GFN17 was an experience I am so glad to have taken part in. The concept of Harm Reduction: Saving Lives is what AVCA is all about – one person at a time. This year, I found the “vibe” to be much more inclusive and collaborative between all the attendees without the usual “battle lines” drawn between advocates, public health and manufacturers, which was not only refreshing but also confirmation that we at AVCA, who work with ALL stakeholders, are indeed on the right track with our advocacy and our plans for the future.
One of the things that I believe we, as consumer advocates as a whole, need to seriously consider and take action on is supporting vapers who currently have no voice through a consumer representative organisation. There are so many of our fellow vapers out there who do not have a clue on how to advocate effectively and what they need to do, and are literally begging for help, especially in places far and wide, such as in in Asia and Africa. This something that INNCO – the international consumer representative organisation – was set up to do and it is up to each of the country organisations to take on and assist within our own regions. Help your neighbour, GET INVOLVED, share your knowledge and expertise, and help unify the community on a global scale.
It was a personal highlight for me to meet again, after 30 odd years, with Ethan Nadelmann, who has always been an inspiration to me with his passion and dedication to advocating for and helping others, providing them with a passionate voice. I had volunteered back in the 1980s at the GMHC in NYC during the height of the HiV/aids crisis when he was also heavily involved in the programs there. Proving that wherever you go, there you are.
Ethans’ MRO resonated with me, especially as I personally remember the HiV/aids crisis of the 1980s-90’s. Harm Reduction need not be punitive, it need not be painful. But it does need to be inclusive, consistent, science based and people focussed – compassionate, empathetic and supportive.
Advocacy in all its forms seeks to ensure that people, particularly those who are most vulnerable in society, are able to:
- Have their voice heard on issues that are important to them
- Defend and safeguard their rights
- Have their views and wishes genuinely considered when decisions are being made about their lives
Advocacy is a process of supporting and enabling people to:
- Express their views and concerns
- Access information and services
- Defend and promote their rights and responsibilities
- Explore choices and options
I was also humbled to present to the conference what we do at AVCA, as well as explaining how we do it, and why. I hope that I was able to convey the scope and passion we have towards our advocacy and harm reduction and perhaps inspire someone as I have been inspired by others at both last years and this years GFN. That is what I think is most important for consumer advocates who are able to attend the GFN – the ability to talk to other people who do what you do, and get feedback, confirmation, support and guidance. It makes our practice that much more effective and our work that much more valuable. It is never about any one individual, but about the whole. We are all part of the whole and the GFN reminds us of that, and makes us more united and stronger as a unit. A global family of like minded, passionate and motivated members. Granted, am still processing a lot of it as so much was going on, but definitely feeling secure that we are on the right track.