Beliefs and practices

On Monday morning we were ready to receive our team of would-be ministry of health coaches at 9 AM. Two hours later only one had arrived. I am usually pretty good in my guesses at when we can really start but this time I was wrong by two hours. It turned out we all had missed some important information about local traditions.

There is a Monday morning ritual at the ministry at 8 AM that is called ‘monter les travaux.’ It involves raising the flag and receiving instructions from the minister. You cannot show up at the ministry and skip this event. How long these things last is anyone’s guess, least of all mine.

And then of course there is the 30 km that separates us from Cotonou. How long that takes on a Monday morning is another guess. My experience of yesterday, 30 km in one and a half hours on a Sunday in the middle of the day may give us a clue. At 11 AM we had finally a quorum and started, as such things always start, a little stiff, a little haltingly, no one quite knowing what to expect.

By the afternoon we had started to demystify some key concepts, especially leadership – all too often associated with politicians and people at the very top (in other words, ‘not us.’) And then we started to dive into the substance of our collective challenge that will keep the local teams busy for months to come: how do we want the improved leadership, management and governance skills to show up in relation to the priorities of the ministry of health?

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