To effectively meet the growing trend of infections among infants and growing infections in rural Nigeria, Lawyers Alert proposes the filling of gaps of lack of engagement of local authorities by the communities. These communities are in themselves in most instances neither capacitated nor empowered towards engagement.
There is therefore a dire need to address the gap in Community led interventions which are often splintered, scattered and isolated without coordination and unity of purposes. Often there are no links to State Bodies and Policymakers which in Nigeria principally is NACA at the federal level and SACA at States levels.
To this end, Lawyers Alert has been making efforts by principally engaging policy makers in Benue state towards the establishment of an all inclusive Community Action Committee on AIDS empowered and capacitated to lead Community based interventions by interfacing with local authorities at the local government levels.
The establishment of Community Action Committee on AIDS CACA will be the best way to address the worrying trend of infected infants and disempowered women. These Committees can and will trigger locally led interventions premised on approaching issues of gender equity, access to education/health, gender relations, enhanced Health Services for pregnant and young mothers/infants through human rights lens.
By the creation and establishment of CACA, the Communities would have an all inclusive Community platform for intervention and engagement of policy makers in an empowered, coordinated and informed manner. The capacity of CACA would be built to approach issues that exacerbate mother to child transmission like Cultural practices, gender equity, access to Education/Health for women. This will enable Communities appreciate the need to respect the Rights of everyone especially women to education, health, inheritance and a shift from cultural practices that violate women rights.
The benefits of community led approaches would be immense:
Firstly, the ability to have all inclusive Community Action Committee will automatically translate to, coordinated approach that addresses all concerns and more likely to attract the desired attention from Government.
Secondly, the ability to view cultural practices, gender relations, access to education and health through Human Rights issues will enhance the ability of the Community to move away from anti Human Rights practices and culture that exacerbate spread of AIDS and negativity impact of PMTCT. It will also lead to a much more consistent Community demand and advocacy on Government to deliver an education and health as this will be seen as Human Rights.
Thirdly, partnerships with other Human Rights Bodies and NGOs will be much more likely given the Human Rights approach to the issues by the Community.
Fourthly, the documented issues (cultural, gender relations and guarantee) will be a powerful tool for advocacy by the Community, networking, and alliance building with like minded Bodies who will also use the documents to advocate on behalf of the Community.
Lawyers Alert is hopeful of that these approach will be accepted and probably commenced in at least two pilot communities and eventually scaled up when the benefits begin to be evident.