Workshop reinforces need to fight for enforcement of new smoke-free laws while engaging in new campaigns to change social norms around tobacco
Brazzaville, Congo – A network of Congolese tobacco control organizations (Réseau des ONG Congolaise de Lutte Antitabac - ROCAT) expressed satisfaction at the end of a tobacco control leadership capacity-building workshop sponsored and facilitated by the Africa Tobacco Control Consortium (ATCC). The workshop took place at the Vouela training center (20 km from Brazzaville) from November 29 - December 02, 2011.
Célestin ZOUMA, President of ROCAT described the four-day training as a first-time, unique opportunity, “We had the opportunity to eliminate all misconceptions on tobacco control; we have just acquired new skills. We need to act without delay.”
Two Members of Parliament counted among 18 participants spanning civil society, media, and religious authorities. The Congolese Ministry of Health and Population was also present through tobacco control point person Mrs. LIKIBI BOHO Rosalie. Select topics covered included the rationale for tobacco control with highlights on the health, economic, social and environmental reasons for tobacco control from both a global and African perspective. Facilitators walked participants through guidelines on the Framework Convention for Tobacco Control (FCTC) provisions including smoke-free public places (art.8), tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship (art.13), packaging and labeling (art.11), and protecting tobacco control measures from tobacco industry interference (art.5.3).
“I enjoyed the work groups. The gathering gave me an opportunity to deepen my knowledge of tobacco control,” said Alexis BABINDAMA from a Congolese consumer association (Association Congolaise pour la defense des droits des consommateurs).
Most training modules were theoretical and practical. Other topics covered included provisions of a comprehensive tobacco control law, techniques for effective coalition-building using ROCAT as a case study and media advocacy techniques with focus on message development and transmission.
“Although a smoke-free legislation was passed by the Congolese parliament, many citizens and decision makers are not aware of the magnitude of problems related to tobacco demand and supply,” said Eugene BIBOKA, one of the training participants and member of the health, social, family and gender committee at the Congolese National Assembly.
Now that a law has been passed by parliament, it is important for us to start preparing for its revision.
“This is because we don’t know how compliant it is with the FCTC,” said Dr. Ebeh Kodjo Fabrice, Executive Secretary of the Alliance for Tobacco Control in Africa (ACTA) and one of the co-facilitators.
Information gathered in the course of the training revealed that the tobacco control law recently passed by parliament was not thoroughly revised by specialists in the field. Again, civil society and other tobacco control stakeholders present at the training neither had a copy of the law nor could talk about its content comprehensively.
The training also gave an opportunity to understand ROCAT and to review its objectives, governing structure and reflect on how to strengthen its human resources capacity. “There is a lot to be done in Congo. It is therefore indispensable for us to give a new impetus to our network. The clock is ticking, people are dying, there no time to waste,” ZOUMA said, adding that they will between now and February 2012 convene a special general assembly in order to elect members of the board of directors to their network.
“We count on the continuous support of the ATCC,” he concluded.
— Tih A. Ntiabang