4th March 2017 saw me board a flight to Nairobi for an experience that turned out to be very insightful, engaging, informative and fun. I had always wanted to visit this beautiful capital of Kenya for I had heard a lot of great stories about it especially from the Daily Nation Newspaper.
Within less than two hours, I was already in Nairobi, Upper Hill and could not contain my excitement to be part of the second Africa Health Agenda International Conference that was to take place at the magnificent Radisson Blu Hotel. The conference was aimed at having the leading health experts in Africa and young people providing a unique platform to debate the investments needed in people, systems and innovations to enable Africa to reach the global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030. Sounds interesting right?!
I was privileged to be representing my organization Reach A Hand Uganda, under the sponsorship of IPAS Africa Alliance, where I get to work and volunteer as a Digital Communication Strategist passing on information to young people regarding their sexual reproductive health and rights.
My aha.. I see moments started at the youth preconference which was so full of life and wisdom. Being in this space for me redefined what young people are capable of. As a youth advocate in SRHR issues, it was a humbling experience getting to learn and hear from my fellow young people and share ideas on how we can create an Africa that is inclusive for all of us with us. ‘Nothing for us without us,’ was our slogan during the youth preconference.
During the youth preconference, I happened to be part of an amazing track session sponsored by IPAS Africa Alliance with a panel of young people from Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda, Malawi and Sierra Leone. This session was aimed at sharing our experiences with the advocacy work we do and also say out our views smartly and loud so that they are heard. During this session, it occurred to me that young people needed a platform to freely express their views and being in the media world where I have had an opportunity at this, I felt that we needed to spread more of our coverage to hear more from what the other young people in different nations are doing to save adolescent girls, teenage mothers, child brides, young people living with HIV and a lot more because they too need a voice of their own out there.
The highlight for me during the youth preconference was the togetherness we had while building up our final communiqué which was to be presented during the main conference. Young people have a lot of zeal for issues that affect them and what I saw happen during this time was a movement of change makers and great advocates not only in the health field but all sectors in Africa.
My other aha… I see moments, just like Caroline Mutoko kept on emphasizing during the Main Conference were, the town hall sessions with H.E Toyin Saraki from WellBeing Foundation and Edwin Macharia from Dalberg. Getting to hear from these two phenomenal mentors about their expertise and work they do was so inspiring. I did not want either of their sessions to end but as we all know, good things don’t last forever. Toyin’s story with midwives and her fight to reduce maternal mortality rates in Africa inspired a thought of how can we have more male involvement in such issues and even Female Genital Mutilation as well so that they are aware and helpful. Edwin on the other hand, enlightened me more on the need of understanding what public private partnerships entail before getting into one as a young person. I felt a need to challenge myself and do better at whatever I do before I seek for help.
My final aha… I see moment was the track session facilitated by IPAS Africa Alliance on the Global Gag Policy and what it meant for Africa. This mini session was very insightful in a way that I felt a need for Africa to brace itself for more resource building on its own to help it achieve what most donors can’t afford if this policy is totally reinstated. There is need for Africa to help mothers with their reproductive health rights but to do this; we will need funds for it.
In conclusion, #AHAIC2017 rocked and inspired in me a better advocate and I believe this will translate over time. However, I felt the need to have more inclusivity especially during the panel discussions with more young people and women represented to balance the views being expressed during the discussions. Overall, Nairobi was amazing and aha… I cannot wait to see the progress and ideas that came out of this conference come to life!