Reports show that South Africa has the lowest rate of exclusive breastfeeding in the world. We know that breastfeeding protects children from preventable illnesses like diarrhea and pneumonia (the biggest killer of babies in South Africa) and as part of our goal to reduce infant deaths, we fiercely advocate for improved breastfeeding rates in this country.
Our role as chair of the South African Civil Society for Women, Adolescent and Children’s Health (SACSoWACH) enables us to appeal to the highest level.
The South African Civil Society for Women’s Adolescent’s and Children’s Health (SACSoWACH) was formally established in May 2015. The main objective of the coalition is advocacy for children’s, adolescents, maternal and women’s health. In this respect to increase public and relevant sector’s awareness, raise the profile and political attention, influence relevant policies, legal, political and social changes and hold government, health providers and others to account for the commitments made to women, adolescents and children.
The coalition was endorsed by National Department of Health (NDoH) and officially launched by the Minister in November 2015 on World Prematurity Day (WPD). Since the establishment of the coalition, the focus has been building strength in attracting membership of relevant CSOs and academic/research institutions as well as building momentum in its advocacy activities. Co-founded by Save the Children South Africa, PATH and Health Systems Trust, the coalition comprises other key influential organisations in South Africa, namely, Lovelife, Soul City, UNICEF, The Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health, Ibis Reproductive Health, Soul City, the Medical Research Council, the Neonatal Nurses Association of South Africa, and the University of Cape Town. Other CSOs have now expressed interest as a result of the increasing profile of the Coalition, so that SACSoWACH will be growing in strength in 2016.
SACSoWACH is now in the process of finalising the formal constitution and the necessary registration procedures to ensure the group is legally recognised. In order to realize the SACSoWACH’s objectives, it has been necessary for the coalition to develop an annual work plan that supports government actions as well as highlight actions to be implemented independently.
Currently the coalition has no source of funding and all activities are achieved through pulling together contributory resources member organisations. This year on the 18th of February, with much appreciated support from UNICEF, the coalition members were able to meet for a one day strategic planning retreat. From this, key advocacy concepts were identified and currently being finalized in the work groups as follows:
1.Registration process for SACSoWACH
2. Social media and communications
3. Advocacy themes for 2016 to 2019:
- Breastfeeding (and Nutrition for under 5s )
- Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (including Contraception)
Concept notes have been prepared for the key advocacy areas, to define evidence, key messages, target audiences and events, both as an independent coalition and in support of the NDoH priorities. These were presented at the SACSoWACH meeting to our Patron Dr T Motsepe. The next step is for each group to define its strategy and planning for key events.
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