From April 21-24, 2015, 40 leaders of Disabled Persons’ Organizations (DPO), ministry officials, and technical experts from six Francophone Africa countries convened in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, for the USAID-funded Leadership, Management, and Governance (LMG) Project’s Regional Senior Leadership Program (SLP) on Disability Rights and Physical Rehabilitation, in partnership with the Yale University Global Health Leadership Institute. In collaboration with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the program equips teams of senior decision makers from both government and civil society with the skills to address systematic challenges with evidence-based strategies, effective management and leadership, and good governance.
Over the course of the four-day workshop, participants from Burundi, Niger, Chad, Togo, Madagascar, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) stepped out of their comfort zones to improve team dynamics, become better leaders and managers in their work place, and strategically analyze the root of problems in their respective countries. Facilitators Sylvia Vriesendorp and Erik Heinonen worked closely with the teams and encouraged them to think deeply about four main components: governance, gender inequalities related to disability, strategic problem solving, and leadership development, in order to create Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely (SMART) objectives and systematically analyze the specific problem identified. Additional sessions also focused on the United Nations Convention for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities to provide a legal framework and common understanding of the obligations governments and organizations have to respect and protect the rights of persons with disabilities, including providing accessible and responsive physical rehabilitation services so persons with disabilities can regain their mobility—a vital step toward ensuring more inclusive societies.
Country teams identified a problem to address based on their specific context. The DRC, Chad, Niger, and Madagascar recognized persons with disabilities in remote regions of their countries do not have access to quality rehabilitation services. Thus, their objective for the program is to increase accessibility to services in remote regions. Specifically, the Chad team is dedicated to improving the quality of services for women and children in their country during the SLP. Over the course of the workshop, they recognized that women and children receive poor quality of service in comparison men at physical rehabilitation centers, and set their objective to decrease this inequality.
The Togo team recognized a lack of materials to manufacture orthopedic assistive devices, which are crucial to helping Togolese clients regain their mobility. After examining root causes in procedures, human resources, management, and materials available, the team decided to focus their SLP application project on increasing the quantity of materials to fabricate appropriate assistive devices.
Each country team in the SLP is accompanied by an ICRC facilitator to guide them through the development and implementation of their strategic plans and provide ongoing mentorship and coaching throughout the program. ICRC facilitators act as a contributing team member as well as a source of guidance and support. Experiences from other SLPs in East Africa and Southeast Asia suggest that this coaching role is a key factor in supporting the participants to apply what they are learned and make progress toward addressing the team’s focal problem.
After a successful first workshop, teams will come together once again in July to select a strategy to address their problem and develop an action plan for the implementation of their strategy. Teams will convene for a third workshop in December to present their results.