Advocacy and strategic communication techniques training for African civil society organizations

Neglected tropical diseases are a group of communicable diseases that affect more than 1.5 billion people worldwide, killing 170,000 people a year. 39% of people with NTD live in Africa. Although both preventable and treatable, NTDs continue to cause severe disfigurements and other long-term disabilities that create barriers to education, employment, economic growth and development in general.

In 2018, Africa still accounted for 90% of the 228 million malaria cases worldwide and 94% of the 408,000 deaths from the disease. In response, there was a massive global effort to reduce the number of malaria cases and deaths in the past two decades.

Civil society organizations (CSOs) are at the forefront of social change and development in African communities. They represent diverse and vulnerable populations. They cooperate with governments on development issues and have been campaigning for a number of years to increase access to basic social services for all.

To address the challenges of both NTDs and malaria, Speak Up Africa has developed a CSO capacity building program for advocacy and strategic communication. The event, which took place from October 19-23, 2020, strengthened the advocacy and strategic communication capacity of participating CSOs, with the aim of increasing political engagement and funding at the community, national and regional level to eliminate malaria and NTDs.

« Civil society organizations play a leading role in the fight to eliminate neglected tropical diseases and malaria. This capacity building workshop organized and facilitated by Speak Up Africa is a necessary boost that has allowed us to improve and acquire new techniques of advocacy and more effective means of communication » commented Zeinabou Tina Idé, Program Officer at Impact Santé Afrique.

On the other hand, the 5-day workshop aimed to provide in-depth training to CSOs on communication and advocacy techniques so that they could advocate for the mobilization of domestic resources for the fight against NTDs and malaria.  The event was attended by 22 participants from 8 CSOs, who will use their learnings to help fight NTDs and malaria.

« An effective acceleration of progress in health and development in Africa is only possible if civil society organizations play their part. To this end, Speak Up Africa’s Advocacy and Strategic Communication initiative prepares these organizations to better mobilize stakeholders and domestic resources needed for effective ownership of solutions,” stated Pape Gaye, President Emeritus of Intrahealth International.

The content of the training focused on understanding the public health context in Francophone West African countries, using advocacy to improve public health, refining advocacy messages, and developing a work plan on why strategic communication is essential for success. The Coordinator of the National Malaria Control Programme (NMCP) of Benin, Pr Aurore Ogouyemi-Hounto, took advantage of the discussions to go back over the challenges, successes and current efforts in the fight against malaria in Benin. As for Simon Kaboré, Executive Director of the Réseau d’accès aux Médicaments Essentiels (RAME), he emphasized the importance of including vulnerable groups, particularly women, young people and people living with a disability in decision-making bodies.

« The link between advocacy and strategic communication is the link between the power of citizens and the power of decision-makers. They must influence each other simultaneously in order for the general change to be achieved in the new policies. Acting broadly on decision-makers through advocating for resources for policy implementation, as well as acting broadly on citizens for a change in behavior and information on policies, is the grand mission we need to work on,” added Jean de Dieu Some, Strategic Communication and Resource Mobilization Officer at RAME.

Participants gained a better understanding of the current challenges of control programmes and opportunities to advance the fight against malaria and NTDs in Africa, while improving access to healthy sanitation and vaccines.

« We are delighted to be able to work with such committed and proactive organizations to improve the situation of the most vulnerable people on the continent. Through this training, we wanted to enable them to gain more advanced knowledge about advocacy and strategic communication, two crucial tools that will enable us to achieve our sustainable development goals inAfrica, » concluded Yacine Djibo, Executive Director of Speak Up Africa.