officer, Olubunmi Ojo, the focus was on handling sensitive topics, respecting privacy and cultural conversations,  reduction of maternal and neonatal mortality in Nigeria, and writing human angle stories.

In concluding the activities of Day 1, a press conference was organised where questions were entertained by the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Health and Human Services, Mrs. Gbenga-Igotun, and the day’s event was declared closed.

The activities of Day 2 started with the recap of the Day 1 activities which included the summary of key takeaways from the day’s activities. This was facilitated by Olubunmi Afolabi, who then proceeded with the first session for the day, session 7. The session was focused on an interactive activity which involved case studies to analyse good and bad reporting. Session 8 was for panel discussion, but it was postponed till the next day.

Session 9 was on investigative journalism techniques, and focus was on the tools and techniques for in-depth reporting, and identifying the sources of stories. Session 10 was dedicated to how to write for one’s audience, with focus on the tone to use for different audiences, and how much details to add to one’s story. Session 11 was on advanced reporting techniques and multimedia storytelling, with focus on how to integrate video, audio and graphics into health stories, and the use of narrative storytelling and feature writing, before curtain was drawn on the day’s activities.

The final day’s activity was solely focused on session 11 – field interview preparation – with focus on setting objectives, identifying sources and preparing questions; session 12 – field interviews – which involved moving out to the field in four groups with each group focusing on three areas of RMCH within the communities;  session 13 – field interview insights – with focus on sharing experiences and initial findings from the field interviews, and; session 14 – field interview analysis and report writing – with focus on analysis and preparing, and completing comprehensive reports on field interviews.

The field report presentations were done during session 15, and each group was allowed to present its report in any format for 10 minutes. The formats used by the groups included straight news reporting, radio broadcast (in English and native Yoruba), newcasting format, video documentary format, feature story format, and online/social media reporting format. Reviews were done, and feedback was provided by each group on other groups’ works.

The final activity for the day was panel discussion, where experts in reproductive, maternal and child health provided insights on policy making, maternal mortality and neonatal death reduction, emergency transportation system for communities, and strategies and challenges to improve easy access to healthcare services in Ekiti State. The panellists included the MNCH Communication Officer, Olubunmi Afolabi, Ekiti State Chairman of Nigerian Union of Journalists, Kayode Babatuyi, Ekiti State Health Promotion Officer, Olubusayo Ige, and State Officer of Family and Reproductive Health Department, Abiodun Ayinde.

The closing remarks were provided by the RMCH Communication Officer on behalf of Rotary International, thanking the participants for committing to the workshop, and hoping the training and the knowledge gained would start to be applied immediately. Final announcement was made and group photographs were taken.

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