(Abuja) – Intensive Rescue Foundation International is one of the leading Non-Governmental Organisations providing healthcare intervention, services, information, commodities and infrastructures to vulnerable women, children and persons living with disabilities in Nigeria.
Last Friday, a combined SENS/TASN team visited the Headquarters of the Foundation in Abuja. Our engagement with the President/CEO, Dr. (Mrs.) Jennifer Braimah, lasted for over three hours. It was an interviewer’s delight as she effortlessly handheld us through the Foundation’s efforts over the last decade.
We bring you excerpts from that encounter…
SENS/TASN: Let’s get to know you better.
Dr. Braimah: My name is Jennifer Checkwubechukwu Braimah, a Nigerian, married to Honourable Abass Braimah and mother of two. I am a medical doctor by training. I had my first degree at Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka – Anambra State. I also have two Masters Degree; one at the University of Benin where I specialized in Public Health and the other at the University of Liverpool, UK where I studied International Management with subspecialty in Health Systems Management .
I did my Housemanship at the University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital in Rivers State. I also worked with the National Hospital here in Abuja as a Pediatrics Resident; I was later appointed by Planned Parenthood Federation of Nigeria (PPFN)… My stint at PPFN gave me the opportunity to focus my healthcare passion on family planning & sexual reproductive health & rights and advocacy as the core part of my profession. Together with my team, we were able to scale up Family Planning – Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights (FP – SRHR) commodity uptake for the very first time among other things. I had to leave PPFN at the end of my contract in 2015 in order to focus on my dual DBA – PhD program at the Swiss Management Centre in Zug – Switzerland.
SENS/TASN: So, were you inspired to start Intensive Rescue Foundation while at PPFN?
Dr. Braimah: No… I established and incorporated the Foundation in 2008 with my husband so we could support our people and other Nigerians. He was a Federal Lawmaker at the time representing Etsako Federal Constituency, Edo State. In the course of the campaigns for the 2007 elections, we were privileged to meet with several groups of women and young people across diverse rural communities in Edo State. There were common issues around water and sanitation, reproductive health and support services, sexually transmitted infections, cleft palate deformities, burns, malaria and hepatitis. We needed an organized way to channel interventions and that was why we established and endowed the Foundation.
SENS/TASN: You represented Nigeria in Canada recently. Tell us about your experience.
Dr. Braimah: (laughs…) I represented the Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) and Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) communities from Nigeria in Vancouver – Canada at the renowned Women Deliver Conference [WD2019]. It was held from the 3rd – 6th of June, 2019. It was an experience of a lifetime; I was exposed to social and economic networks that showcased women in diverse humanitarian and for-profit enterprises. They are bridging healthcare and socio-economic gaps for the underserved members of their communities, and demanding positive impactful changes should be effected, for the purpose of ensuring the health and wellbeing of young girls and women. We were challenged by the Convener of WD2019 and CEO of Women Deliver – Katja Iversen to use our power for good. The WD conference is convened every 3 years and i intend to make it a permanent item in my diary.
I returned to Nigeria with enhanced advocacy skills from the Maiden Advocacy Academy and meaningful socio-economic networks that are already making an impact in my niche of influence.
SENS/TASN: Let’s talk about some of your activities at Intensive Rescue Foundation.
Dr. Braimah: The Foundation is delivering commodities, interventions, services and advocacy initiatives in communities we have been able to access. For instance, safe, hygienic and affordable sanitary pad is a major problem for almost every woman in an average rural community. Through our association with an American INGO, we created a new line of sanitary pads, indigenously produced and proudly Nigerian. These pads are washable and reusable, have a life-span of 3 – 5 years, are available and accessible to young girls and women, environmentally friendly, comfortable and quite affordable. We donate these pads to young girls and women in impoverished communities and schools.
In 2012, we activated our outreach programme which provides food and non-food items, including essential medicines to women and children in schools, rural communities and IDPs camps. That programme has been expanded to include free cervical cancer screening, breast self-examination, Hepatitis B&C and HPV screening as well as vaccination at various locations in Abuja: With the support of the American government, we have also provided rural communities in Edo State with lavatories and water reservoirs.
Over the last ten years, we have been engaging the media, policy makers and the public through speaking engagements, paper presentations and advocacy on the need to amplify good public health tenets, enlightenment about safe water, sanitation and hygiene, menstrual hygiene management, eliminating sexual and gender based violence, female genital mutilation, family planning, sexual reproductive health and rights, work life balance and ending open defecation.
SENS/TASN: How do you manage all these activities?
Dr. Braimah: That is the easy part. When we started the Foundation, we had a vivid idea about what we wanted to do. I sat down with my team and external resources and we developed a logical framework of programming. Over the years, we have made necessary adjustments but our sense of direction remains quite keen. Personally, I have a weekly presentation on Hot 98.3 FM, and I have also made repeated appearances on major radio and television stations in Nigeria, including NTA International, AIT, PTV, Kaftan TV, ITV, TV Nigerian, KISS FM, Ray Power FM, Love FM, Vision FM, Greetings Media FM and WE FM.
I have an excellent management team, and our Board of Trustees have been quite generous. For instance, six months ago, we were able to donate washable reusable menstrual pads to female students at LEA, Zhidu in the FCT. A couple of days ago, we donated hair salon equipment to socially disserviced young women during the annual commemoration of The International Day of the Girl Child. None of that would have been possible without the Board’s endowment.
SENS/TASN: It seems you have a grand plan for Nigeria
Dr. Braimah: It’s really not a grand plan. We simply intend to pad up Nigeria and Africa, promote holistic empowerment of young girls and women, and collaborate with stakeholders in order to address detrimental gender-specific health practices. The multi-pronged issues of Female Genital Mutilation, Child Marriage, Low Female Enrollment in Schools and Skills Acquisition Centres, Dehumanizing Menstrual Practices, Sexual and Gender Based Violence still persist in Nigeria.
The number of people exposed to cervical cancer, Human Papilloma Virus and Hepatitis B&C Viruses remains unacceptable. WASH facilities in schools, communities and work places are grossly inadequate. Our mandate entails bringing life-saving healthcare interventional information, services, commodities and infrastructures to the doorstep of every citizen of Nigeria, especially vulnerable women, children and persons living with disabilities who reside in rural areas as well as those displaced from their homes by conflict, violence, natural and man-made disasters.
We hope that every citizen can have access to the best healthcare services wherever they reside in line with the UN-front burner tenet on Universal Health Care and Health Coverage.
SENS/TASN: As a parting shot, give us an insight on what we should expect from the Foundation in future
Dr. Braimah: You must have noticed that sustainability is not a special word at Intensive Rescue Foundation. Rather, it is part of our DNA. We are scaling up our wide impact menstrual hygiene intervention with the introduction of Menstrual Cups in Nigeria. The future of social Sustainable Menstrual Hygiene Management is in the proper orientation and use of Menstrual Cups. They are made with safe and hygienic medical grade silicone, last for 10 years, collect blood in the vaginal canal for 12 hours, mitigate foul menstrual of odor, require minimal water to wash and are changed only once on a daily basis. They come in 3 different sizes and meet the Menstrual Needs of every category of menstruating young girls, women and transgender individuals. They are environmentally friendly, financially tenable, reusable and biodegradable.
(Edited By: Samuel Odebowale)