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Let’s talk about diabetes advocacy in SA

Friends, I am really excited about diabetes advocacy in SA, and here’s why…

Building momentum

In April 2023, I wrote about SA Diabetes Advocacy and the projects we were working on (you can see the article here). There was so much the organisation wanted to do, but it still felt like we were pushing a ball uphill. This year? There’s momentum.

A lot of that momentum is because diabetes advocacy in SA is no longer just a few people. It is ably led by co-founder Kirsten de Klerk, and there is a whole army (or choir!) of diabetes advocates collaborating with each other, coming up with their own projects, and working together. I could not love this more.

diabetes advocacy in SA

SA Diabetes Advocacy training

What brings this choir together is that they’ve all done the SA Diabetes Advocacy training course. Have you signed up for it yet? It’s a four-week, free, entirely online course, moderated by the lovely Kirsten de Klerk or the equally lovely Lurina Fourie, and it outlines the basics of diabetes in South Africa, and what all advocates need to know.

More importantly, though, it’s a space to connect with other people who are passionate about diabetes: either because they live with it, or care for someone with diabetes, or work in the space. All graduates join a Diabetes Advocacy WhatsApp group and let me tell you, that group is *powerful*.

Advocacy direction

Sweet Life’s focus is on diabetes education. While I am still on the board of SA Diabetes Advocacy, and wholeheartedly support every initiative, I am not spending my everydays focusing on advocacy. That’s what SADA is for!

I did pick up these beautiful tidbits in a webinar with James Reid from the Helmsley Charitable Trust, though, and I think they speak to diabetes advocacy in SA:

  • Focus on one issue at a time.
    Advocates are passionate people – that’s why we got into this in the first place! Sometimes, this passion can lead to a lack of focus. It’s really important not to bring every single issue into every single advocacy conversation. Diabetes advocacy in SA encompasses a lot: we aren’t going to solve it all at once. One focus for one campaign is the key.
  • Governance is important.
    We highlight the power of collaboration a lot in the advocacy course – and for good reason. If a project is going to be sustainable, it’s important that it’s aligned to both SA Diabetes Advocacy and the realities of diabetes in South Africa: the way that the National Department of Health works.
  • Support heart with head.
    To be truly effective, advocacy should focus on the highest priority actions, and support them with data and evidence. Not just the passion, not just the facts. Heart + head, passion + facts, actions + evidence.
  • Don’t focus on band-aids for reality.
    It’s important not to do advocacy that is just pretty, or that sticks a band-aid (plaster) on reality. While it might take longer, focusing on things that will grow with time into something that is sustainable and truly useful is so important.
  • Don’t reinvent the wheel.
    Before starting any advocacy effort, ask yourself: does something like this already exist in some form? Could we work together on it?
  • Leverage everyone’s strength.
    Advocates and community bring urgency and vision. Academics bring research and data. Funders bring money. All are important!

How do you feel about diabetes advocacy in SA?

Are you involved? Where do your passions lie? What have I left out?

What to read next?

Diabetes Advocacy training: SA Diabetes Advocacy has recently launched a 4 week Diabetes Advocacy Training course. It’s entirely online and totally free, and they want to empower as many diabetes advocates as they can.

Let’s talk about diabetes advocacy: Once a month, Sweet Life co-founder Bridget McNulty unpacks something personal about life with diabetes. This month, she opens up about diabetes advocacy.

Watch this eNCA interview about South African diabetes advocacy: As part of our South African diabetes advocacy efforts, we want to bring diabetes into the news more often.

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Sweet Life is a registered NPO/PBO (220-984) with a single goal: to improve diabetes in South Africa. We are funded by sponsorships and donations from aligned companies and organisations who believe in our work. We only share information that we believe benefits our community. While some of this information is linked to specific brands, it is not an official endorsement of that brand. We believe in empowering people with diabetes to make the best decisions they can, to live a healthy, happy life with diabetes.