Monday, September 26, 2005

Today I am enjoying yet another Mozambican National Holiday, and since this is the second one we’ve had here this month, I certainly can’t complain. This is Armed Forces Day and it commemorates the beginning of the liberation struggle against the Portuguese colonialists. Mozambique’s violent history remains an important component of the country’s political identity, illustrated by the fact that one of the symbols on the national flag is a large AK-47. Certainly a difficult image to overcome for a country still rebuilding after years of violence and civil unrest.

On Thursday of this past week, we wrapped up the four day conference on HIV/AIDS and microfinance. From our perspective as organizers and facilitators, the conference far exceeded our expectations. The participants were quite willing to engage the issue of HIV/AIDS and learn more about how the disease directly impacts their client base, their staff and the financial performance of their institution. The rest of the workshops this week covered topics such as market and client analysis, refining current products and services, human resource management and building partnerships with external donors and service providers. On the final two days of the conference the participants were assigned the task of drafting an action plan that they would take back to their senior managers and executive boards to steer them over the next year in implementing these new ideas. All participants agreed that simply talking about the threat of HIV/AIDS was not enough…the talk had to be transformed into tangible policy results!!

On the final day of the conference we also had the pleasure of having a presentation of various HIV/AIDS service providers here in Mozambique. The purpose of this was to educate the MFIs about the efforts currently underway to enhance HIV/AIDS awareness in the country and to provide income generating activities for those living with the disease. One of these groups set up a booth to sell the crafts that their organization had made. These women proudly displayed their work and announced to the crowd that this was how they were living through HIV/AIDS...quite an act of bravery given the amount of stigma attached to the disease in this country. I picked up one of their very popular HIV/AIDS support ribbons and they were very happy to pose for a picture with me.

This was indeed a very emotional presentation and it allowed the participants the opportunity to forge important relationships between those working in the finance sector and those working in the health sector. HIV/AIDS is not simply a health problem in this country as it presents a significant economic problem as well…a problem that will only increase unless representatives from these two sectors can work together on long-term solutions to the pandemic. There is much work ahead, for these institutions as well as for myself, as I have been given a clear research agenda and the task of following up with these MFIs on the process of designing policies and products that meet the demands of a growing HIV/AIDS client base.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

10:22 a.m.  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"All participants agreed that simply talking about the threat of HIV/AIDS was not enough…the talk had to be transformed into tangible policy results!!"

It's good that you've been asked to design the policy (as you mention at the end of the article) - and please don't take offense. But how good can a Winnipeg boy with an M.A. (whose thesis was about fair trade) design any sort of policy after only being in the country for a few weeks - and having very little training outside of those three weeks? You're there for 5 more months - and every bit helps... but aren't you being asked too much. Shouldn't you deal with things more in your field - or ability? This is not clear to the average reader of your blog.

1:17 p.m.  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jared, I was glad to hear that the conference went well and that it exceeded the expectations of the organizers. From the sound of your description, the conference covered a lot of areas of this rather complex issue. I particularily liked the fact that time was spent at the end developing action plans for people to take with them.

Based on your discussions with me, I know that you understand that meeting the demands of the growing HIV/AIDS client base will be a process that will take the work of you and many others over a considerable period of time. However, each one involved in this process, including you, will make a contribution that will help to make a difference. Keep up the good work.


8:22 p.m.  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It appears that an anonymous blogger is making the assumption that you are solely responsible for designing such policies. I personally feel you have clearly stated that your agenda is simply to follow up and report how the MFI's are progressing on the process of designing such policies. So keep up the good work Jared and good luck with the research.


2:02 p.m.  
Blogger Sean said...

Not to be a jerk here... and not that I agree entriely with the content of the anonymous poster. But the question of why Jared is in Mozambique with little background knowledge of the region and the disease may not be all that out of line.

What specific & unique qualitites are you bringing to the table that would help the situation? I don't want to seem like an ass, but it is true that to the average reader of the blog may not know what exactly he can bring that someone else can't. Also, it did sound a tad odd when Jared said:

"I have been given a clear research agenda and the task of following up with these MFIs in the process of designing policies and products that meet the demands of a growing HIV/AIDS client base."

