The Atlantic Fellows for Health Equity in South Africa (AFHESA) based at Tekano is a leadership development programme for health equity in South Africa. It is about strengthening the capacities of progressive social change leaders to tackle the deep social and economic inequities that characterise South Africa and that impact on the health of its citizens. It creates a space for Fellows to connect action with a deeper understanding of the systemic causes of injustice; believing that an inclusive, equitable, economically productive and healthy society comes from action that addresses power and privilege, the unequal distribution of resources and opportunities, and equally challenges racism, classism, sexism and heteronormativity.
We do this as part of a global network of similar initiatives in South East Asia, Australia and New Zealand, Ireland, the United States, the United Kingdom and here in South Africa. Through the global, interconnected set of Atlantic Fellows programmes, Fellows collaborate across disciplines and borders to understand and address the root causes of pressing global problems. Tekano is one of seven (7) global Atlantic Fellowships. These include:
At Tekano we believe in transformative change, and through our Fellowship we are contributing to building leaders and engaging communities to address barriers that prevent people from leading healthy and productive lives, by advancing health equity. We do this through embodying an African, feminist and decolonised approach to leadership development, connecting people to their history and contexts that were developed through indigenous cultures, based on community, equality, care, and in building social relations. And through this we envision a more equitable South African society with improved health status across all populations, led by dynamic, visionary, values-based, politically informed leaders who individually and in catalytic communities of learning and advocacy articulate, convey, and act to promote social and economic transformation to advance health equity by addressing the structural, social and commercial determinants of health inequity.
Structural determinants of health – the institutional and systemic mechanisms that determine how power is distributed and resources are allocated
Social determinants of health – the conditions under which people live, eat, learn, work and interact
Commercial determinants of health- the profit–driven corporate activities promoting harmful goods and unhealthy food
The Tekano pedagogy is inspired by the Brazilian educator and philosopher, Paulo Freire. This is combined with pedagogies rooted in the promotion of decolonised and feminist knowledge production and dissemination. We learn by analysing our own experience critically and by engaging in critical discussion with others. We understand that learning happens in stages, moving from the analysis of experience, to seeing patterns within that experience, to planning action, to reflecting on and evaluating action, and on to looking for patterns again.
In Tekano, we consciously combine theory and practice. We strive to build capacity through the development of skills, knowledge and collective endeavour. Using a pedagogy and approach that encourages:
- Drawing on the experience that Fellows bring into the learning environment
- Reflecting on and contextualising this experience and deepening collective understanding by complementing this with analysis and a strong theoretical understanding.
- Developing skills for leadership development
- Move into action by practicing what is learned through social change initiatives
- Build on this to move into a new cycle of learning- experience, reflection, analysis, action
The overall Tekano Fellowship Programme works at strengthening the capacities of progressive leaders across inter-linked competency areas over the Fellowship period and into lifelong Fellowship. While these competencies form the foundation of the Tekano leadership development ‘ model, it is not at the exclusion of other critical competencies and is grounded in the ethos of community, collective and collaborative initiative.
Leadership development at Tekano
Tekano’s leadership development and support framework for the Fellowship is about being in an intentional community, held by a common purpose, committed to, connecting to, thinking with and learning from one another. This learning community is built around a
Fellowship Programme that comprises:
A Yearlong Fellowship Programme focused on a leadership development learning model.
A Lifelong Fellowship Programme, that includes up to two initial years of dedicated Fellowship support for a collaborative social change initiative, and participation in local and global communities of lifelong learners.
A critical component of the Fellowship Programme is the conceptualisation and implementation of a social change initiative.