For Immediate Release
September 16, 2008
I guess most of you are aware that Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) held a Health, Human Rights, and Advocacy workshop for African medical students in Zimbabwe on the 5th and 6th of September. What I know most of you are not aware of is the impact the workshop had on the students who attended.
Zimbabwe is a unique country both in its wonder and its economic downturn. Our health delivery system has been the hardest hit, as Zimbabweans' life expectancy has plunged below 40 years – about half the life span of people from more privileged nations. The existing health framework in our nation is too dismantled and fragmented to grapple with the challenges. Simply put, we lack the collective will to act decisively in a highly inequitable world. Medical students had unconsciously fallen into a comfortable, docile role of the "what can we do clan"; hence the need for the advocacy training.
The presentations at the workshop were exhaustively prepared, adopted a comprehensive approach, and underscored that now is the time to act. There was emphasis that advocacy and respect for human rights is essential for health and wellbeing of all people.
The presentations by the international medical students, including Natasha (USA), Debbie (Uganda), and Eric (Kenya) set us free from our imaginary bonds of disempowerment and revitalized our imagination to roam free in the realm of HOPE. The presence and speeches/presentations by gurus, such as PHR CEO Frank Donaghue, PHR President Len Rubenstein, Dr. Douglas Gwatidzo of the Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights (ZADHR), and ZADHR Programmes Coordinator Primrose Matambanadzo, motivated and inspired us to be more than just a critic, but be part of the solution.
Our minds were liberated and some who were extremists were shown that mudslinging and swinging from chandeliers is not the only way to be heard. Special mention has to go to PHR's Lisena "Lissy" DeSantis for her tireless efforts to make sure everything went according to plan; she was like the puppet master pulling all the strings to make the workshop the success it became. There were many who worked behind the scenes for the show to go on the road, including PHR's Sarah Kalloch and Emily Bancroft, just to mention a couple.
There was a lot of enthusiasm that there was going to be a workshop in Zimbabwe. But for that to happen, our enthusiasm had to be turned to reality. With this in mind, the medical students from Zimbabwe would like to thank and acknowledge the financial support by Open Society Institute (OSI), Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, and Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA). You guys made everything come together. We cannot thank you enough.
All of you guys, Thank you!
Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) is a New York-based advocacy organization that uses science and medicine to prevent mass atrocities and severe human rights violations. Learn more here.