Home » Former Health Commissioner Urges Social Norms Change for Development in Nigeria

Former Health Commissioner Urges Social Norms Change for Development in Nigeria

by Victor Adetimilehin

A former health commissioner in Kaduna State, Dr Amina Baloni, has urged Nigerians to embrace cultural change as a way of achieving development goals. She made the call at the 2023 Social Norms Conference, which brought together experts and stakeholders from various sectors to discuss how to shift harmful or oppressive social norms that hinder progress.

Baloni said that while some norms are supportive of well-being and development, others may limit the potential and opportunities of some community members, especially women and children. She advocated for a synergy between traditions and transformation ideals, which would involve engaging the people and ensuring that development programs are rooted in their identity and collective aspirations.

She cited examples of how community engagement strategies in northern Nigeria have leveraged the support of traditional leaders, women’s collectives and associations to promote positive norms and behaviours in areas such as health, education and gender equality. She also highlighted the challenges and costs of negative norms, such as the lack of decision-making power among women, restricted access to financial resources and education, and ineffective representation and leadership.

She said that shifting societal norms requires nuanced strategies, unwavering commitment and collective action. She added that the conference was a platform to share and learn from innovative approaches and experiences in social norms research, advocacy, programming and measurement.

The conference, which was organised by the Nigeria Social Norms Learning Collaborative (SNLC-N), had the theme: “Norms Shifting: Cutting-edge Innovations for Health, Education, and Gender Equality.” It was attended by representatives from government, development partners, civil society organisations, academia and media.

The director of SNLC-N, Dr Raihanah Ibrahim, said that the conference was not just an event, but a movement towards a brighter and more equitable future. She invited the participants to contribute to the transformative journey and to open their minds, think outside the box, and be energised to accelerate the Sustainable Development Goals.

The conference was the first of its kind in Nigeria and aimed to create a network of social norms practitioners and advocates who would work together to address the social and cultural barriers to development.

The SNLC modelled after the Global Collaborative, was established in 2020 as a country-level Community of Practice (CoP) that seeks to advance social norms learning and programming in the country.

Funded by the Gates Foundation and other donors, the collaborative is part of a network of similar communities with a Global LC and sister collaboratives in East Africa, South Asia and Francophone Africa and is currently hosted by the Solina Centre for International Development and Research (SCIDaR) in collaboration with the University of California San Diego.

Source: The Nation Online

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