On Advocacy for Policy (in relation to the right to food in SL)
“Advocacy is the hub for policy making.Advocacy serves as a catalyst for policy implementations and policies are the agents that facilitate the implementation of what we have in our constitutions. If the Right to Food for example is factored in our national constitution, policies will be put in place that the Civil Society will use as a working tool in ensuring that the RtF is implemented to the fullest.”
On advocating to stakeholders
“We lobby with them. We advocate how they would prioritise nutrition as key on their development agenda.”
On mobilization of communities
“… how do we ensure that communities are mobilized especially when we talk about key moments like ….immunization periods….. that is where we are very strong at working in partnership with FOCUS 1000 to see how we mobilise communities to access these services, during immunization period, during antenatal period, during primary health care service delivery….the area where civil society can best support the community.” Victor Lansana Koroma
“we get down to these communities, identify key members …. that we think will be our focal people…. They sit together … and start discussing their challenges regarding issues on nutrition…. “ Victor Lansana Koroma
“We work through the District Health Management Team (DHMT)....we bring them all together. They sit together and start to discuss and these issues that they raise will now be taken on board by the DHMT and the council authorities, and as civil society we follow up on those commitments… made by the health sector stakeholders…” Victor Lansana Koroma
Second strongest area of intervention
“…good governance is essential…..Its about information sharing, it is about people knowing their roles and responsibilities. Good governance is also about people knowing how policies are either formulated, designed and implemented, who does what [….] ensuring the aspect of human right component is taken into consideration.” Victor Lansana Koroma
“Sierra Leone is one of the very few countries that is religiously tolerant (where) a Christian and a Muslim sit together to discuss …pertinent issues that …to do with development without anybody saying ‘you are a Christian’ or ‘you are a Muslim’. …that is why bringing civil society together under this platform has been very successful.” Victor Lansana Koroma
On Learning Route expectations
“Whatever we are doing here in Sierra Leone…. we will want to…..have …knowledge from other civil society organizations from other countries…. to see the best practices that we can learn from them. Maybe what they can also learn from us….” Victor Lansana Koroma
“Rwanda is one country we admire most. When you read deeply into African countries….it is one country that has set an example of good quality leadership in terms of good governance, in terms of community involvement in terms of whatever they are doing…..For me it will be an opportunity to learn about their governance policies.... We will also want to learn from the Rwandan Alliance…. to just share ideas …best practices…” Victor Lansana Koroma
“The trip to Rwanda is all about going to share what we have, and also learn from others. Thus I am expecting our participants to feel at ease to share their best practices for the benefit of other colleagues. Participants should be opened minded to learn new things and be ready to adopt new ideas, to implement new things, and establish stronger links and coordination.” Sanusie Fofanah
On how learning will be used by CSA Sierra Leone
“Depending on what they learn….it is something that requires creating an avenue where a training will be done to others.”
On preparing delegates for Learning Route
“We expect them to prepare their mind to learn and encourage the other CSAs at local level to implement some of the key things that are beneficial, and help us promote the local CSAs and work towards improving nutrition.”
“For me a knowledge gained is not enough....if I don’t share it with other people…it would be a privilege for me when I come back to Sierra Leone to engage several of my civil society colleagues through this civil society platform…to share our experiences that we have acquired from these learning sessions in Rwanda so that our colleagues … have the opportunity to benefit from this trip….…..it would also further deepen our advocacy efforts here….”
”…upon our return ….we will engage the media, do community radio discussions, TV discussions so that our policy makers will be able to know that we learned from this route. Further more we will meet with the SUN Secretariat….with strategic position at the office of the Vice Presentation…we can do a presentation to the Vice President as a team to the SUN Secretariat.”
On communication between CSAs after LR
“….paying a visit from one country to another country… …training is also necessary as we rely on capacity building…that is one way information can be shared….you can prepare yourself with current happenings….civil society can have a regional forum meeting.”
“For instance we can have the Mano River Union....that could be a good way….we can have regional integrations…can move from one country to another with…no visa required. Strengthening relationships at regional level.”
On channels of communication
“Social media, very simple… the strongest tool used to communicate to my friends in Nigeria and Liberia…WhatsApp is more effective. It is priority number 1, and Face Book second.”
