Key advocates set agenda for building network of TB-affected community reps

4 May 2012 – Geneva - Thirty advocates from a dozen countries gathered in Geneva this week. There were a number of familiar personalities – women and men who have been raising their voices on behalf of TB-affected communities for years. But there were also several fresh faces – community activists devoted to the cause of HIV who were new to TB advocacy.

Their purpose in meeting was to:

Together the advocates drilled down the actions needed to promote greater engagement of communities in TB advocacy, build on and expand existing regional networks and link with other related initiatives such as on HIV, migrants and harm reduction. In Africa, for example, they identified strategic partners working on HIV and who should integrate TB advocacy into their work. In Asia, participants said, human rights organizations could prove to be strong allies. In Eastern Europe/Central Asia and the Americas and Caribbean, several participants volunteered to create an inventory of existing advocacy networks.

The participants were unanimous on the greatest challenge to building community-based TB advocates: too few people affected by TB feel empowered to speak out and serve as advocates. One part of the problem is lack of confidence; the other is lack of knowledge and skills. The steps needed to bring more people to the table, they agreed, include “twinning” arrangements to share skills between experienced advocates and advocates-in-training; availability of good tools for deepening knowledge about TB and the epidemiology and challenges in each country’s context; and on developing proposals and financial management.

Participants representing donor organizations provided insights into enhancing resource mobilization. The group was briefed, for example, about the GIZ (German International Cooperation) German BACKUP Initiative. This is a programme commissioned by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and managed by GIZ with the objective of providing technical support to governmental and civil society organisations worldwide in order to build their capacities to better access and successfully implement Global Fund grants to respond to HIV, TB and malaria.

As outcomes of the meeting, the group agreed to work collectively on an inventory of resources and to synergize the efforts of their different organizations around events and advocacy objectives.