John Bosco Kwizera, the HIV/AIDS Social Marketing CBOs Manager
Community Based Organizations (CBOs), are member-based groups of voluntary social workers operating at the grassroots; disseminating health-related basic services and products and participating in programs implementation on behalf of Society for Family Health (SFH) Rwanda.
It is uniquely an SFH initiatives aimed at ensuring that Rwandans understand, own and actively participate in social marketing of health products, services and programs for purposes of sustainability.
In an exclusive interview with John Bosco Kwizera, the HIV/AIDS Social Marketing CBOs Manager, he explained in fine details the rationale behind using CBOs as a vehicle for promoting SFH products, services and programs at the grassroots. “CBOs are critical components in ensuring effective and sustainable implementation of SFH programs countrywide. Even more important, they ensure a participatory approach by engaging the communities to own and participate in SFH programs”, he elaborated.
In terms of outreach SFH has divided up Rwanda into five operational regions: East, West, South, North and Central regions. CBOs are transparently selected and recruited across the five regions. SFH signs an MOU with each CBO as a framework of engagement containing terms, obligations and conditions thereof.
Among the requirements for a CBO to qualify include; a bank account, recommendation from sector, must be operational for at least one year, proven experience working on the health-related project or initiative, list of CBO members. Now over a year in operation, SFH has so far recruited a total of 63 CBOs across the country but have signed MOUs with about twenty. “We are yet to sign MOUs with other remaining CBOs. They fall under a category that still needs capacity building in terms of operations and management”, he clarified. District authorities help in identifying credible CBOs. Also, to avoid overlaps in programs implementation with other health related NGOs, SFH works closely with local authorities to identify CBOs and areas of intervention. District authority plays the major coordinating role of health interventions to avoid duplication on the same beneficiaries.
SFH is embarking on aggressive training of CBOs across the country—providing them with technical support in managing Cooperatives and Associations. “On recruiting them, we discovered that majority some had weak management structures, thus a call for training”.
SFH trains (CBOs) to equip them with skills and expertise necessary to promote health products and services. Thus, they are important ingredients of SFH social marketing initiatives at the grassroots. CBOs are very instrumental in Behavioral Change Communication (BCC) and the impact is evident.
Emphasis on Key Populations (KPs)
Kwizera further explains that in recruiting new CBOs emphasis is now being put on specific associations and cooperatives falling under Key Populations (KPs). These are groups of people prone to high risk of getting infected with HIV/AIDS. These include; MSM (Men having Sex with Men), Truck Drivers, Female Sex Workers, Motorists. “We discovered that these specific groups of people could not pass the selection criteria yet we wanted to work with them. We have decided to empower them. We began by selecting among them peer indicators (their leaders) train them on how to attract more of their peers to their respective associations”. This, Kwizera reports that it was done last March as of today they all have bank accounts and have shared their individual work plans which have been aligned with SFH activity plan.
It is a win-win. Although SFH supports CBOs with an aim of improving its outreach, they (CBOs) also benefit by improving their scope of work in elaborating their mission of creating an impact on. Additionally, for CBO that have been selected to work as Community Based Distributers (CBDs) of SFH products earn an interest. Besides, they are also provided with seed stock which acts as start-up capital.
Now, SFH is working on expanding the network to have dedicated CBOs for more effective implementation of programs. Also within individual CBOs members are being encouraged to specialize in SFH health intervention areas of their interest—either ; Nutrition, Safe water, Malaria Control, HIV/AIDS or Family Planning