I am sitting on Hamad International Airport in Doha, Qatar. It’s just a stop over this time because I am on my way to East Africa with the final destination Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania.
It’s one of those great days at work; one of those fantastic days when I feel incredibly thankful to IOGT; one of those magnificent days when I feel tremendously happy about all the opportunities my work opens to me; one of those magic days when I feel deep conviction that I have the best job on earth because of the values I work for and with, the people involved and the way we work. I don’t take these days for granted.
And so I sit here at a little table on Doha airport and marvel at this trip. In the coming 12 days I’ll travel through four countries, three continents. And I will hold five workshops. I will meet, train and help empower incredible people.
The advocacy trainings start in Kampala, Uganda where I’ll facilitate the creation of an advocacy strategy and implementation plan for the Uganda Alcohol Policy Network. They have had some success in alcohol policy work, when they prevented a policy from being adopted that was basically written by ICAP and for the needs of the global alcohol industry, not the public interest of Ugandan society. And now we need to go further. I am honored to be part of the UAPA launch of their “State of Alcohol Report 2013” on August 22nd.
The next stop will then be Bujumbura, Burundi. Burundi is one of the poorest countries on this planet but does not usually make it into the mainstream media. Like Rwanda it suffered a disastrous, long conflict and today huge amounts of alcohol use, mental health problems and conditions, high prevalence of HIV/ Aids are paramount problems. The Burundi Alcohol Policy Alliance has set out to help solving these problems. BAPA came into being in 2011/ 2012 and is now ready to formalize its work and step up its advocacy actions.
In Bujumbura I’ll also run workshops for the Kenya Alcohol Policy Alliance, a network of four organizations that have done fantastic work over the years with the Alcohol Act in Kenya. Therefore I am really looking forward to the session with those guys. It will be exciting to identify objectives and ways to accomplish those goals powered by evidence, arguments and the stories behind them. The third network to be trained in advocacy is RADAPA, the Rwanda Alcohol and other Drugs Policy Alliance. With Rwanda approaching the state of a middle-income country, its emerging confidence in global politics and a Rwandan government that seems determined to address threats to the economic and societal boom, like the looming NCDs epidemic, I am thrilled to see how RADAPA can evolve into a powerful voice.
In Bujumbura, I’ll spend two full days. The second day will be spend with my friends from EAAPA, the East African Alcohol Policy Alliance. We have issued a press release together and the future looks bright for our cooperation on policy issues affecting the East African region. In this spirit I am happy to meet the EAAPA board and facilitate their devising of an advocacy strategy. After that session I’ll finally go back to Dar Es Salaam to hold two more workshops: one for TAAnet, the Tanzanian Alcohol Policy Network and the other one for the staff of the regional office of the iogtnto movement’s international institute.
I still sit in Doha, my MacBook still trying to catch a WiFi network and with HipHop beats on my ears. But in my mind I just traveled the route and conducted those trainings, imagined how it would feel to meet old and new friends and together embark on the journey for making Uganda, Burundi, Rwanda, Kenya, Tanzania, and the East African Community as a whole a better place to live for its people, especially for the children, youth and women. In the coming days, I’ll share with you posts about what I’ve learned and felt during each day, in the humble hope to be able to give a little insight in how it feels to work for IOGT International and what our work, together, can mean for the people it affects.