On the advantages of WhatsApp
“WhatsApp is very swift and simple to understand. We can even establish a group like CSA West Africa. As soon as a message is sent, an immediate notification is sent to all members of the group.”
On making the learning experience enjoyable
“Promoting team work through cross country group works, followed by plenary sessions. This will help build acquaintance and confidence. For example Sierra Leone and Tanzania working together will create an opportunity for the both parties to learn a lot from each other. The countries will develop a presentation together, argue things together, and have a debate followed by Q&A from others..” Sanusie Fofanah
“For me I want us to have a kind of ….role play, any form of role play to show how nutrition has been an area of focus…” Victor Lansana Koroma
On useful materials
“The mind works with the eye. 1st choice is video documentary. Because it was through a video documentary that I was convinced that HIV is real.” Sanusie Fofanah
Do you want to read more? Here below the transcripts from the interview!!!
Conducted 29th September 2016
Interviewee: Victor Lansana Koroma
Executive Director-Health Alert (SUNI CSP National Taskforce member)
Section 1: Identifying strong examples to share at LR Rwanda
Q1. Strongest area of intervention:
Advocacy at Community level, national and sub national levels: Why advocacy?.... the level of education the level and their understanding of things need people that will actually get down to their level….give them information related to nutrition…..how they would improve on their health, the health of their children… and will only achieve that through advocacy, campaigning and also engaging stakeholders and policy makers this is very key. We in Health Alert… that has been our core intervention…. engaging policy makers, members of parliament....local councils at community level.
We lobby with them we advocate how they would prioritise nutrition as key on their development agenda. We have had a lot of engagement with councils and communities andwe [… ] create an interface for them to be able to share their concerns with the councils…their elected representatives the councilors at ward level and at community level….
Mobilisation of communities is also another key area… how do we ensure that communities are mobilized especially when we talk about key moments like ….immunization periods….. that is where we are very strong at working in partnership with FOCUS 1000 to see how we mobilise communities to access these services, during immunization period, during antenatal period, during primary health care service delivery….the area where civil society can best support the community.
Our strategy… for working through the community, we get down to these communities identify key members of this community that we think will be our focal people…we create a kind of focus group discussion. They sit together in a community “Barre”(meeting hut)… and start discussing their challenges regarding issues on nutrition….our strong partnership is with the MOHS and Local councils….
We work through the DHMT at district level....we bring them all together. They sit together and start to discuss and these issues that they raise will now be taken on board by the DHMT and the council authorities, and as civil society we follow up on those commitment that will be made by the health sector stakeholders…district Councils, health sisters…the nutritionist at district level…etc…. Ministry of Health Sanitation has decentralised nutritionists in all districts. So every district have their own nutrition focal persons now …what we do is work in collaboration with these nutritionist at district level and try to work together to see key areas that have been challenged in terms of nutrition…There are a lot of provisions given (for malnutrition)….UNICEF for instance provides Plumpy Nuts…..we monitor the usage of these Plumpy Nuts so that the beneficiaries who are the children, who are actually entitled to get this food… get it. That is how we have been engaging the community.
The success of this strategy. There used to be complaints of some mothers selling this Plumpy Nut but with our intervention they have seen the reason why Plumpy Nut is very good for their children (Plumpy Nut…nutritious food provided by UNICEF and other partners… given to malnourished children)… but what used to happen….when they were given this food instead of giving this food to their children they sell it in the market…. exchange it for food and other things….because they had not been well educated and sensitized on the importance, the relevance of this food.
We had to go down and tell them of the importance of this food, why it is good for their children….Sierra Leone had a high percentage of malnutrition before this intervention but the statistics is now showing that malnutrition is now reducing…….we so believe in strengthening communities…..when you talk about health system strengthening this would not be achieved if community participation and involvement Is not taken into consideration….
Now we are in the post Ebola recovery. Phase two if it. Government priority plan….which of course takes into consideration health, water and sanitation…but the key component is ….nutrition. How do we scale up nutrition? [….] we have tried to capture that in the priority plan.
