The health and rights program seeks to work towards transformed institutions (formal and informal) embracing tenets of open societies, respect for human rights and inclusion. This is critical to create an enabling environment for equitable access to health rights including those of the most marginalized populations in the Eastern Africa Region.

To achieve its goal, the health and rights program strives to empower organizations led by the marginalized groups and others organization that exist to serve them, to sustainably tackle the underlying structural and social determinants of health through incremental transformative processes.

The program operates against the backdrop of socially and legally repressive environment that negatively affects life outcomes including health of certain population groups such as sexual minorities, sex workers, persons who inject drugs and persons in need of palliative care amongst others.

The program aims to achieve the following key objectives:

  • Enhance equality, protection and enjoyment of the rights of marginalized communities.
  • Enhanced capacity of persons currently affected by marginalization to challenge the dominant socio-cultural narratives and norms that perpetuate their exclusion and marginalization.
  • Empower the marginalized groups to gain a sense of their own power, including the capacity to define and prioritize their issues to advance their rights, including right to health in formal policy spaces as well as in the informal community spaces.

Expected outcomes:

  • Vibrant civil society that advances the health and human rights of vulnerable and marginalized populations.
  • Health systems that respond to the health and human rights concerns of the marginalized populations.
  • Civil society organizations, led by affected community, gain capacity for self-agency and are able to challenge the harmful exercise of power and influence in health-related decision making. This is especially where these impose interests in non-transparent or unaccountable ways and undermine the democratic pursuit of health and rights.
  • Improved legal and policy environment providing enabling environment for the marginalized populations to access quality health care in an environment devoid of discrimination.

The key priority areas of the program include:

  • Sexual and reproductive health rights

    The Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) category of work entails efforts to support advancement of the health and human rights of sex workers, transgender and intersex people. We do this by supporting sex workers, the transgender and the intersex persons and their organizations to gain capacity and enhance legitimacy of their voices in addressing the structural determinants of health including social exclusion, criminalization, stigma, violence amongst others.
  • Equity and social inclusion

    This area of work entails initiatives targeted at addressing challenges posed by laws, law enforcement practices and denial of access to justice that worsen health outcomes. These legal obstacles and unfair application of law intersect with pre-existing marginalization trends to further exclude or constrain the access to health rights and health outcomes of certain populations such as the LGBTI persons, sex workers, drug users, and women living with HIV/AIDS amongst others.

    The interventions that we support to address these challenges include strategic litigation to create positive legal precedence. It will also involve efforts to empower the affected population to exert their rights in the quest for justice as well as engagements with duty bearers especially the police, health workers and the judiciary to enhance aces to justice. Additional efforts will include communities to build and strengthen coalitions, networks that work to promote the right to health; support to grass root structures such as paralegals, to create sustainability in rights promotion and capacity building for sexual minorities and other marginalized groups through human rights awareness, paralegal trainings and organizational capacity building.
  • Palliative care

    This area of work seeks to enhance access to palliative care services including pain relief medication for persons in need of palliative care. Our work under this category includes capacitating local organizations working on palliative care to undertake advocacy towards addressing current barriers to palliative care services, including legal constraints inhibiting access to essential medicines and technologies. To aid this, our support focuses on initiatives to enhance availability of critical national data to support the advocacy initiatives for improved services and financing. In addition, we support efforts to get palliative care onto national health policy agenda as well as the policy agendas of the regional political and economic bodies such as the East African Community.
  • Harm reduction

    Our work in Harm reduction in premised on and guided by human rights principles. Our work in this area is therefore geared towards promoting positive health outcomes for persons who use drugs in environments free from harassment, violence and discrimination and without the demand for abstinence as a precondition for support. In Harm Reduction work, OSIEA focuses on working with community organizations, including organizations of persons using drugs, to work towards alleviating discriminatory laws, policies and practices affecting the rights of persons who use drugs (PWDUs). We also support efforts aimed at leveraging the commitment to law enforcement services to foster a regime respectful of human rights in Eastern Africa. In this current strategy, OSIEA focuses on emerging dimensions which have been proved important in enhancing efficacy of harm reduction work. This will include enhancing conceptualization and modelling of harm reduction community development context.
  • Governance for health

    This area of work is concerned with how power and influence are exercised in health-related decision-making. Work in this area thus seeks to reveal and challenge power dynamics that undermine the pursuit of health as a human right through an underlying structure of power that is undemocratic, inequitable, non-transparent and/or unaccountable. In this area of work, OSIEA will focus on empowering communities to gain capacity and organize to seek information and enhance understanding of the underlying influences and actors in health related or health impacting decision-making. The resultant capacity to identify and isolate undue influences in health decision making by community-led/citizen-led organization is anticipated to lead to increased responsiveness and pro-public decision-making in health as a public good.