Diary of an intern: One month with Section 27 in South Africa

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Press briefing at Section 27

Throughout September 2015, the International Treatment Preparedness Coalition (ITPC) and AIDS and Rights Alliance for Southern Africa (ARASA)  facilitated a joint regional internship exchange program funded by Robert Carr civil society Networks Fund.
The purpose of the program was to increase knowledge and build capacity around intellectual property and treatment financing within both ARASA and ITPC networks, as part of a larger effort to develop strong platforms and infrastructure that support South-to-South learning and coalition-building. Interns applied and were selected from three partner organizations: Treatment Advocacy Literacy Campaign in Zambia, Botswana Network on Ethics, Law and HIV/AIDS and Professionals Pride Kenya. The host organizations were ITPC – Middle East and North Africa in Morroco and Section 27 in South Africa.

John Kimbio’s Diary

John Kimbio, Program Officer, at Professionals Pride Kenya describes his experiences at host organization, Section 27 in Johannesburg, South Africa.

4 September 2015

John Kimbio having drinks with colleagues
John Kimbio having drinks with colleagues
The excitement to travel to South Africa was overwhelming, thinking of the different experiences I would have, forging new friends, what the internship will entail and the relationships I will be able to establish. Expectations and anxiety were mixed up in my head.

7 September 2015

Finally, I had this opportunity to meet some of the people I was interacting with via email. They seemed extremely different from what I was expecting since most of them are lawyers. They are highly engaging, very polite and friendly. They made me feel like their equal instead of a mere intern with little experience in human rights advocacy. I guess our passion in advancing human rights, and particularly access to health for all, superseded our knowledge. This made me ready to learn how I can better myself and improve my organization’s capacity to make a difference.

8 September 2015

This day began with a section on how best to document real life stories of people living with HIV and the hurdles they face in accessing affordable essential antiretroviral and health services. The stories are then used as evidence during court cases and also in advocacy to improve the situation regarding the right to access to health. This section was very informative and captivating.

10 September 2015

Meeting at Section 27
At the office
I was exhausted mentally with how complicated health financing is, and issues around intellectual property rights in advancing access to essential and basic medicines. This is an area where Kenya health system hasn’t made progress. There is more that the Kenyan government can do to reduce the cost of access to essential medicine and the use of generic medicines, that are effective and also affordable.
My supervisor, Umunyana Rugege, and his junior, Sher Mohammed, were very interactive conducting informal, laid back conversations that made it much easier to understand. For the rest of week I had to go through some of the cases and interventions Section 27 had pursued in an effort to compel the South African government to implement the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property (TRIPS) and Public Health.

17th September 2015

Christine Stegling congratulates John at intern graduation ceremony
Christine Stegling congratulates John at the graduation
The highlight of the day was the press conference initiating a campaign for good governance, transparency and accountability which was organized at the office. Everyone in the office was there to support the initiative, alongside representatives from the other regions of South Africa. It was amazing how they were mobilizing a massive march in every city from different provinces all coordinated to happen on a single day. It was incredible to also interact with people from different organizations from around South Africa.

24th September 2015

Heritage day, everyone in town was dressed in their traditional clothes and national attires. Very colorful. I felt like the misfit…hehe. This was an opportunity for me to sample some of South African culture and cuisine. I had a great time at the theatre where they showcased some of their amazing artifacts, stories, poems, dances and plays. It was a relaxing day, full of fun-filled activities.
I was dreading the reality of leaving in a day’s time.

John Kimbio describes what he learnt during his internship
John Kimbio describes what he learnt during his internship at the graduation ceremony in Lusaka, Zambia