Lessons from Southern Africa

The Coalition of African Lesbians (CAL) is a partner in the KP REACH Project, which is funded by the Global Fund through Hivos.

CAL leads on the learning element of the project, which has as a goal: To facilitate analysis, documentation and sharing of good practice working models and approaches from within the Southern Africa region, from the African continent as a whole and through south-south learning.


To advance this goal in 2016, CAL designed, developed and implemented a series of workshops using a mix of methodologies beginning a series of conversations about embedding the principle and practice of learning in and through our work and activism in order to strengthen the possibilities of African people to access social justice with a focus on access to health. The work was led by CAL. The three networks, African Sex Workers Alliance, Southern Africa Trans Forum, African Men for Sexual Health and Rights, made input into the design and organised with their members and partners for representatives to participate in the workshops.

The activist s involved

Activists from our separate and collective work were brought together to generate ideas and activism about advancing access to services, resources and rights, including but not limited to access to health and health services. These activists were from a range of organisations including sex workers, women living with HIV, young women, lesbians, transdiverse people, gay men and men who have sex with men and bisexual people. In all, over one hundred and forty activists participated in the eight workshops. The workshops were hosted in Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe between September and early November 2016.

The conversations

The conversations dealt with the importance of becoming learning organisations and communities and understanding the politics of learning and knowledge. The conversations engaged activists in critical thinking using conceptual frameworks and theory to frame a shared analysis of what works to ensure access to health for all. They also offered examples of work and activism that can shape and strengthen collective knowledge. Participating organisations generated the eight case studies attached, during these conversations and afterwards.

The work in 2017

In 2017, we will continue to deepen collective analysis, considering the implications for future activism and advocacy in relation to advancing, accelerating and strengthening access to health, health services and HIV-related services. We will together develop a set of conceptual frameworks and tools that will enable us to increase the number of activists who can contribute to ongoing learning and analysis. As Africans, we already, and must continue to think for ourselves as we move into and build a future where health is enjoyed by all in our societies. Marginalised people have been leading, and can and must continue to lead the work to advance our own and everyone?s access to health.

The imperatives for action

To ensure more effective organising for access to health we must:

hone and sharpen our thinking and analysis and generate the best possible ideas for this work;
work at the personal and interpersonal level to inspire each other and those we must influence towards greater accountability for delivery of and access to quality health care;
persuade, pressure, hold accountable and force institutions to do what they are supposed to do ? deliver services that are respectful of everyone?s dignity, autonomy and freedom;
name, expose, confront and destabilise the systems that determine and constrain investments in the public health system in Africa and force them to end policies and practices that prevent us from accessing and enjoying health.

Our work on KP REACH Learning in 2017 will draw attention to and strengthen and expand learning on all of these four imperatives for action so that we all stand a better chance of a future where we are all able to access and enjoy health.

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