One week, one venue, over 300 people, all over the continent, plenaries, parallel sessions and many more. In a week, I gathered news, networked with reproductive health leaders, I learnt from experts, I was inspired, and I became curious to know more about Reproductive Health Supply Chain. I was fascinated with how supplies move from production till they reach that person at the last mile. It wasn’t just about those at the meeting, it was about what it meant to young people. It was about increasing access to safe, affordable contraceptives no matter where young people were.
For young people, it was a coalition that had their interest at heart. Access to reproductive health supplies is essential in ensuring that young people can make informed choices leading to the effective use of contraceptive methods and high-quality maternal products for better lives. While acknowledging existing factors that hamper young people’s access to commodities, we discussed solutions to tackle these barriers and pushed for meaningful engagement and participation of young people to in all processes of the supply chain so as to build on the gains made
These have been my experiences as I reported from and participated in the Reproductive Health Supplies Coalitions Annual Membership Meeting.
Celebrating a journey of resilience
As members of the coalition celebrated their journey, it was the many faces of resilience that held the community together through the tough times of a pandemic. Celebrating resilience, members of the coalition were happy for their growth, their patience, fruitful partnerships, the bond of togetherness. We celebrated sustained efforts and a common goal of ensuring that everyone, including women and girls, had access to reproductive health commodities, leaving no one behind and reaching the farthest first and reaching the last mile. Like the tightened sides of the Djembe drum that holds it tight together, members of the coalition celebrated Resilience with renewed hope for the future.
Young People in shaping the future agenda
This was my highlight of the meeting this year. A theme that ran through and stood out clear for many was the meaningful engagement and participation of young people and professionals within the supply chain as the coalition moves forward. The coalition’s new strategic plan is one that envisions a more inclusive community.
Working together to sustain every gain and achievements of the older generation while leveraging new energy and innovation for a more effective supply chain mechanism in reproductive health supply. Young people present at the meeting made a strong case for their inclusion. They demonstrated their own expertise, reminding all the need for deliberate MENTORSHIP and Intergenerational Dialogues that is mutually beneficial and ensures a transition of knowledge and experience unto upcoming young professionals in the supply chain sector. Discussions were backed by evidence and how deliberate engagement could yield fruits; such as the stories of young female professionals of the Girls on the Move Initiative Kenya, the successes of intergenerational dialogues under the Supply Fellows Initiative and the fruits yielded when direct investments are made such as the LAPTOP Scholarships to young people. The evidence was clear, and all agreed it was the way to go.
Collective efforts to move forward
The theme of this year’s Reproductive Health Coalition Members General Meeting was “Shaping the Future of Reproductive Health Supplies”. The theme provided a clear focus for members to look forward to and collectively work towards that shaped future. Members celebrated the success of a flagship initiative the Visibility Analytics Network (VAN). This new initiative connects people and information in new ways to transform how our community makes supply chain decisions and advances our vision. . The VAN highlighted how much progress they had made with member countries and what more could be done if more countries joined. With a new strategic plan underway, members of the coalition were optimistic of moving forward stronger and more resilient. It is a future of hope, rallying all together with a common goal and agenda.
The critical role of financing
Financing was a crucial and important part of discussions during the meeting. The future of financing reproductive health supplies could be likened to a vehicle full of supplies ready to move but with no fuel. Financing of reproductive health supplies, especially in low and middle income countries (LMIC) is currently largely donor funded, while the menstrual hygiene product sector was purely commercial at this point. For community advocates like me, financing didn’t sound super cool, but most importantly the future of financing was crucial and the fuel that will push all agreed outcomes to reality. It however brought to bear the need for countries and government efforts in increasing Domestic Resource mobilization. This will inevitably reduce the pressure on donor sources but also ensure accountability of resources.
Learning, sharing, networking and partnerships
Should I tell you how many business cards I got, new friends I made from across my continent and the globe, or potential employer names I wrote down? That was the power of networking and partnerships. It was an atmosphere of learning and sharing especially with many lessons learnt during the pandemic, coping mechanisms adapted during the period. Major takeaways included how those lessons shaped their ways of operating and doing things now. The week was one of building stronger bonds, creating new networks, strengthening existing bonds and collectively building on the successes of another. Members ended the week acknowledging that, a stronger bonding, and partnerships now, better positions them for a more resilient and sustainable future.
The week ended, all who traveled may be back home now; but the discussions on reproductive health supplies and the supply chain keeps going. It’s the heartbeat of the community. It keeps sounding like the Djembe drum, reminding us of the beautiful melody we make when women and girls, young people and everyone have access to affordable, quality RH commodities. It’s our symbol of resilience no matter where we came from or where we are headed as we shape the future of reproductive health supplies.
It’s a reminder that “YOU(TH) have a role to play in leaving no one behind and reaching the last mile with Reproductive Health Supplies.
Esenam was supported by the Family Planning News Network to uncover and report on the role young people play, and will play, in the development of new approaches to solutions for the reproductive health supply chain. A special thanks to the Reproductive Health Supply Coalition for welcoming Esenam into the community. Learn more about the Family Planning News Network (FPNN) – here