THE EARTH TIMES/MALAYSIA REPORT
JUNE 30 – JULY 14, 1995
The art of managing local or global population programs
By Ashali Varma
KAULA LUMPUR, Malaysia—The International Council on Management of Population Programmes (ICOMP) is 22 years old and in the process of rejuvenating itself as the major international nongovernmental organization dedicated to improving population program management in developing countries.
This means establishing new training centers, developing better publications, and raising the profile of the organization, among other things, said Professor Jayantilal Satia, ICOMP’s executive director.
The organization’s membership includes heads of national population programs, NGOs and heads of management institutions. Its executive committee has figures renowned for their work in reproductive health, including Dr. Haryono Sayono, minister of population of Indonesia; Dr Fernando Tamaya, president, Profamilia, Colombia and Dr. Maher Mahran, minister of population and family welfare, Egypt.
ICOMP concentrates on these strategic areas:
- manage reproductive health services
- improve quality of care
- strengthen program implementation
- enhance status of women
- respond to broader population concerns
With an annual budget of just over a million dollars ICOMP conducts regional seminars, workshops, population management training and provides country-specific institutional development assistance. ICOMP also has a Woman in Development program comprising of research and training in leadership and management skills for women managers and NGOs and teaching employment skills to poor women. Haryono Suyono, Indonesia’s population minister, and chairman of ICOMP’s executive committee, said, “We have decided to develop three training centers for population program management, one in Jakarta, one in Egypt and one in a Latin American country. We will also develop more programs that will focus on quality of care.”
Quality of care is the project that Maj. Britt Dohlie, a young woman, working for ICOMP is involved with. “All the countries that have signed the Cairo Program of Action had better start thinking about quality of care,” she said, “If health clinics improved their services more women would go for reproductive health care.”
The United Nations Population Fund has supported the development of a management training package that focuses on improving quality of care. “We have picked an area outside Hyderabad, India where we will do an assessment on the health services. Through interviews with women, service providers and clinics we will analyze what needs to be done to improve
the quality of services provided,” said Dohlie.
Carina Anderson from Sweden has been working for ICOMP for almost two years. She was a peer educator before and had been involved in informing young people about AIDS prevention. “After I came to ICOMP we decided to also concentrate on youth and reproductive health and we documented successful programs that have been discussed at this workshop,” said Anderson.
“After this workshop we would like to conduct three or four pilot projects where we can implement what has been discussed here,” she added.
Sharifah Tahir is a young attractive 29-year-old who has been working for ICOMP since 1989. She is managing a program for up-scaling innovations in reproductive health in Asia.
“We are looking at four different areas, prevention of HIV, AIDS and STDs; enhancing male responsibility; women’s participation in decision making on reproductive health; and adolescent health needs,” said Tahir. ICOMP intends to develop a special training package on the prevention of AIDS and enhancing male responsibility and start a pilot project in India working with local NGOs. Based on this experience, Tahir said they would reach out to other countries.
Recruited in 1991 for ICOMP, Caridad Tharan is from the Philippines and has been coordinating special projects for women and development. Funded by the Asian Development Bank, Tharan conducts regional training programs to develop management and employment skills for women in five countries, Bangladesh, the Philippines, Pakistan, Nepal and Indonesia.
“In two years we have trained over 2,000 women—from NGOs and grassroots women leaders to individual poor women from urban and rural areas. We taught them skills for starting small businesses like running day care centers, home for the aged, and also trained them in traditional areas like handicrafts, painting and making clothes,” said Tharan. “There is a lot of satisfaction in seeing our training help women help themselves,” said Tharan.
She went onto to tell the story of Joshna, a young woman, living in a poor community in the outskirts of Dhaka. Once trained in how to manage a business, Joshna started training other women in traditional skills. She also started a school for young children, which was a success. The women she trained are now getting orders from companies to make neckties and garments.
“I think we should not be content with this. What is important is to see that these women have access to raw materials, can expand the volume of their business and be in control of both resources and marketing without having to use middle men,” said Tharan.
With an additional grant from the Asian Development Bank, Tharan is also working to strengthen NGOs in Vietnam and Cambodia by teaching them accountability and sustainability.
“In these countries NGOs are emerging and need a lot of help. I would also like to see NGOs from Bangladesh and the Philippines share their experiences with NGOs from Vietnam and Cambodia,” Tharan added.
“Now in the post-ICPD era, ICOMP is a landmark on the way to implement the Plan of Action,” said Mahran, population minister from Egypt, and added, “ICOMP represents a model of cooperation between developing countries in Africa, Asia and South America.”