Health Workers Central to Campaigns for Women and Children
One of the discussions at the Global Campaigns Skillshare organized by the White Ribbon Alliance for Safe Motherhood and Save the Children was about using health workers for advocacy and campaigning till Rose Mlay, who heads the White Ribbon Alliance in Tanzania, gave the group a well-deserved rap on the knuckles and asked that the group stop talking about “using” health workers and talk instead about working with health workers. Point well taken!
Since the target of much of the advocacy by both groups is governments across the world, engaging health workers in advocacy creates champions within the health system. For groups that work on strengthening health systems, this offers the multiple advantages of change being led by insiders rather than outsiders. For campaigns focusing on ensuring quality of health services, identifying health workers as champions from within the system ensures sustainability of recommended program approaches. In health systems that suffer due to frequent transfers of government officials, health workers at middle or lower levels of the system are less prone to being transferred than top officials, resulting in the (unintended) advantage of capacity developed staying within the system.
However, in hierarchical health systems, health workers fear reprisals for speaking up and are reprimanded by their supervisors for advocating on issues. A possible solution could be to organize FGDs, collect the views of multiple health workers and offer anonymized data and feedback.
The discussion loops back to campaigns in India and other countries to honor health workers and celebrate their role in service delivery. Ensuring transparency in selections and establishing valid criteria for nominating awardees is a must for the awards to be meaningful. But moving beyond an award ceremony, in order to ensure that health workers have voice and presence and are empowered to share their views a broader framework for working with health workers is required.
In terms of meaningful discussions, the Skillshare threw up several such issues for 85 participants from 16 countries who came together at an idyllic beach resort in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania from April 23-26, 2012.
The author of this post is Ragini Pasricha, Team Leader – Advocacy and Communications for the IntraHealth-led Vistaar Project in India, who has volunteered with the White Ribbon Alliance of India since its inception in 1999.