Cow economics: Multisector partnerships that address complex, culturally ingrained health challenges

16 June 2017
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This week Rabin Martin was delighted to host Amref Health Africa for a conversation on multisector partnerships that help address culturally ingrained health challenges, such as female genital mutilation, family planning and preventing early child marriage. Amref has helped to improve the health of thousands of people across 35 countries in sub-Saharan Africa over its 50 years of operation, partnering with the private sector to help inform and scale up their programs to bring about sustainable change.

We were honored to welcome Peter Nguura, a longstanding champion for women’s health and an Amref project manager working in Kenya, who shared examples of his work with local communities on intractable health problems. Peter’s work focuses on preventing the practice of female genital mutilation (FGM)—a complex issue to address, given its cultural significance. Peter shared interventions he has put into practice in his native Kenya that have truly helped to change both hearts and minds around this practice:

  • Things not working as planned? Fail fast, and take those learnings to adapt your program so that your organization is uniquely positioned to create measurable, longstanding impact. For Peter and his team, this followed five years of deep community engagement across a number of issue areas, resulting in a laser-focused effort to prevent female genital mutilation.
  • Listen to community needs: “You need to use symbols that connect with the community.”
  • “Cow economics”: Appeal to longstanding cultural practices to make authentic connections to your issue. Amref has engaged the Maasai community—many of whom raise livestock as a primary form of income generation — on issues of family planning by drawing parallels to the economic and health benefits of family planning and birth spacing.
  • What’s in it for me? Assess and mitigate impact on health system participants. Peter gave the example of traditional birth attendants who typically supervise, and get paid for, female circumcision. Amref helped set up incentives to encourage these women to receive compensation instead for escorting women to hospital for birth delivery and ensuring child immunization. This important group then became key champions of ending FGM.
  • Redefine manhood by engaging boys and men around women’s health and rights.
  • Involve community and religious leaders responsible in decision-making: engage them early and often, and make sure to ‘speak their language’ when framing the conversation.

 

Major thanks to Peter and the rest of the Amref team for sparking a fascinating conversation and to the Rabin Martin clients and staff who contributed to the thoughtful discussion.

Looking for the right partner to help address a complex global health problem? Please give us a call– we love a good challenge! Want an invitation to future Rabin Martin-hosted events, such as this? Be sure to sign up for our newsletter.

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