By Kemo Cham
An anti-Ebola campaign by the Sierra Leone Medical Students Association (SLEMSA) has won them a coveted global award.
The Nelson Mandela-Graca Machel Innovation Award was handed to the organization at the recently concluded International Civil Society Week in the Columbian capital, Bogota.
SLEMSA is the umbrella body for medical students attending Sierra Leone’s only medical school – the College of Medicine and Allied Health Sciences (COMAHS). Its ‘KickEbolaOut’ was designed as part of the national efforts to end the transmission of the [2014-2-16] Ebola virus disease outbreak in the country.
The campaign primarily took the form of outreach in the capital Freetown. SLEMSA members moved from store to store, street to street, sharing information on how to prevent the transmission of the virus.
The organization was able to do this by raising funds through the help of the International Medical Students Association, which it is a member of. It notably set up a mobile lab for students who wanted to known about the virus. It also set up an Ebola orphan care center funded by the Switzerland medical Students Association.
The Award, in its 11 years, recognises civil society activists and organisations for their excellence, innovation, and brave risk-taking. It is part of an initiative called Be the Change, which is also part of an ongoing global public awareness campaign around citizen action and `civic space’.
Be the Change is part of the Civic Space Initiative, which is implemented by Civicus, the World Movement Democracy, Article 19, and the International Centre for not-for-profit paw.
At the awards ceremony which was held on 28 April, SLEMSA was represented by its outgoing President, Asad Naveed, who received the award that goes with a cash prize of US$1, 500.
Naveed was among two other activists from India and Pakistan in Bogota who were also recorgnised for similar works on social issues.
India’s Smiriti Nagpal won the Youth Category for his founding of Atulyakala in the Indian capital New Delhi. This is a social enterprise that enables deaf artists to collaborate with their hearing peers to create, market and sell their art.
“Directly engaging with people was critical to establish rapport,” the young Dr Naveed was quoted saying.
“This, together with the online app, mobilised people to take ownership of the campaign and to spread the message further. We made good use of volunteers and leveraged off our partnerships with global counterparts and change-makers in institutions,” he added.
According to the organizers, 366 nominations were received.
SLeMSA won the civil society organisation category for its work which has been described as a demonstration of the power of student mobilisation in the face of a public health crisis.
The association says it intends to use part of the money to care for Ebola orphans and help some of their less privileged colleagues.
(C) Politico 17/05/16