The task force( national CSA taskforce) has been deliberating over the period to see how civil society can continue to step up our advocacy and monitoring strategies, our communication so that the right information is being passed on to the people to know how they can be fully part and parcel of this entire recovery process and take ownership of this process…..
At national level we engage the policy makers and at local level we engage the beneficiaries, we engage the health sector service providers, we engage other community stakeholders…CBOs, civil society organizations and even our networks. We have the SUN networks. We ensure they are well engaged because they have that priority and mandate to engage communities…..
Q2. Second strongest:
Governance: good governance is essential…Health Alert is also strategically positioned with policy makers. The reason being is that there is an adequate evidence of Health Alert credibility at national level…even when the government developed the Agenda for Prosperity, (PRSP) Health Alert championed the popularization of that document to every community…it is an aspect of good governance. ..Its about information sharing it is about people knowing their roles and responsibilities. Good governance is also about people knowing how policies are either formulated, designed and implemented, who does what [….] ensuring the aspect of human right component is taken into consideration.
Because of this consistent advocacy to raise issues with government Health Alert got the highest award from government....I was awarded by the President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma as member of the Order of the Rokel (MOR) one of the highest awards in the land. That award was given because of consistent engagement with government positively. Looking at issues critically and objectively. Identifying challenges and bringing them forward to government to make corrections and take actions…..
That is the reason why I am also happy to collaborate with FOCUS 1000. It has indeed exhibited leadership in terms of how communities should be engaged […] engaging religious people both Christian and Muslim.
Sierra Leone is one of the very few countries that is religiously tolerant [….] to be able to bring these two religions together to work with them…ISLAG and CHRISTAG groups. Now you can see a Christian and a Muslim sit together to discuss on pertinent issues that has to do with development without anybody saying ‘you are a Christian’ or ‘you are a Muslim’. I think it is because of this approach…that is why their leadership especially in bringing civil society together under this platform has been very successful.
Section 2: Expectations of the LR process
:What do you expect to get out of the learning route experience from the participants appointed by your CSA?
Whatever we are doing here in Sierra Leone [….] sometimes we don't think you are doing much until you are able to listen to stories from other countries [….] we will want to have […..] share knowledge from other civil society organizations from other countries[….] to see the best practices that we can learn from them. Maybe what they can also learn from us[….]
I expect to have more interactions more knowledge sharing and skill sharing from participants who will be going to these learning sessions.....
Rwanda is one country we admire most. When you read deeply into African countries….(it is one country) that has set an example of good quality leadership in terms of good governance, in terms of community involvement in terms of whatever they are doing…..For me it will be an opportunity (to learn about) their governance policies....their traditional customs[....]We will also want to learn from the Rwandan Alliance….the SUN Alliance there to just share ideas […] best practices…….
Q2. How do you plan to use what you have learned (directly or indirectly) from this experience when you return?
For me a knowledge gained is not enough....if I don’t share it with other people…it would be a privilege for me when I come back to Sierra Leone to engage several of my civil society colleagues through this civil society platform…to share our experiences that we have acquired from this learning sessions in Rwanda so that our colleagues who were not selected or did not have the opportunity to benefit from this trip….…..it would also further deepen our advocacy efforts here….
First upon our return is to do a thorough orientation with our colleagues as to what happened….what were the key discussions and knowledge that we gained…..it would be directly with one on one organizations…indirectly we will engage the media, do community radio discussions, TV discussions so that our policy makers will be able to know that we learned from this route. Further more ( we will meet with) the SUN Secretariat….with strategic position at the office of the Vice Presentation…can do a presentation to the Vice President as a team to the SU Secretariat.
Q3. What do you think the CSA could/should do to ensure an enabling learning environment before (supporting participants in sharing about the CSA) and after (supporting the participants in sharing and disseminating the learning with the Alliance CSOs)?
We will want to have an orientation amongst ourselves to have adequate preparation…..the kind of presentations we want to take there as a team….bring on board a lot of evidence, research that we gather here that we will showcase Sierra Leone position on nutrition issues here…
Upon our return opportunities will be given for a lot of group discussions….we will be willing to participate in discussions to share our experiences and to learn a lot.
