Picture Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids
Q1. Let us start with the Judy Wilkenfeld Award. How do you feel about it, what does it entail, what does it change?
Rachel Kitonyo: I felt humbled that out of all nominations received I was thought the most worthy to receive the award.
I am also excited about the opportunity the award gives to create exposure for the work I am doing in Kenya and what we are doing on the continent.
The recognition from the award and the raised profile of the awardee also assists with fund raising which I have already embarked on.
Awards generally also encourage the awardee to plough on because all people appreciate being affirmed and I am no exception to this rule.
The award also entails a cash prize of $ 5000 to enable the awardee expand their work in tobacco control. I intend to use mine to acquire qualifications in legislative drafting to help me function better at what I do which is to offer technical support to policy makers in the form of research, analysis and drafting.
I believe this will further the work not just in Kenya but also on the rest of the continent. Africa needs African lawyers who can draft tobacco control legislation not just in their countries but to their neighbours (some South – South co-operation).
Q2. You had co-drafted the statutes of the African Tobacco Control Alliance that was launched in Durban in November. I have not seen or heard anything from this new entity. What is happening or not?
Rachel Kitonyo: Following adoption of ATCA’s Constitution and election of its first board in November in Durban, we undertook a needs analysis from our members to enable us identify what needs we needed to meet.
Courtesy of the Framework Convention Alliance, the ATCA Board had a strategic planning session between 28th – 30th April where we identified our strategic priorities which we shall share once we have completed working out the details.
We are currently raising funds to enable our members carry out projects in country and once more we shall inform members as things develop. We have also started on membership recruitment and at the 14th World Conference on Tobacco or Health held in Mumbai we received over 30 applications for membership.
We have also started a list serve for dissemination of information to tobacco control advocates on the continent. In the next few months you shall hear a lot more from us.
Q3. Another project that was in preparation was the ATSA/IDRC. Can you tell us where this program is now? in Kenya and in the other African countries?
Rachel Kitonyo: I cannot speak about the other countries participating in the ATSA Initiative.
In Kenya however, we are proceeding well. We are completing the baseline survey of public places to determine the levels of compliance with our smoke free law. So far we have visited entertainment spots like bars, restaurants, informal cinema dens in the suburbs, the public transport system and by the end of May we shall have completed the survey in our educational and health facilities.
We have also carried out an assessment of civil society and government capacity to carry out tobacco control policy and programmes.
In the next few months we will be starting stakeholder consultations to develop our national tobacco control action plan, as well as meeting with various stakeholders necessary for successful smoke free policy.
For more information and updates, kindly check www.ilakenya.org
Q4. Back to the global strategy to promote tobacco control in Africa: IDRC has received $5 million from the Gates Foundation, how do you assess their performance so far? Should not the people in Africa be entitled to participate more closely in programs that aims to help them? In our previous interview you had hinted at the possible discrepancies between the donor's priorities and the local advocates priorities, is there enough involvement of the African advocates in the management of the present programs (IDRC and others?)? Could not ATCA play a role to that effect?
Rachel Kitonyo: One of the core mandates of ATCA is to represent African tobacco control interests to our governments, the donor community and the world at large.
We have already started doing this – In late January, together with the Norwegian Cancer Society, we lobbied the Norwegian government to channel development aid in Africa towards tobacco control.
This is part of long term efforts being undertaken by NCS and others to expand current funding for tobacco control from the philanthropic funding being graciously provided by Mayor Bloomberg and the Gates Foundation, and is something ATCA will continue to engage in to ensure sustainable funding for tobacco control in Africa.
In addition, as we pursue ways of assisting our members to meet the priorities they identified in the needs analysis, and as we share this with those wishing to partner with us, Africans will be able to participate more in crafting tobacco control programs for Africa.
Q5. In Durban a group of African journalists had suggested that local journalists should be funded to provide the communication that is not taking place. What do you think? Do you prefer to try to do it yourself, do you believe local journalists would be able to do this work in a meaningful way?
Rachel Kitonyo: I am convinced that to have a sustainable tobacco control movement in Africa, we must diversify the professions involved beyond the health professionals and right now three key professions need to be recruited – journalists, lawyers and economists.
At the stage where the epidemic is in Africa, we need public education and awareness to prevent the uptake of smoking and the media is one major means of meeting this need.
However, we also need adequate economic evidence to convince our governments that tobacco use costs Africa more than Africa gets from tobacco exports and that tobacco taxes need to be raised regularly and steeply hence the need to recruit economists.
Lastly, we need lawyers because though many African countries have ratified the FCTC, many need to enact FCTC legislation and policy that has not been ‘written’ by the tobacco industry.
To that end, funding for recruitment and capacity building of the three professions is needed. I do not think that communication is the job of any given cadre of tobacco control advocates but rather that we must all work together to see how best to utilize the media, our courts, our policy makers, research and networks to get and implement the strongest possible tobacco control measures.
So yes, there is need to build capacity for local journalists but we also need capacity in other areas.
Q6. You know I am a blog and skype evangelist and I tried to convince you but I think I did not succeed. Can you tell why you seem reluctant to blog and use skype?
Rachel Kitonyo: To be honest, I am not much into technology.
Not because I do not think it is important, useful or necessary but because I seldom have the time to learn to use new gadgets. I am catching on slowly though.
Maybe you need to build some capacity not just in me but in others to use technology. Any offers?
Q7. This year World No Tobacco day is about graphic warnings. Anything planned in Kenya?
Rachel Kitonyo: Yes. We (Ministry of Public Health and members of the Kenya Tobacco Control Alliance) have already started buildup activities for WNTD in Kenya.
On 4th May 2009, we launched our Tobacco Control Board which is the body established to advise the Minister responsible for public health on national tobacco control policy.
This is a long awaited move since out Act came into force in October 2007 and the Board is being inaugurated in May 2009.
We are also planning to have a media breakfast to be addressed by the Minister and WHO on why we need to move Kenya from text to graphic warning labels.
Lastly, we shall have advocacy events staged by civil society organizations in 4 towns being Nairobi, Migori, Kisumu, Eldoret.
All this activities shall be covered by the media to raise awareness among the public.
Q8. Is there anything else you want to add?
Rachel Kitonyo: There is a lot of expectation on the continent with regard to ATCA.
A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. The ATCA Board is committed to raising financial and technical support for members to carry out tobacco control work in country and to building a strong and sustainable tobacco control movement in Africa.
We ask for member’s patience as we seek the funds to help us do this, their cooperation when plans are unveiled and for continued diligence in the tobacco control fight.
Thank you Rachel for taking the time to answer our questions.
You can also read Rachel's acceptance speech on Tobacco Control in Africa.
Judith Wilkenfeld died on May 24, 2007. She was the Vice President for International Affairs for the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids. She played a major role in the negociation of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. Beyond her obituary from the Washington Post we have included a podcast recorded during the World Conference for Cancer Organizations in Dublin, in November 2004, where she explains the FCTC and all the advocacy work she helped organize. LISTEN (7 min)