Designing policies AND products that meet the demands... well, with only a few weeks there, it does not lead me to believe, implicitly, that Jared knows what the needs and demands of the people are... and it does seem a huge task for the short period of time he's there. Especially as an outsider trying to work in...

Every little bit helps, but if the help only comes in spades, how much help is it doing? Can the organization continue it's mandate without losing momentum every six months when a new bright young lad from abroad comes over to offer his two cents?

I have no doubt in your ability or intelligence Jared... I know that what you bring is extremely valuable - but there comes a point when you have to ask how much is on the surface and how much will really make long-term changes... not just giving hope to those afflicted but also giving those tangible results that the conference praised oh so much!

Just saying.

On a personal note: I'm able to drink again - so tonight at Times... I'll be having a standard and a shot in your name buddy. Come home soon and safe!

12:43 p.m.  
Anonymous Maureen said...

It is unfortunate that misinformed individuals are posting comments on your blog. They appear to have an erroneous understanding of what your assignment in Mozambique actually is and obviously do not understand or appreciate the educational qualifications and research experience you bring to this project. Possbily they should contact you personally to clarify their misconceptions. Enough said.

1:03 p.m.  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I feel that I would like to respond to the comments posted with respect for everyone's right to have an opinion. Here is mine.

In this day and age we have all been raised with a high awareness of HIV/Aids. Therefore many of us in North America have at very least text book knowledge and yes, some of us have known people personally affected by HIV and AIDS. This may not be on par with being in a contry where it is a pandemic. But we do not live in a vacume here in North America.

I would like offer a hypothesis that perhaps all people have little to no knowledge when they initially begin to work in a field especially with regard to a fatal disease that has been here for only about 100 years. But many people have worked hard and long to impliment world altering change despite where they are from or what they happened to focus on in one main thesis for a M.A. Many of them have built on the little chips of knowledge added from so many others who may or may not have been experts in their field. I do believe that we didn't go straight from the wheel to the MP3 player. I think we can all agree that there are many people offering little expertise and knowledge in many areas of life that claim to be experts based on accumulated credentials and many who are in fact experts without formal training. I can offer many examples of this... I am sure you can think of some yourselves.

Jared, your ability should not be in question because "he is from Winnipeg" nor should it be in question because "he completed a thesis on fair trade". In fact it shouldn't be questioned at all until policies have been suggested at which point the policies themselves should be reviewed and questioned. I highly doubt an entire community would use policies that were unreasonable or outlandish for any length of time. I do imagine part of the job is to become an expert regarding microfinance and aids.

It seems to me that with so many committed to the fight against Aids and the problem remaining where it is, calls for innovation. I also just must re-state that Jared is not the only person donating time. There are many involved. And I think the most important pre-requisite is that people working on this project care to further the research in whatever way they can. If someone else who applied was deemed more qualified, they would have gotten the job. To know Jared, you know his heart is with the people and what is best for the well being of people. That often can't be learnt. It is his nature. But economics and aids issues can be learnt.

"but there comes a point when you have to ask how much is on the surface and how much will really make long-term changes... not just giving hope to those afflicted but also giving those tangible results that the conference praised oh so much!"

All most of us have in this world, is hope. People are willing to contribute to that illusion making things seem just a little bit better on the off chance that there will be positive permanent change. To know that this may be all your time and committment accomplishes and do it anyway, is truly selfless. Do long-term changes ever exist? Especially with Aids!! Mostly change is a series of small changes and shifts that lead to a solution. Jared is not going to cure Aids or relieve all people of suffering. But Jared, I salute you for showing your concern by contributing your time and committing yourself to expanding your knowledge of this issue for a fantastic 6 months or more. It is more then I am doing here in Winnipeg.

In response to the previous comment, I also believe that people need to understand that such major change is a LONG TERM process that demands the involvement of many many people over a long period of time. These issues will not be solved in our lifetime likely. But people will continue to build on the knowledge aquired by the previous workers bringing us one little step closer. Even if it's implimenting a policy that we discover doesn't work. And so it will continue as it always has.

To anonymous, you are right, every bit does help. So, let's continue to support those who are doing that little bit that we can't seem to muster up the courage or time to do.

Jared, keep up your good fight. You are truly a Peaceful Warrior.


p.s. sean - the average person can bring what Jared does, but they choose not to. And that right there is the difference.

2:06 p.m.  
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