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A stronger voice for African nurses

The voice and influence of African nurses is steadily growing, and the Norwegian Nurses Organisation (NSF) is pleased to be partner in this development. For NSF the end goal is building of strong, sustainable nurses’ organisations in southeastern Africa.
Ugandan nurses (Uganda Nurses and Midwives Union) recently celebrated their recognition by government as a trade union. Years of negotiation and hard work have been crowned with success. Part of this new recognition by government was the right to implement a check-off system for payment of membership fees to UNMU. Payment of membership fees to the nurses’ union will lead to a more sustainable organisation, with the financial strength to lobby government and employers for better conditions for nurses and their patients.
At roughly the same time nurses in neighbouring Rwanda were also celebrating their newly-won recognition by government as a trade union. This was also the result of lengthy contact and negotiation with government. Fortunately Rwanda has a president that supports development of civil society, resulting in a less time-consuming process. But it should be mentioned that forming a trade union in Africa is no easy process with open and hidden opposition. NSF has provided support and good advice during these processes, drawing on its over 100 year organizational life.
Another important development is NSF’s decision to provide financial support to the nurses’ union in Zambia to complete construction of a larger meeting hall. This will contribute to a reduction in operational expenses – less money spent on rental of external meeting rooms – and at the same time generate revenue in the form of rental by others for meetings, conferences, weddings, and the like. NSF will also be providing financial support to the nurses’ union in Rwanda for purchase of a house to use as offices, and eventually also a source for additional revenue from rental of a meeting room and office space.
NSF is pleased to play a role in the development of stronger nurses’ organisations in Southeastern Africa. The voice and influence of our African colleagues – most of them women – is steadily growing. Both in relation to salary and working conditions, but also in building a better health care system for their patients.
NSF’s support is facilitated partially through funding from Norad, and partially from their own resources. NSF has 100+ year history, with many battles won to improve salaries, working conditions. These experiences are being shared with our African colleagues – providing an important “added-on” value, above and beyond the financial support that is being provided. Experience can be shared, and our African colleagues understand that we can move forward together – both in Norway and in Africa.
Text and picture: Michael Paul Vitols
17 June 2015

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