T1International (T1I) and the Sonia Nabeta Foundation (SNF) have formed a partnership with the objective of creating a strong cohort of African advocates who will make long-term change for people with diabetes in their countries. In August 2018, T1International funded the inaugural two-day Pamoja advocacy training workshop which hosted 10 advocates living with type 1 diabetes from Ghana, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania and Nigeria. The workshop was also supported by two pre-trained T1I Global Advocates.
‘Pamoja’ is a Swahili word that means together. This was the underpinning spirit of the advocacy training. Pamoja advocates worked together on education-focused advocacy goals throughout the training. Goals are country-specific, but similar enough that sharing and support can happen between all the advocates from each of the five countries.
At the end of the two days, each advocate had a completed Advocacy Plan with agreed targets to work on over the next 12 months, including a work plan with others from their own country. As part of the training, the Pamojans also took a field trip to the Ghanaian Health Ministry, organized by SNF. They shared their stories and advocacy goals with a Senior NCD Ministry representative and learned about the important role advocacy plays in policy formulation. They left empowered, inspired and with more confidence to take their advocacy plans forward.
T1I and the SNF will continue to support the Pamojan Advocates as they carry out their plans to reach their goals. Below you can read testimonials by advocates from each of the countries represented and learn more about specific plans and their feelings about the experience.
Our experience in the advocacy training was wonderful. We met people with the same dreams as ours. The Sonia Nabeta Foundation and T1International really care about bringing us together to make a difference in the lives of people with type 1 diabetes. We learnt that we can make a difference in our country, and that we can stand up for the warriors without a voice. Because of us there will be #insulin4all and a change in the lives of the warriors.
Lots of topics were covered during the two-day training session, including taking action to achieve a specific change in policy or practice that benefits people with diabetes based on good advocacy. In addition, we learnt that advocacy allows us to speak about what is important to us, by ensuring that people with diabetes have their voices heard. Elizabeth, our trainer, worked with every advocate on a plan for action to be delivered in his/her country. It was very clear and useful. All of us have committed to fighting for long-term change so more people can have a better life with diabetes.
My personal advocacy plan action is to organize a diabetes education program at two schools in November by giving them information on diabetes. Misconceptions about diabetes is one of the health problem we face in our Nigerian community, and it brings about mismanagement of diabetes. I believe that education is key to fix this problem. I want to make sure students are able to understand the facts about diabetes, which can save lives and prevent stigma and judgment for those living with type 1 diabetes. It will also help people and governments to understand the essential nature of affordable insulin and diabetes supplies.
The training paved the way for me to set and achieve a goal. I was able to learn from Elizabeth and the other advocates to get firsthand information on how my goal could be easily achieved, and that I can find a remedy to any issue or problem I may encounter while working on my plan. I really benefitted from the experience I had during the trip.
At the Pamoja advocacy training under the guidance of Ms. Elizabeth Rowley, Founder of T1International, we created advocacy plans customized for our different countries. We shared the different challenges we face living with type 1 diabetes (T1D) in our respective countries and I realized the problem of lack of awareness cuts across all of them.
In Uganda, T1D is still a big mystery. The community is unaware, health care professionals are not very knowledgeable, T1D warriors don’t have the information and yet research shows that a big percentage of diabetes management comes from diabetes education. I believe that T1D warriors, once empowered, can champion raising diabetes awareness in society.
Therefore, as team Uganda, we developed an advocacy plan that has clear objectives and implementation milestones. Our goal is to deliver 4 presentations in 4 hospitals in Gulu and Kampala by January 2019. As T1D warriors, we have to champion the change we want to see by letting our voices be heard. Our voices will influence society and bring policy makers to join our fight.
Type 1 diabetes has enabled many of us living with the condition to become a family. We are united by our common experience, our needs, and our lives as warriors of the daily challenges of living with type 1 diabetes. At the Pamoja Advocacy training, there was a common understanding that being diabetic can be difficult, especially due to lack of awareness in our communities and hardship in accessing insulin due to financial factors. This has been a global concern of all diabetic warriors in the world.
Being diabetic is already a challenge of its own, access to our fundamental need – insulin – should not be. In some nations, there are charity organizations facilitating and enabling access to insulin for children and youths with such conditions, but what of those who don’t? It has created a great health inequality, and it means that someone else holds the power and decides who will attain their insulin and who cannot. Through our advocacy training, we learned that we also have power.
We will voice the cry of many for #insulin4all and create long-term solutions to financial access issues. We want insulin at a cheaper price, or even better would be universal coverage for all diabetics. The Pamojan Advocates intend to become testimonials of champions and to share knowledge, inspire, influence and educate our communities about type one diabetes.
Pamoja Advocacy Training was the best experience. The training enabled us to get more ideas and to set goals in our diabetes advocacy. In this training, we met different people from other countries, where they also have challenges in how to create diabetes awareness. At the training, we made friends with people with diabetes from Nigeria, Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda.
During the training, we also learnt why advocacy is important, how to plan advocacy and how to take actions and execute our advocacy goal here in Ghana. With this training, we are going to educate and create awareness. Now we know we can go far and further with our advocacy.
A big thanks to local Ghanaian organization, Diabetes Youth Care, who supported the diabetes camp that followed the advocacy training workshop.