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A SYP's Reflection on the 2021 CCGH

A SYP's Reflection on the 2021 CCGH
December 3, 2021
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Written by Mira Kelada, a SYP at the CAGH

It was a pleasure to attend the Canadian Conference on Global Health (CCGH) as a virtual scholarship recipient this year. The CCGH was a wonderful opportunity to listen and learn alongside those interested in global health. This year’s conference theme, rethinking partnership paradigms in global health, was an important but also challenging topic. Re-envisioning and challenging standard partnerships requires courage and vision considering the entrenchment of the “this is the way things are” culture in global health. I was expecting the challenge to existing paradigms to be uncomfortable. And it was uncomfortable, largely because many of the speakers were asking each and every person attending how they could each contribute to equitable partnerships (and in what ways they might be preventing those equitable partnerships from coming about). Feeling uncomfortable is hard, but as speaker Dr. Catherine Kyobutungi put it, change cannot happen unless we are uncomfortable. All of the panelists were insightful and did not approach topics with kid gloves. It was a breath of fresh air to hear from speakers that grappled with questions of equitable partnerships in a practical way.

But I think my biggest takeaway from this event was about power. Power is ultimately what is at issue in inequitable partnerships. Some of the speakers discussed how power can be shifted, spread, and even shared. Ceding power was also mentioned as being important to build equitable partnerships. But what I think was the more nuanced discussion was the idea of re-framing power itself. Speaker Thoko Elphick-Pooley spoke about how power is often considered to be the letters after one’s name and as belonging to those who are aged and established within a career hierarchy. She reflected that power should be about knowledge and insight, and many people can have this, not just those privileged enough to ascend within Global North institutions. I hope that we can all think critically about power long after this conference has ended and recognize how we can each help re-define it in a more inclusive and equitable way.