The Young Professionals Chronic Diseases Network (YP-CDN) organized a Non-communicable Disease (NCD) Symposium to launch the NextGen Leaders for NCDs East Africa Workshop -- a training program in collaboration with RTI International and the University of Nairobi to prepare the next generation of NCD leaders in health policy and advocacy, on September 9th, 2016 at the University of Nairobi, Kenya. The main thematic areas covered at the symposium included - NCDs landscape in East Africa, Concerns and priorities of youth across the East African Region, Solutions to improve availability and affordability of essential medicines for NCDs, and Financing for NCDs in East Africa.
“If we want to change the NCD landscape in Africa, we need to start with ourselves”. - Dr. Joseph Kibachio, Director of NCDs, Ministry of Health Kenya
“Financing for NCDs is a very important donor issue”. - Dr. Rachel Nugent, Vice President (NCDs), RTI International
“We need political will and commitment to fight NCDs”. - Emma Wanyonyi, International Institute For Legislative Affairs Kenya
Sarah Kimuda, Kampala Chapter Member, YP-CDN Kampala
The cab driver squeezed himself through the labyrinth of Nairobi traffic, a task that would be daunting to any normal human being, but we were through town in no time. The cold air, crazy matatus and hooting couldn’t dampen the mood. The NextGen Laders workshop was on and I was anxious to learn--needless to say, the days that followed did not disappoint.
The workshop was a bit of what I had and hadn’t anticipated. I had never expected that someone would tell us to make peace, humble ourselves and approach decision makers with patience. They were supposed to be the bad guys, the ones that sit on policy and never prioritize. But I learned that in order to be an advocate, I should make a distinction between activism and advocacy. The former raises the dust, the latter shakes the buildings to the ground. It is one thing to complain, but it is another thing to get solutions to your problems and see those solutions implemented. At the workshop, I felt like my passion for change was expertly transformed into results that could yield action. I had a metamorphosis of sorts from being an over the top activist to a skilled and fruitful advocate. I learned that:
1. If tactful enough, I can get an audience with decision makers.
2. The clock is ever ticking; it is up to you to use it well, even if its just 60 seconds to put your point across to a politician
3. You win some, you lose some.
4. Sacrifice everything for your cause, including ego.
One of the speakers, Eunice Kariuki, a cancer survivor who spoke with so much strength, taught me that the only barriers to our true success, is the very limitations we set for ourselves. We have a saying, that ‘unless you move out of your home, you’ll always think your mother is the best cook’. This is not to give the impression that things are good; quite the contrary, things are bad--very bad. But sometimes we get so caught up in the negative, thinking that we’re the only ones in the pit. But when you interact with other young adults that have immense vision, you learn that Africa is one big village with pretty much the same problems. The only difference is the extent of the problems. You learn that through young, passionate leaders, there’s an opportunity to have one mindset that can completely transform the picture.
I credit NextGen for taking the opportunity to cultivate this mindset and put it on the right path.