Onikepe is a passionate young doctor in Nigeria interested in improving access to maternal care in rural areas. She is creating a maternal health training program for doctors undertaking the country’s National Service Year (NSY) requirement. She aims to use this program not just to improve NSY doctors’ ability to provide care, but also to influence these providers to encourage pregnant women to regularly go to health centers where they can receive training and care, including free drugs. Onikepe gained experience in this field when, while training in a hospital in Lagos, she identified modes of communicating with patients to change their attitudes around health-seeking behavior. Onikepe will bring medical skills and enthusiasm to the Young Champions Program.


Armida Fernandez reorients and reorganizes the limited resources of India’s public health system, crafting efficient programs to secure quality maternal and neonatal health care for low-income families. Her work is centered in Asia’s largest slum, Dharavi, in the city of Mumbai. Her approach uses interconnected strategies to cover all aspects of maternal and neonatal health, based on three core principles. First, SNEHA ensures that every level and unit of public health care optimizes quality services. Second, SNEHA transforms clients into partners by equipping them to make decisions that use the system more efficiently. Third, SNEHA uses a behavior change methodology to influence attitudes of health care personnel towards their clients.

To read more about Arminda’s work, click here. To read more about her organization, click here.


Onikepe will develop and test a model strategy to improve women’s and children’s health in Mumbai. She will join a team working to design Community Resource Centers (CRCs) at satellite locations in urban slums. Each CRC will be developed in partnership with its surrounding community and health care providers, and will be staffed by two community mobilizers. With backing and support from the SNEHA hub, these centers will aim to collect and disseminate health information, identify families at risk, make referrals to appropriate services, conduct follow-up, coordinate community health promotion events, communicate with service providers, and promote interaction between communities and providers.

Through this project, Onikepe and the SNEHA team will work to (1) increase the number of institutional deliveries, (2) increase the number of women providing early registration of pregnancy, (3) increase the number of women practicing breastfeeding exclusively for the first six months, (4) design focused campaigns around maternal health issues. In addition to helping to develop and implement the CRC model, Onikepe will create processes for monitoring and evaluating the efficacy of these centers.