A guest blog post by Dr. Sylvia Anie, Mentor for Youth Leaders for Health in Ghana, Sierra Leone and Tanzania, 2020 – 2021.

Dr. Anie with some Youth Leaders
Dr. Anie (centre) with some of the Youth Leaders for Health

“A mentor is a counsellor, cheerleader, and a comrade who works purposefully to guide, motivate and uplift”.

What a journey the past year has been!

It has been one of twists and turns, but certainly a highlight for me has been meeting 25 young men and women with the zeal to confront global health inequalities. For me, playing the role as their mentor and creating an enabling environment to help them explore the huge possibilities and opportunities of advocacy in health was inspiring, to say the least.

My mentoring journey began in Accra, Ghana, in December 2019. It was a path that eventually led me through London, UK and to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.  In January 2020, the Youth Leaders and other mentors met with the leadership of the African Union Commission to advocate for more resilient health systems and accelerated malaria responses. This was high-level advocacy, and the youth leaders were able to see their efforts of their advocacy translate to a clear outcome when their communique was presented to the Heads of Governments at the African Union Commission Summit.

Trainers and Youth Leaders at AU summit
Youth Leaders and Mentors at the African Union Summit, January 2020.

During my mentoring journey, I have learnt to listen better, to cope with interruptions, to provide answers when the young advocates could find none, and to argue and encourage positivity during the health pandemic of COVID-19.

In role-modelling, I shared information about my career path and provided guidance, motivation and emotional support. Together, we explored careers, we set achievable goals, developed new contacts, shared old contacts, and identified resources. We debated the usefulness of monitoring and evaluation frameworks, the design of realistic indicators, and developed capacity-strengthening techniques.

In the year of mentoring, I enhanced my own skills in counselling, negotiating, picking the right moment, and sharing the good and the not so good news.

Youth Leaders and Mentors with the Communique for AU leaders
Dr. Anie, Youth Leaders and Mentors with the Communique for AU leaders

And what has been achieved?

A team of trained advocates in health who between them have reached out to embrace paths they never thought possible: being interviewed on national radio and television stations across Tanzania, Ghana and Sierra Leone; publishing articles, advocacy stories, and reflections in national print media; acceptance on to the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI); gaining jobs in prestigious health facilities; making presentations on use of social media for advocacy; training ‘second generation’ Youth Leaders in health; inclusion in iKapture as 25 Young African Leaders changing the game award; membership of the Environment and Climate change committee towards SADC Youth Forum 2020; working with other youth organisations to promote community-based malaria interventions and education activities; and stablishing their NGOs to tackle health-related issues including sexual and reproductive health and exploitation of young adolescents.

Truly, it has been an honour to help shape these young minds. The future of health advocacy remains brighter than ever before!

All the Youth Leaders
All the Youth Leaders at their training event in Addis Ababa.

“Everyone needs a mentor…I do too.”

Dr. Sylvia Anie, CSci, FRSM, FRSC is a medical scientist and policy advocacy professional with experience in public health and sustainable development. She has in depth experience of youth engagement, mentoring, coaching, and for the last year has been working on the Youth Leaders for Health Programme, a joint programme by WACI Health, RESULTS UK, Hope for Future Generations Ghana, HDT Tanzania and CISMAT Sierra Leone, funded by Comic Relief. The programme connects 25 Youth Leaders passionate about health and health-care systems to advocate for policy change at key national, regional and global advocacy moments.

Dr. Anie has previously worked as Head of Policy and Advocacy, RESULTS UK, London and with the Commonwealth Secretariat as Director of the Social Transformations Programmes Division encompassing Health, Education and Gender. She has worked in 53 countries and has extensive experience in safeguarding, diversity and inclusion, and as a trustee of the Open Society Foundations, African Research Academies for Women (USA) and Wateraid (UK). She is currently a Trustee for Leonard Cheshire Disability Organization in the UK.

Dr. Anie has represented the Commonwealth Secretariat at high-level meetings including at the United Nations General Assembly (2011).  She has engaged in UN Political Declarations on Non-Communicable Diseases and on HIV and AIDS (2011), and continues to work ardently to develop policies and drive reforms to protect the marginalised and empower girls and women.