As CEO of LiveWell initiative, the first African to be recognised as a global change maker in hepatitis C by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) and a clinical pharmacist and public health practitioner by training, Bisi Bright is a force to be reckoned with. Now, with her new initiative Women in Hepatitis Africa (WIHA), Bisi is also putting other women centre stage in efforts to eliminate viral hepatitis in Africa.
“For WIHA, it was most important to give women a voice because they can bring attention to the deafening silence surrounding this silent killer” – Bisi Bright.
Launched in 2017, WIHA was created to give women in Africa a voice within the hepatitis community. It aims to advance elimination efforts by empowering women through building awareness and offering them the knowledge and skills to drive action within their own communities.
For Bisi, “women are very good advocates. They occupy a strategic position in the public health space, especially in regard to wellness in the family and the home”. She calculates that for every woman empowered by WIHA, 20 other women and families will be impacted. This view is backed by WHO Europe, which, on International Women’s Day 2018, highlighted the need for women to be at the epicentre of public health.
It is essential that women are included in hepatitis elimination efforts as a critical population in transmission, largely through infection from expectant mothers to unborn babies.
WIHA’s model consists of peer-led training, with experienced volunteers training new volunteers, offering support throughout their journey and rewarding their advocacy efforts. Every volunteer trained by WIHA becomes a ‘Woman Champion’. She is then encouraged to form a ‘Cell’ of 20 women within her sphere of influence to become a ‘Cell Champion’. If her ‘Cell’ is deemed active, she will then be named a ‘Cell Supervisor’ and be invited to join her local training faculty to train others. WIHA initiatives are now present in over 18 African countries and the organisation has trained over 400 ‘Women Champions’.
Having already screened over 15,000 people across Africa for hepatitis B and C and spread practical advice on, and raised awareness of, elimination efforts amongst countless more, WIHA’s model is a clear success. Looking to expand upon this success, WIHA recently launched its #10by20 campaign through which it aims to have trained 10,000 women as ‘Hepatitis Champions’ by 2020.
When asked for advice on creating similar group-targeted organisations Bisi said, “I would advise anyone looking to target a specific group to study the likely challenges and carry out a needs-assessment. Based on this, likely outcomes can be forecasted and used to formulate the organisation’s goals, vision and mission”.
Much like other non-profits within the wider hepatitis community, the difficulties WIHA faces mainly centre on a lack of understanding from community members and a lack of funding, but Bisi has ambitious hopes for the future. She would like to establish a Women in Hepatitis Training Centre with the tools to provide ongoing training to women on mass.
Bisi has been able to recognise and capitalise on the powerful role women have in successfully driving elimination efforts in Africa as well as bringing women into the centre of the hepatitis conversation making her a true inspiration. Thank you for everything you are doing Bisi.
Are you inspired by Bisi and want to kick-start your own advocacy efforts? Why not start with the NOhep ‘Race to 2030’ Advocacy Toolkit to help you take action within your own community?
We are also excited to share that we have now launched the NOhep Visionaries Programme for Medical Professionals in Africa. Medical professionals are the gatekeepers to elimination and so we are thrilled to be spreading the programme further around the world.