Giving a voice to African civil society
The objective of L'Initiative's symposium at the ICASA conference (December 3, 2019) was to highlight public health challenges in Africa and open up avenues to strengthen community leadership.
The L'Initiative symposium was opened by Jérémie Blin, representative of France in Rwanda, and had an exceptional panel of speakers and nearly 400 people in attendance. Jeanne Gapiya, Chair of ANSS in Burundi led discussions. Lively discussions took place, from the importance of taking local contexts into account in program implementation, to the need to involve civil society to have a lasting impact on health policies. Panelists highlighted the critical contribution of communities in building advocacy with national health authorities, as well as their essential role in ensuring key populations have access to quality care.
It was also an opportunity to highlight L'Initiative's role in supporting civil society organizations (CSOs), particularly in West and Central Africa: L'Initiative provides CSOs with technical assistance around financial and human resource management, in governance and in resource mobilization, to enable organizations to grow and improve their structure.
Pillars of civil society leadership:
- Civil society stakeholders are able to strengthen themselves
- Access to financial resources at national, regional and international levels to implement innovative interventions
- Accountability to civil society itself, and to technical and financial partners
"The role of the community is to be angry and to carry on being outraged."
Dr. Safiatou Thiam, Executive Secretary of the National AIDS Control Council of Senegal
L'Initiative plays a role in reflections and discussions around the response to major pandemics. Experts, project leads, activists and delegates came together at the Expertise France booth to share, have discussions and suggest solutions.
Encouraging civil society to take action to improve the quality and affordability of health products
Representatives from Association des Centrales d’Achats des Médicaments (ACAME), Centre Humanitaire des Métiers de la Pharmacie (CHMP), the Réseau d’Accès aux Médicaments Essentiels (RAME) and the International Treatment Preparedness Coalition (ITPC-MENA), shared their work on access to quality treatment in Africa with the audience. Panelists representing stakeholders from central purchasing level and civil society promoted their activities and their solutions to strengthen health product management, improve affordability and ensure products are dispensed in a non-discriminatory way. Aissam Hajji shared ITPC MENA's advocacy work to improve the management of intellectual property and patents in access to health products. The NGO's monitoring and advocacy work around the availability and affordability of health products in Morocco has had a significant impact on decreasing treatment prices in the country.
Young people involved in the fight against HIV and AIDS
Sidaction and the Grandir Ensemble network, focused on the challenges of supporting adolescents living with HIV. The round table gave young people who are affected by HIV and who are involved in organizations from five African countries responding to the pandemic a voice. Youth peer educators from the Grandir Ensemble network now play a central role in adolescent care. They listen, advise, inform and guide other young people along their care pathway. The peer educators gave an overview of their roles, the difficulties they encounter and successes that have made them proud. They also raised the limitations of the peer education approach: these young people also need help and to be listened to, and they cannot be a substitute for teams of health care providers because they face family, social and medical issues themselves
“Us peer educators have been trained to provide support and to disseminate the right information. Our role is important in the care of young people. We are proud of saving lives!"
Engaging users to develop advocacy and challenge the authorities on areas of the healthcare system that are not working well: community health observatories.
The round table on December 6, focused on community observatories to improve access to care. Representatives from Positive Generation, ITPC MENA, Solidarité Sida, Coalition des femmes leaders de Guinée and Doctors of the World presented the specific nature of systems they have put in place in the field and the challenges they face on a daily basis.
These different approaches, adapted to national level contexts and challenges, have been documented through collective knowledge sharing and learning work coordinated by L'Initiative. The outputs of these reflective exercises were presented at ICASA during the round table session and posters were also presented by partners. A guide has been developed to provide an overview of the observatories, their role, how they operate, the challenges they face, and the stakeholders that bring these observatories to life on a daily basis. A collection of practical learning sheets provides an operational point of reference for organizations interested in developing or participating in observatories.
International conferences are traditionally a critical place for civil society to express themselves, because they allow for community voices to be heard on a larger scale. Five partners were able to participate in the ICASA 2019 conference thanks to grants from Expertise France.
Participating in ICASA gave me hope for my country: I realized that if we want it, we can do it. The prospects aren't gloomy for Africa, everything is just a question of will, strategy, initiative and leadership"
Ammy Fiadanana Njatosoa, former Monitoring and Evaluation Manager of the HIV observatory managed by Doctors of the World and its partners in Madagascar
"Participating in this conference was an opportunity for us to get to know many different organizations that comprise many key and vulnerable population activists. Equality and gender considerations in projects responding to HIV are also important, as are promoting self-testing and testing tools that we did not know about before attending ICASA."
Eric Koba, consultant statistician at Moto Action, France
"The round table organized at the Expertise France booth around access to viral load testing and health products made me realize that the availability and affordability of health products, including ARVs, depends on market competition. I realized that civil society can have an impact on stock-outs."
Dzodjina Degbe, clinical psychologist at Action contre le SIDA, Togo
As part of a partnership with Radio France Internationale, three editions of the program "Priorité Santé" were recorded:
- 🎙️ Program 1 ⬅️ : On the theme "Young people and HIV", with Rodrigue Koffi, coordinator of the Grandir Ensemble network, Tatiana, peer educator for three years with the NGO, Aides Médicales et Charité (AMC) in Lomé, ambassador of the Grandir Ensemble network, Dr David Masson, pediatrician in charge of the GRANDIR program.
- 🎙️ Program 2 ⬅️ : On the theme “Combating HIV in East Africa: specific features of health check-ups”, with Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director of UNAIDS, Dr Sabin Nsanzimana, Director General of the Rwanda Biomedical Center, former director of the national HIV program in Rwanda (for more than 10 years) and Jeanne Gapiya, founding president of Association Nationale de Soutien aux Séropositifs et malades du Sida (ANSS), the main organization responding to AIDS in Burundi.
- 🎙️ Program 3 ⬅️ : On the theme of “Health coverage in Rwanda”, with Dr Diane Gashumba, former Minister of Health for Rwanda, Dr Solange Hakiba, deputy director general of the Rwandan Social Security Agency, Philomène Rubayiza, community health supervisor at Masaka Hospital, Rwanda, and Dr Emile Rwamasirabo, professor of medicine, former director of the University Hospital of Kigali and practitioner at Roi Faycal hospital.