Naïké Ledan joined the Health GAP team earlier this year as Associate Director of International Policy & Advocacy. Naïké comes to us with two decades of experience in social justice work spanning from Haiti to Canada to West Africa. As a co-coordinator of the Community-Led Accountability Working Group (CLAW), Naïké helps activists realize their power through community-led monitoring by sharing and creating tools, building connections between civil society across countries, and providing a range of technical support in solidarity with comrades working to hold duty bearers accountable for providing access to lifesaving healthcare. Naïké is also deeply involved in supporting civil society in several countries pushing for greater accountability from PEPFAR to the communities it serves. We recently spoke with Naïké about what motivates her and how she approaches her work. Here’s what she had to say:
Q: You’ve been an activist for a number of years. Tell us a little bit about your activist journey.
I started at a very young age in Haiti, working in response to catastrophes and in gang prevention. My journey began with a focus on human rights, gender, adolescent girls, and youth. And that’s continued throughout my career, through all my work. When I moved to Montreal I worked with incarcerated girls and young women, people in group homes, First Nations, immigrants, and newcomers doing a lot around girls’ sexual health and human rights and then I began to focus on young women’s health more generally.
Coming from a strong feminist background, I’ve worked to center the voices and needs of Black, queer, Muslim and other marginalized girls and young women in particular. I’ve had the chance to really touch a full spectrum of roles in this work. I’ve worked on a project raising awareness around the increased incidence of breast and ovarian cancer among women exposed to endocrine disruptors found in hair straightening products, adressing the link between antiblackness and its incidence on women’s health, and I’ve done extensive fundraising work for an organization supporting Black queer people, particularly criminalized people, running from violence seeking asylum in Canada. Before joining Health GAP, I was Haiti country director for Housing Works, doing deep activist work helping to organize civil society organizations into consortium, getting into key populations work, setting up community-led monitoring (CLM) — building solid systems for effective activism. I was part of an activist team that won some major shifts at the PEPFAR meetings in Johannesburg in 2020, reversing big funding cuts. This gave me a taste of the power of inside-outside activism that isn’t just top down, but driven from the bottom up.
Tell us a bit about how you approach your work at Health GAP. What does a normal day look like for you?
Most of what I do at HGAP is constantly linking important tasks to a greater picture. It’s very fulfilling. I’m not just managing a project, I’m seeing how the work is linked to a bigger picture of health justice. Every piece of the work I do is linked to helping us achieve more equity, checking us in our allyship, helping make us more humble.
My work is with country teams, implementers, and I’m always putting myself at service to them in my vocabulary and my approach. On a typical day, I’m having meetings in the morning with comrades in countries and regular check-ins with teams and other comrades at partner organizations like O’Neill and amfAR. After my scheduled meetings end for the day, I spend time working on materials: developing presentations, providing feedback on materials comrades are preparing for meetings, making sure materials are translated, and so on.
With CLAW and with our PEPFAR Watch work, when funding for a specific effort ends, we don’t stop talking with the activists and organizations we’ve been collaborating with. I make myself available. I want to build a deep relationship with comrades. When there are problems with PEPFAR, UNAIDS, or other duty bearers, I’m linking people to build advocacy plans and strategies. I’ll also call up people in positions of power if comrades are uncomfortable doing that directly.
It’s a lot of work – some of it is not so visible, but it doesn’t matter – it’s all part of the roadmap to get us to success.
What’s on the horizon for your work? What’s your hope for the next 6-12 months?
In the next year, I’m really invested in making sure we are focusing CLAW resources and efforts in places where we can make the most impact. I’ve had the experience of working in places where civil society was eager to build up their CLM work and solidarity from CLAW made a big impact. I’ve also seen where CLAW was engaged to provide technical support in a place where there was no interest, no civil society, and where we got mired in politics. It’s a bittersweet learning experience, with the sweetness coming from how our CLAW team refused to bend on our principals rooted in decolonization. So in the next year, I’m looking forward to continuing to use this amazing platform of CLAW and the solidarity between these long-time partner organizations as an even more powerful force.
By having even more solidarity with comrades in the global South, with CLAW being at service of communities driving the decision-making processes, we are changing the power dynamics. We are doing this work needed to reverse that dynamic about the power we hold in the privileged, loud, global North. We show we are at service, we offer a package of support so civil society comrades have all they need to be loud and we are in the background. It’s very deeply decolonizing work. It’s equitable work that makes me excited because it’s who I am. I’m looking forward in the next year to seeing more of that powerful, humble work.