The Eurasian Harm Reduction Network has completed testing of a training curriculum designed to enhance the skills of communities of people who inject drugs in Eastern Europe and Central Asia to advocate for domestic funding of harm reduction programs.
The testing initiative is part of a regional program called “Harm Reduction Works, Fund It.”
The final training session was delivered to the Georgian PWID community by the Georgian Harm Reduction Network in Tbilisi on 15-17 September. Since start of the program in April 2014, similar trainings have been conducted in the other four countries involved in the program: Belarus, Kazakhstan, Moldova, and Tajikistan.
The training explained how to do advocacy. It was designed to help local communities develop individual country advocacy plans and the skills necessary to dialogue with government officials to convince them of the effectiveness of the harm reduction programs and the need to increase domestic funding of those programs – especially in light of the anticipated forthcoming gradual reduction of Global Fund support to the whole EECA region.
Asked how the training has benefited her, one middle-age woman representing the PWID community responded: “We learn to speak the same language as state officials do, and we learn how harm reduction programs work in the country and how they are financed. As a group, we discuss what are the gaps, challenges, and opportunities; and then together we come up with potential solutions that we have to offer our governments, in a comprehensive, persuasive manner.”
The methodology of the advocacy training for the PWID community was developed by two program experts, Olya Belyaeva and Maria Tvaradze. The results, observations and lessons learned from all of the training sessions will be now inventoried and reflected in the final methodology document, which will be soon be published for use by a wider audience.
One of important goals of the Tbilisi training was to support the PWID community to prepare core messages for the forthcoming high-level regional dialogue organized by the EHRN, to be held in Tbilisi on 28-30 September. The dialogue, which is about successful transition from the Global Fund to domestic funding, will bring together representatives of local governments, communities, NGOs from across the region, the Global Fund and other international donors. One day will be devoted to the CSO sector, so the PWID community should be well prepared to talk about harm reduction program problems, gaps, and needs.
“Harm Reduction Works, Fund It!” is a three-year program which aims to strengthen community advocacy for increased domestic funding by creating an enabling environment for investments in harm reduction programs and by empowering local PWID communities with advocacy skills and relevant knowledge allowing them to protect their own rights. (See the latest GFO article on this program here.)
The regional program has been operating for about a year and half. In addition to the training sessions and the development of national advocacy strategies, the program has conducted two important assessments: one on the financing of harm reduction programs and one on the quality of the services. The latter was performed by local PWID communities.
The assessments were conducted in six countries: Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Lithuania, Moldova, and Tajikistan. A draft report of the assessments has been developed; the final report will be published in the near future.