In Uganda’s public health sector, one woman is working to make a difference by using her passion for public health to foster community engagement in the country.
Diana Nsubuga is the Uganda country manager for the Global Health Corps, a leadership program that builds the capacity of emerging leaders in the public sector by providing job placement and training opportunities through a yearlong fellowship.
Prior to joining Global Health Corps, Nsubuga worked at Uganda’s ministry of finance, planning and economic development in the family health department on behavior change communication. She has spent much of her career working on reproductive health and community rights issues.
Devex talked with Nsubuga, to learn more about her work and how she has been able to rise above the gender stereotypes in a continent where some believe that women should be seen but not heard. Here is an excerpt from that interview, edited for length and clarity.
How have you worked to break down stereotypes about women through your work?
One way I’ve been able to break through the stereotype of women is through reading. If I am having a board meeting or any meeting, I will prepare so that when you are speaking as a woman, it is an informed opinion. I make sure I read. Another thing I do is network. My work at Global Health Corps has exposed me to different experts. So through the knowledge that they share I get more information about what is happening around me. Assertiveness and confidence are another way I break down barriers. Even in a boardroom full of women and men, I have an agenda to contribute to their agenda. Then the role of mentors — I am blessed with a lot of mentors at the Global Corps and the former organization I used to work with. The role of mentors have been critical.
What are some of the factors limiting impactful community engagement where you work?
Currently, one of the barriers hindering community engagement and sensitization is traditional practices. There are traditional practices that are still embedded within communities. I will give an example; the government passed a law against female genital mutilation, but some communities still practice it.
Another barrier I will like to talk about is the myths and misconceptions of family planning. We find women giving birth every year because they don’t believe family planning works. There are misconceptions in the communities that if you use family planning, you will get cervical cancer and all that types of things. It derails community engagement. The third is competing priorities. Within the community, there are so many competing priorities, for example health, nutrition, education, and HIV. Pulling out the priority would be difficult. It is one of the other things that impede community engagement.
How can more NGOs tackle these challenges?
Empower the community. When a community is empowered, they would be able to identify what is priority and what is not priority. In a community where I live, the women have agreed that prioritizing maternal and child health is a priority. So they get their small money, invest in agriculture, sell off the produce, have an income and save it so that when they are pregnant, they can go to the hospital and also be able to afford a mama-kit. A mama-kit is essentials for newborns. If we empower the community by giving them the information and expertise, they will be able to prioritize. At Global Health Corps, we empower young leaders with information on health as a human right. After that, they join high impact organizations to implement health interventions. Empowering people with information and skills is paramount.
After empowerment, how are they involved in measuring the impact?
I think that right from the beginning communities should be empowered to not only evaluate but also to monitor. I will give an example of our fellows. Our fellows are the ones that give us feedback on how their placements are using them. That is why the beneficiary is at the center of programming. Monitoring and evaluation should be done with the community.
For more information on the fellowships program, visit Global Health Corps at www.ghcorps.org/apply.
Jennifer Ehidiamen is a Nigerian writer who is passionate about communications and journalism. She has worked as a reporter and communications consultant for different organizations in Nigeria and overseas. She has an undergraduate degree in mass communication from the Nigerian Institute of Journalism, Lagos, and M.A. in business and economics from Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, New York. In 2014, she founded Rural Reporters (www.ruralreporters.com) with the goal of amplifying underreported news and issues affecting rural communities.
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