Voices Inspiring Change – Uganda: The Voices of Civil Society
YOUTH EQUALITY CENTER: MEET TEAM LEADER KAVIRI ALI HARRISON
Kaviri (‘Ali’) is the Team Leader at Kampala’s Youth Equity Center, working to amplify young adults’ voices when it comes to issues related to gender equality and social justice. We talked about universal health coverage (UHC) and what it means for young people in Uganda.
Q. Why social justice and gender equality, how did you become interested in these issues?
Ali: I was raised by my maternal grandmother in deep, Eastern Uganda. Since I was born out of wedlock, the community did not afford me importance or opportunities, which had a great impact on me. As an adult, my viewpoint changed when I saw an ad from a Women’s Rights Organization and applied for their transformative leadership training. Their 6 week intensive training opened my eyes to see the world through a different picture. I saw that we need to change social injustices around domestic violence and other issues that put women on unequal footing. It empowered me to turn my adversity into advocacy.
Q. What does UHC mean to you, and to youth in Uganda?
Ali: UHC is so important for a healthy, productive population, and youth constitute the largest percentage of our population. Young adults need to be at the forefront of UHC in terms of our ideas and educating others. Right now, the biggest challenge to youth in Uganda is unemployment and the lack of youth participation in programs. If we’re excluded from decision-making opportunities, it creates a barrier. Plus we have many health challenges, so it is crucial to include our voices, and to implement UHC policies. We need the President, Parliament and Ministry to support us and our involvement.
Q. Where would you like t o see Uganda by Vision 2040?
Ali: Medicine in hospitals and health facilities that are able to respond to key issues that populations are facing. I’m envisioning my country being able to respond to emergencies, and an improvement in maternal complications. I want Ugandans to be able to afford healthcare and not rely on fundraising drives. We need to equip and train health care providers to ensure they can do their jobs. In general, I want to see empowerment and self confidence. Governance has a critical role to play, it calls for leadership, transparency and accountability. I’m working to ensure young people play an active role in our country’s future.
ROBINAH KATARITIMBA - UGANDA NATIONAL CONSUMERS ORGANIZATION EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
Q. Tell us about yourself and how you became Executive
Director of Uganda’s National Consumers Organization.
Robinah: I was working in social work when I met a doctor who was passionate about patients’ rights. I lost my brother who
unnecessarily died in a hospital, so when that doctor started this organization, I was sucked in. We do what we call the three P’s: patient, provider and policy makers. We need everyone to understand each other and see each other’s point of view. Our approach is based on constructive engagement.
Q. How are you working to support UHC in Uganda?
Robinah: We currently have a bill in Parliament that we think is going to be very important if we’re going to have National Health Insurance. We need a framework for accountability, and a mechanism for holding service providers accountable. We need to have a public private partnership for this to work. In addition to the financing aspect, the government needs to work closely with the private sector to look at prevention, immunization and maternal and newborn health. The biggest challenge for both sectors will be to ensure quality services, responsiveness and getting information to everyone, including the indigent, as well as making sure the information is easy to understand.
We’re looking to empower patients to take responsibility for their lives and to hold service providers accountable. Part of my work involves building a bridge to policy makers to ensure that we (civil society and patients) have a seat at the table.