Kyrgyzstan: Building advocacy strategies...and team spirit!
In Central Asia, a place not known by many, a fantastic meeting was organised by HelpAge International. This was the first time HelpAge had hosted a meeting with its network partners and offices that work in Eastern Europe and Central Asia (EECA) and included participants from Ukraine all the way to Tajikistan.
The meeting took place at Lake Issyk-Kul, the tenth largest lake in the world. The location was perfect for what we wanted to achieve, which was to focus, share and bond. Some of us took the bonding to another level and courageously jumped in the lake which could not have been warmer than 7 degrees Celsius!
As we approached the lake from the capital Bishkek, I could not stop wondering how the beauty of the country and its people is overshadowed by the side effects of what the Soviet era has left behind.
We spent four days learning about each other's work and building stronger advocacy and project plans. We also did a lot of team work and learned about our various needs and interests. We came out of it energised, enthusiastic and most importantly, we became friends.
With Aisuluu, the EECA Regional Communications Officer, I hosted a one day session on advocacy. We learned a great deal about the challenges of doing advocacy work in a post-Soviet region. We were impressed to hear about our partners' achievements, for example the Resource Centre for Elderly in Kyrgyzstan. Since 2002, they have been pushing forward the adoption of a law for older people. Through political turmoil, frequent changes in government and a revolution, their persistence has led to concrete success.
Our partners' key achievements
In Ukraine, our partner TLU has worked to ensure older people are safe from abuse on public transport. They developed yellow cards and distributed them to bus drivers who were rude to them. And in Armenia, Mission Armenia has built a great relationship with the government which has resulted in a massive 20% of their funding coming from them.
In the next three years, we will grow and focus our advocacy work on improving older people's access to health services, increased social protection and stopping discrimination and violence against older people.
We spent the rest of the time reflecting on our internal strengths and planning our three year approach to advocacy. Our discussions and debates got quite heated, but by the end of the day, we reach common objectives. We agreed that the EECA network has strong experience in the field of ageing and, over the course of 30 years, we have established ourselves as ageing experts. This is also recognised by governments, donors and institutions.
Hopefully this meeting has helped us to improve our understanding and will boost communications and allow for more cooperation.
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