On my next blog posting I had meant to tackle the serious of topic of teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections. I know! Thrilling topics but ones that are very important to the work that I am doing here in Botswana. Particularly after the meetings that I participated in last week.
In every one of the 30 District Health Plans that we reviewed the issue of rising rates of teenage pregnancy were identified.Back on my first trip to the Chobe District of Botswana that I made two weeks after arriving here four months ago, I attended my first DMSAC meeting (District Multi-sectoral Aids Committee). During this four hour meeting in a room with no air conditioning and baboons playing outside I got my first indications that teenage pregnancy was a major concern.
Last week my instincts were not only confirmed but backed up with district statistics. The M & E (monitoring & evaluation) side of me was blissfully happy! Not that it was an issue but now that I had the data to support my concerns and a platform to leverage program change to address the issue. Could it get any better than that? Also in the room was the National Aids Coordinator from NACA who is responsible for coordinating civil society efforts within the government and National Strategy framework. Being typical Cheryl, I made sure that I secured agreement from him that this was a serious national issue and one that needed to be addressed by all levels of government and society.
He absolutely agreed with me and we are going to sit down next week to plan out our advocacy approach to secure Presidential support for a change in the National Strategic Plan. This is a big deal because 1) it is officially the President who has responsible for the National Strategic AIDS Strategy; 2) teenage pregnancy is about so much more than health issues. It is culturally, education, economic, gender, legal…I think you get the picture. Changing the ship’s direction (or Country’s) at this point in time is almost impossible. The National Strategy runs to 2016. The economy can not continue to support the escalation in costs to the health system that HIV and Aids requires. The President has been very clear about that and he is very correct.
I know, you are all thinking that makes it impossible odds. Actually, for me it makes it my focus. Oscar brought me to Bonaso to do and build capacity in advocacy. I have never met an impossible challenge that I backed down from and when it involves a generation of young women you can be guaranteed that there is no way in hell I am going to let this go. While I love my role as Organizational Development Advisor because every day I am using the varied and multiple skills that I felt were drying up in Canada. On any given day, I go from providing technical advice, guidance and creating systems in finance, human resources, data bases, governance, m & e, communications, strategic leadership, inter-agency collaboration, the list goes on. My absolute love is and always will be policy work, which includes advocacy for policy changes. Throw in the opportunity to make a difference or build capacity in gender issues and I am one truly happy camper. So stay tuned! I will keep you posted my progress and road blocks.