‘Nothing about us, without us!’ - Bridging the Gaps Learning Academy

The first annual Learning Academy took place in Nairobi, Kenya where 27 partner representatives from 12 countries linked and learned about community empowerment and the meaningful involvement of key populations: Nothing about us, without us!

The Learning Academy gave international partners the chance to identify common issues and themes, share best practices and develop action plans to align efforts and build on each other’s momentum.

Among the presentations was the Implementation Tools for Key Populations such as SWIT, MSMIT, TRANSIT and IDUIT (to learn more about the IDUIT tool, go here). These tools are making large advances towards unifying the data collection processes across key populations. 

Exchange of best practices

The Learning Academy participants were invited to attend the Sex Worker Academy Africa Ceremony and Dinner where the graduates received diplomas for completing a six-day intensive training on advocacy and human rights. The evening brought into focus the common themes crossing key populations and the importance of inclusiveness and aligning harm reduction efforts across the globe.

The second day of the learning academy focused on the community involvement of people living with HIV and key populations. On this note, Youth Vision – a Mainline partner in Nepal – took part in a Knowledge Cafe (an interactive action lab and round table discussion aimed at building the capacity of the participants) wherein they shared their work regarding sustainability and visibility. Income generating strategies, such as establishing a printing press, semi-organic vegetable farming and a small-scale female business project involving PWUD and people living with HIV were highlighted and discussed. Community-led advocacy was also covered, including advocacy for community treatment and human rights documentation. Samir Pakhrin (Youth Vision, Nepal): “Recently, I was at the BTG learning academy. It was amazing and we rocked it. I was able to tell about the good and bad times I have faced in life due to my drug use, which made my attendance rather meaningful. Everyone praised me, and so for me that was a big moment. It's all possible because of mainline, and so I'm really thankful.”

An evening visit was made to the local community-led organisations HOYMAS (sex-worker led clinic) and Ishtar MSM (LGBT led clinic). Participants had the opportunity to interact with healthcare workers and learn how the clinics achieve their goals. HOYMAS and Ishtar MSM highlighted the difficulties being faced in Kenya regarding key populations, and how these difficulties are being addressed by service providers.

Monica Carriere (Mainline, NL):
“It’s such an honour to be invited to participate in this important event, and see with my own eyes the relevance of advocacy efforts for all key populations”.

The final day of the Learning Academy concentrated on bringing together the various concepts learned and making Action Plans, incorporating ideas and shared strategies which will be shared with the management of the local organisations with the intention of putting them into effect in the near future. A participant of the Learning Academy shared: “Putting my learning directly into an action plan before leaving the Academy has given me the time needed to recall and reflect on the ideas shared over the three days. I can put it into immediate use once I return home.” 

The Learning Academy participants received Certificates on the last evening in a closing ceremony followed by an exchange of contact details, ideas and initiatives. 

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