Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance and Girl Effect, with the Government of Rwanda, are launching a new partnership to create widespread and sustained demand for immunisation and other health services among girls and women in Rwanda.

In collaboration with the Government of Rwanda, Gavi and Girl Effect will conduct research to understand persistent gender barriers to accessing health services and vaccination uptake while developing tailored communication strategies to overcome them. This partnership will use Ni Nyampinga, Rwanda’s first multi-platform youth brand launched by Girl Effect in 2011 which now translates to mass engagement amongst girls, parents and communities across Rwanda.

With 79% of Rwandans – 6.6million people –  aware of Ni Nyampinga and 42% consuming Ni Nyampinga content regularly, this partnership will use media, both traditional and digital, to develop innovative behaviour change focused communications that help drive health seeking behaviours and uptake of routine vaccination. Using Ni Nyampinga’s radio talk-shows, its Sakwe radio drama and magazine, digital platforms (interactive voice response technology, SMS and social media) and new digital innovations, the partnership will also facilitate more positive and open conversations around health.

Speaking at an event to launch the partnership in Nairobi, Jessica Posner Odede (CEO of Girl Effect), Dr Patrick Ndimubanzi (Minister of State in charge of Public Health and Primary Healthcare in Rwanda), and Anuradha Gupta (Deputy CEO of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance) discussed how the partnership will use innovative behaviour change communications to address gender related barriers to vaccine uptake.

“For the last three years, we have partnered with Girl Effect to increase awareness about the benefits of HPV vaccination, enhance agency of young girls, empower communities to take the right decisions to promote good health and generate evidence on attitudes to immunisation,” said Anuradha Gupta, Deputy CEO of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance.” This new phase of our partnership will build on these initiatives, bring more intensive focus on gendered barriers to immunisation and ensure that no child is deprived of life-saving vaccines.”

“Girl Effect is thrilled to embark on this innovative work to drive demand for vaccine uptake with Gavi and the Government of Rwanda, taking the success of our current partnership one step further,” said Jessica Posner Odede, CEO of Girl Effect. “We will build on our experience to use behaviour change communications approaches to define a model for reducing gender barriers to immunisation that can ultimately be scaled up to change the lives of adolescent girls and young women in Rwanda and beyond.”

In close collaboration with the Government of Rwanda, Gavi and Girl Effect will test these new approaches and co-create youth engagement strategies with Rwanda’s Ministry of Health and Ministry of Youth. “Investing in youth is to invest in the future of our nation. Vaccination is one of the most effective interventions and with the support of immunisation partners Rwanda has achieved a lot in terms of vaccination coverage. The Ministry of Health will continue to work with partners to ensure the sustainability of our immunisation programmes,” said Dr Patrick Ndimubanzi, Minister of State in charge of Public Health and Primary Healthcare in Rwanda.

Rahmat Umuhoza, a Ni Nyampinga journalist from Rwanda (pictured above), moderated the discussion and talked about her own experience creating Ni Nyampinga magazine and radio content to give adolescent girls in Rwanda the information and inspiration to fulfil their potential.

The results of the vaccination programmes in Rwanda have been promising. In 2018 alone, 350,000 children were each vaccinated with the basic vaccine protecting against diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (DTP) and therefore protected from life limiting and threatening diseases. New vaccines have been successfully introduced since 2009 and the programme offers now 12 antigens in routine immunisation. However, some challenges persist which pose threats to immunity, such as issues of cross-border transmission, vaccine hesitancy, and the need to vaccinate a new cohort of newborns each year.

Establishing the root causes of these challenges and the barriers to vaccine uptake is critical to ensuring that routine immunisation reaches every last child. Rwanda’s context provides an opportunity to develop innovative steps and solutions to reach the last five percent known to be the hardest to reach.