“We’ll meet again,” say participants of inaugural Supply Fellows Scheme

25th April 2018

Twelve seasoned RH supplies professionals were paired off with 12 younger members of the community at the recently-ended RHSC General Membership Meeting in Brussels. Calling on the Coalition’s unique principle that any single member is only “one degree of separation” (i.e. an introduction) away from any other member, the scheme was designed to allow each pair of Fellows to learn from one another and navigate the meeting together.  

“Even when you know people, it can be intimidating to attend a large meeting,” said Meena Gandhi, Health Adviser, at the UK Department for International Development. “As a donor, it is particularly good for me to be in touch with young people in this way.”

Coalition Chair John Townsend agreed. “It’s especially important to listen because when you are older you spend a lot of time talking,” he said. The Fellows are not about a mentor-mentee relationship; young people bring a perspective, an experience, and a voice that has to be here if we are serious about serving youth needs.

It’s especially important to listen because when you are older you spend a lot of time talking.

The Fellows were introduced to one another at a welcome drink before the two-day membership meeting began. 80% of survey respondents said they made an effort to meet a couple of times in the two days and all of them wanted to take part in this scheme again. Younger respondents said they had:

  • been introduced to current projects
  • learned about the Coalition and its strategy
  • received career guidance
  • identified upcoming opportunities for work.

More seasoned respondents appreciated their younger partners’ eagerness to learn, the opportunity to think outside their usual “routines”, and being able to learn about youth-related grassroots work.

All Fellows surveyed wanted to take part in this scheme again

Part of the Coalition’s youth-related vision is to go beyond including young people nominally, and actively prepare them to take on the mantle of increasing access to RH supplies in low- and middle-income countries, as Coalition Director John Skibiak outlined in his State of the Coalition report. “Our hope is that seasoned fellows are inspired by the passion of young leaders, who in turn get ringside seats, as it were, to introductions and conversations which stand to help shape their future in reproductive health,” he said.

Sadia Rahman, a young person from SERAC, Bangladesh, had the opportunity to address the Executive Committee when it met in Brussels in the same week. “This has been such an effective meeting; I have been exposed so many things, but the biggest thing I have learned is how to see things from a Supplies dimension,” she said.

The biggest thing I have learned is how to see things from a Supplies dimension

Hassan Fsahat from the Youth Alliance Network in Pakistan calls the scheme a “wonderful” idea. “Most people leave a conference and never keep in touch with the people they met there. But this scheme breaks the ice and forms friendships and relationships that last.”

Young Fellows were eager not just to learn but also to impart their experience. Desmond Atanga from Deserve in Cameroon said, “I have more than 13 years of experience in promoting access to commodities and can teach my Fellow and other meeting participants about comprehensive SRH service for young people.”

“We do need new ideas,” said Deborah Dull from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. “It can’t always be the same people around the table trying to brainstorm an innovative approach to solving the same problem.

“If we don’t extend welcoming hands and provide specific inroads into the community we’re not going to get there. Supply Fellows can look out for one another.”

Categories: Youth Caucus