It’s the end of our third and final day at the Eastern Africa Reproductive Health Network’s (EARHN) Annual Coordination Meeting and I’m proud to report that the delegates have come to a general consensus on a draft strategic plan. There is still refining that will be done by the EARHN Strategic Plan Drafting Team, but we walked out of the meeting this evening with a two page document that summarized three days of lengthy, passionate discussion. This strategic plan should help EARHN focus its work and be as effective as possible.
The network decided that they needed to focus on three areas: program development and expansion (bringing their work in line with partner organizations so that work is not duplicated and EARHN can make more of an impact), advocacy and coalition building (supporting members’ ability to advocate for sexual and reproductive health and rights in their own countries) and institutional strengthening (establishing a more efficient institutional structure, developing annual workplans as well as developing a resource mobilization plan). Of course, this brief summary just scratches the surface of the discussion and each member will return to their respective country with pages of notes about the next steps.
In addition to all the work on the strategic plan, the meetings today included a skills building session on advocacy for reproductive health – something that EARHN members cited as the most important aspect of their work. Terri Bartlett and Carolyn Vogel from PAI shared their experiences and introduced the group to the RH Interchange, an innovative website that allows users to track reproductive health supplies shipments to any country in the world in real time – an extremely useful tool for any advocate for these supplies. Now, advocates will be armed with the information they need to make a strong case for additional support for reproductive health supplies.
The three days of meetings were officially closed this evening by the Honorable Isaac Musumba, Uganda’s Minister of State for Regional Co-operation. Minister Musumba told the group that they had the government’s strong support and spoke of population issues as a cross-boundary issue for all of Africa. “We have a common destiny. The population of Africa has all the scourges of life visited upon it. First, the highest incidence of disease is in Africa. The highest mortality rate is in Africa. The highest poverty rate is in Africa. The biggest trade imbalance is in Africa. The poorest medical care is in Africa. … We will only be able to combat these visitations that are upon us as a race if we work together.” That is exactly what EARHN is all about, working together to improve the quality of life of everyone in Eastern Africa. Their new strategic plan will help them do this work even better.