The Community Working Group on Health (CWGH) played a critical and pivotal role during the just ended 18th International Conference on Aids and Sexually Transmitted Infections in Africa (ICASA) which was held in Harare, Zimbabwe from the 29th of November to the 4th of December 2015.

The conference, which ran under theme “HIV/AIDS in the Post 2015 Era: Linking Leadership, Science and Human Rights”, brought together experts, civil society organisations, development agencies and governments from all over Africa to share successes, challenges and opportunities for ending AIDS and STIs on the African continent.

Driven by its mandate to strengthen and broaden community participation in health, CWGH invited its network membership to a Community Satellite Session on the 30th of December 2015 in the Harare Gardens. The session, which ran under the sub-theme, Taking ICASA to the People through the Streets of Harare, was a bold effort by CWGH to ensure that all those who were not accredited also attended the international event. CWGH prides itself for being one of the few organizations, if not the only one, that is deeply rooted in the communities and striving to strengthen community participation in health in Zimbabwe.

Before the community session, CWGH organized a celebration march from the Harare International Conference Centre (HICC) to the Harare Gardens where the marchers gathered to discuss pertinent health concerns at community, national, continental and global levels.  The march, which was punctuated by song and dance, attracted over 300 people including CWGH district and network members, as well as its regional and international partners.

At the HICC – the venue of the conference – the marchers held and waved placards with concerns/issues they needed addressed. Some of the messages read: Allocate 15% to the Health Budget Now; We Demand Health & Lives before Profit; We demand a Fund to Strengthen Communities; Your broken promises are killing us; and We want a fully funded Global Fund.

The celebration march had the blessings of the police which provided both escort and security.

CWGH, which was part of the conference organizing committee that was spearheaded by the Ministry of Health and Child Care (MoHCC), played a critical coordinating role to ensure that its regional partners come and attend the international conference without facing bureaucratic hitches. The organization was responsible organizing the partners’ travel arrangements, accommodation and transport to and from the conference venue.

During the week-long conference, CWGH together with Save the Children had a booth where the organizations showcased their IEC materials. The CWGH exhibited its work ranging from Annual Reports, Brochures, Patients’ Charter to Banners with the ICASA theme, CWGH mission statement and core values as well as several training manuals. The booth generated a lot of interest as delegates wanted to know how CWGH had managed to ingrain itself in the communities without paying the volunteers/people the organisation works with in different parties of the country at a time the spirit volunteerism was at its weakest in Zimbabwe.

During the conference, CWGH website, facebook and twitter accounts were very active as they organisation tried by all means to ensure that those who could not make it to the conference were informed of the proceedings.

ICASA is a major international AIDS conference which takes place in Africa. Its current biennial hosting alternates between Anglophone and Francophone African countries. 

The CWGH is a network of civic/community based organisations who aim to collectively enhance community participation in health in Zimbabwe. It is one of the biggest networks (40 civic member organisations) in Zimbabwe, which has spearheaded community participation and has improved public health financing systems, advocated for stronger resource allocation for primary health care and a greater status role for the community and public inputs to decision-making on health.

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More photos from the ICASA celebration march are available on the CWGH website: