By Bonkung Handerson
An Advocacy Strategic Plan is being finalised to take some CBCHS programmes to another level of awareness and operation. The Advocacy Plan was reviewed at the end of a 5-day Advocacy Workshop that held at the Baptist Centre in Bamenda from August 7-11, 2017 for some 20 CBCHS leaders among them hospital administrators, programme managers, supervisors and some project staff whose jobs require the use of advocacy. The Empowerment and Disability Development (EDID) programme organised the workshop funded by the Liliane Foundation, EDID’s main funder based in Holland.
Opening the workshop on behalf of the Director of Health Services, the Chief of Administration and Finance (CAF), Mr. Warri Denis showed mastery of the workshop theme by telling a story to illustrate that causes of diseases are most of the time out of the health sector. Therefore, the need for advocacy to win and pull decision makers in politics, economic, social and environment sectors to cause positive change. The CAF admonished the participants to take the workshop seriously to enable them contribute to the CBCHS Advocacy Plan at the end of the 5-day workshop and bring about change in areas of need within the CBCHS in particular and the society as a whole.
The CAF appreciated the Liliane Foundation for funding the workshop via the EDID programme. He said this workshop was to close one of the gaps identified during the organisational assessment carried out by the Liliane Foundation in 2015 which revealed that, although the CBCHS was resilient as far many areas are concerned, there are however gaps in some aspects like Lobby and Advocacy. The CAF pointed out that the Liliane Foundationhas not left us to struggle to close this gap on our own, but have gone ahead to provide funds to enable us to do so. “God bless the Liliane Foundation,” he prayed in conclusion.
EDID Programme Manager, Mrs. Agho Glory in her presentation, traced the origin of the programme in the CBCHS to October 2014. She made a distinction between the EDID programme and the Socio Economic Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities (SEEPD) programme. The EDID Programme Manager clarified that the SEEPD Programme is open to all types of disabilities for all ages but limited only to the NWR, whereas the EDID Programme focuses on children and young people with disabilities up to the age of 25. EDID programme, the manager went on, works with over 20 partner organisations in 8 regions in Cameroon. The PM said the EDID programme has as objective to break societal barriers for an inclusive society, thus, the need for lobbying and advocacy to bring all stakeholders on board.
The two main facilitators namely: Mr. Foyeth Eugene, CBCHS Advocacy Officer and Mr. Abanda Alphonse Ndi, CBCHS Grants Department Supervisor masterminded the workshop lessons for 5 days. Mr. Foyeth Eugene took the workshop through module 1 with focus on Cameroon Health System (Current Situation, Framework and Policies), Global Trends (2030 agenda and Health Sector Strategy and local priorities). He noted that Dialogue Structures exist at all levels of the Health structure; national, regional and district. Mr. Abanda, on his part, led discussions on advocacy experiences of CBCHS programmes; activities, difficulties and challenges faced, opportunities, weaknesses and threats.
Key Take Home Messages emerged from the workshop that defined advocacy as the act of influencing decision makers to take a decision in favour of a course. Advocacy, it was stressed, is not a spontaneous activity; it is well planned with clear goal and objectives with the key decision makers well mapped out. An advocacy effort should provide evidence and facts to influence the decision maker. Group work and role model simulations helped participants to practice the tactics of advocacy. On how to do advocacy, the facilitators cautioned the participants to identify the problem as a goal and set objectives to reach the overall goal. Make your objectives SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time bound).
Participants were given lessons on how to write advocacy messages, which should answer questions such as what is the issue, why should the decision maker care about this issue, what proposed changes can the advocacy bring and what effect will the change bring? It was noted that the message is as important as the messenger. Thus, the need to choose stakeholders, influencers and decision makers carefully. Equally important was the need to partner and form coalitions with organisations that have similar visions to achieve the advocacy goal.
A key outcome of the workshop discussions was the need for integration of related activities within CBCHS programmes and projects to minimize efforts, time and cost. It does not make sense, it was observed, that activities are duplicated as if in competition rather than complementation.
Speaking on behalf of the participants, Mr. Nji Richard Nkeh, Senior Administrator of Mbingo Baptist Hospital thanked the CBCHS hierarchy via the CAF for choosing them to attend such an enriching workshop. He noted that the workshop brought to their knowledge new concepts on advocacy. Mr. Nji briefed the CAF on the lessons learned within the five days and pledged on behalf of the workshop participants to accompany the CBCHS to operationalize the advocacy roadmap, which the workshop helped to put in place.