Section 3: Communication among CSAs
Q1. Are you engaging with other CSAs? (If yes) How?
Yes…. we engage a lot with other actors….Alliances….Health for all Coalition…FOCUS 1000….Pikin to Pikin… we also have women’s group. We have the market women….the local civil society and international NGOs in this particular SUN Alliance.
We are not only at national we are also at district level and we have formed what we call the District Coordinating Bodies, the DCBs. The importance of these DCBs (they inculcate)…..ownership is at community level. These DCBs have that mandate and opportunity at their own level to coordinate issues related to nutrition….malnutrition….the national task force is there…but we do not dictate what they do. They come up with their own action plans…they develop their own activities and then present it to the national….we peruse it…. slating schedules as to how it should be done….
The structure of the Alliance is so fantastic. It is not only centralized here rather we have tried to decentralise it so that every district have their opportunity to discuss their own challenges….issues relating to nutrition within their district in line also with the Ministry of Health and Sanitation at district level…..
We have the private sector there….we try to bring them on board…because nutrition is not only the responsibility of government it cuts across….
The Health Fair we Launched…how lively it was. Because it brought on board all other sectors…..all other partners……it gave us an insight into how coordination could work better. I think for Sierra Leone we have got the platform and we are on a good footing.
Q3. If Participants at the LR agree that communication between CSAs would be beneficial what advise would you give us to help establish channels of communication for CSAs to continue sharing and learning from each other?
This learning session will give us an opportunity..… to familiarise ourselves with organisations that are attending there…
I have also realized that there is not too much coordination at Regional level especially on SUN.....SUN Alliance in Rwanda are so powerful…..why are they powerful? we would want to know…..so for me these learning sessions, my appeal is that it should not end on this one ..let there be a continuous engagement at regional level ....so that we would love to see Sierra Leone in future to say.. ‘Sierra Leone is going to host the next session’ to mobilise and to receive our colleagues.
Internet communication, through Skype communication, ….paying visit from one country to another country…some conferences could be ongoing…training is also necessary as we rely on capacity building…that is one way information can be shared….you can prepare yourself with current happenings….civil society can have a regional forum meeting. For instance we can have the Mano River Union....that could be a good way….we can have regional integrations…can move from one country to another with…no visa required. Strengthening relationships at regional level.
Advantage: The advantages are many… Sierra Leone emerged out of 10-11 years civil war immediately after that Ebola….not only having the skills from the learning session it will give me the opportunity to know a lot of issues relating to nutrition and how we engage …how do we engage better in a most constructive way?…additional advantage is my engagement with other networks…..extend our networks even at international level. We will make a lot of friends. We will learn even advocacy skills (like) how they engage stakeholders…how do they engage their state authorities? those would be very good advantages for me….
Q1. To make the learning experience enjoyable and fulfilling what innovative ways can you think of to share your best practices? Why?
We want to share our experience especially during this Ebola we realized that we only succeeded in fighting Ebola when the community became fully involved….especially the bye-laws that were placed. These gave us an advantage for communities to be able to know. So for nutrition also probably to avert most of the challenges that have been happening […]we would say let us design a policy for pregnant women[.....] lactating mothers… can suggest ideas as to how to prevent the pilfering of drugs[….]medicines[….]how do we entrust the community to be fully involved themselves in monitoring the services?
For me I want us to have a kind of a role session….role play, any form of role play to show how nutrition has been an area of focus…
Sierra Leone can design a strategy… not the usual power point presentation….every body should bring their own stuff into the idea….share how we do it in your own way, ….in your community… how do we also collaborate….we would divide ourselves into sessions or groups….within a limited time but we are able to share the whole presentation within the time frame stipulated…..but each group focus on one of the areas they want to share.
Q2. What materials (posters, documentary, audio) have you found useful in the past for learning and sharing knowledge? Why?
I always want to see information that is very clear for our people…..posters could be very useful that depict malnutrition itself….how children are suffering…..when you see whe, you hear, you learn more and you believe….maybe countries will bring clips for us that talk about malnutrition, about community engagement, about for instance how policy makers take decisions. Because that will help us when engaging communities when we come back.