Global Learning I: Learning New Perspectives in South Africa

Global Learning I: Learning New Perspectives in South Africa

When EI Fellows travel to a country outside of Asia, they gain a fresh perspective on health equity and new insights into the ways that policies, innovations, and coalitions can drive progress toward making quality healthcare accessible for all. This year’s Global Learning I component focused on South Africa, and over the course of a week in Johannesburg (May 6-13), Fellows met with policy specialists, health service providers, entrepreneurs, and activists to learn about the history, health conditions, and social and economic dynamics that shape the country’s environment for equity. Site visits, a walking tour of Jo’burg’s multicultural Hillbrow neighborhood, peer exchange of experience, and personal reflection helped Fellows draw comparisons with their own local environments and areas of work. 


Presentations at Witwatersrand University (Wits U) grounded Fellows in the South African context for health. A panel presentation provided information on the country's health policies, health financing mechanisms, and the role of the public and private sectors in delivering health services. A discussion on “The Effectiveness and Policy Determinants of Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Taxes” offered a case study on the political, economic, and social dynamics that shape policy decisions, as well as the ability to communicate complex scientific evidence in a compelling and accessible way. Later in the week, a fishbowl discussion on the roles of social movements in systems change and a fireside chat with social entrepreneurs on innovations for social change generated ideas on ways to address the root causes of systemic problems and to engage actors within and outside the health system. A visit to the Nelson Mandela Foundation’s Center of Memory and Dialogue highlighted the ways in which Mandela’s legacy continues to inspire dialogue and action around critical social issues.


A highlight of the trip was meeting and conversing with Kumi Naidoo on how to empower people to take action and become agents of change in their own communities, and ultimately, why we need social change. Site visits helped Fellows link the broader goals of systemic change with more immediate community-level needs and barriers to services. Breaking into three small groups, Fellows visited Chiawelo Community Oriented Primary Care in Soweto township, an initiative that helps low-income families and individual receive treatment for HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and other infectious diseases; OUT LGBT Well-being, a nonprofit organization that advocates for the health and well-being of LGBT+ individuals; and Lawyers against Abuse (LvA), an NGO with extensive experience in promoting gender equality, preventing gender-based violence, and advancing legal rights.


A workshop facilitated at Drama for Life – an arts center for special transformation and healing based at Wits U. – gave Fellows a chance to practice blending creativity with advocacy.  

Drama for Life representatives introduced “Theatre of the Oppressed,” a theatrical art form that stimulates critical observation and representation of reality. The techniques of theatre-based problem-solving and storytelling can be effective tools for raising awareness and building support for equity action. 


The Global Learning I component gives Fellows on-the-ground experience; Global Learning II delivers learning in an academic setting. Fellows will participate in the Global Learning II component June 7-17 in Washington, DC and Boston.


Applications for the 2024 Equity Initiative Fellowship are now open until August 31! Apply HERE!

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