Anita Kouvahey-Eklu recently joined Integrate Health as our new Deputy Country Director. Anita’s tenure with Integrate Health could not have begun at a more critical time. Based in Togo’s capital, Lomé, Anita works closely with our partners at the Ministry of Health as we support their dual goals of responding to the COVID-19 pandemic and strengthening the delivery of quality primary healthcare throughout Togo. Anita’s drive to deliver healthcare to the last mile, combined with over 20 years of both medical and advocacy experience, makes her an incredible asset to the team, as reflected in the progress that Integrate Health has made in the short time since she joined.
After graduating from university as a physician’s assistant, Anita began her first job at a health center in Kouvé in the Yoto Health District. Anita recalls this as her first experience confronting the challenges of poverty. Kouvé is a small community, and at the time, there was ongoing political unrest across the country, and household incomes were at their lowest. In her role, Anita explains that she trained both as a physician’s assistant and as a humanitarian. It was in this role that she developed a passion for delivering sexual and reproductive health services.
Anita followed this passion, which led her to the Togolese Association for Family Well-being, where she spent over 20 years working with the community to fight against maternal and child death, HIV, and AIDS. During this time, Anita deepened her sense of activism as she championed community approaches to healthcare delivery. She worked closely with Community Health Workers to deliver family planning services to communities around Togo. Anita believes that bringing healthcare services closer to patients is a “winning strategy.”
Anita recalls a time in which she used this strategy to bring healthcare closer to patients living with HIV. “In the 2000s, HIV had created a lot of sadness in families in my country, both through the difficult access to treatment, but above all through the discrimination and stigmatization of those affected. This revolted me,” she said. In response, Anita and her colleagues set up an association of people living with HIV. “The meetings of this all-women association were moments of shared happiness and curiosity. Worries, fear of the next day, and negative feelings disappeared from the faces of the members, and everyone was able to take flight.” She continues this work by collaborating with youth organizations for their development in the field of sexual and reproductive health through the reinforcement of life skills. Anita’s activism extends far beyond healthcare delivery. Anita fights for the rights of the LGBTQIA+ community, acting as an advisor and board member for many organizations throughout West Africa.
When asked why she decided to join Integrate Health, she explains that in addition to believing in universal health for all, she believes in the values at Integrate Health, namely: efficiency, empowerment, transparency, respect, commitment, and collaboration. Anita explains, “I believe in [Integrate Health] because I see a lot of love, work, communication, and determination on a daily basis.” Anita is an integral part of the Integrate Health team. Her drive, passion, and work ethic are exemplified by her continual work with the Ministry. Integrate Health is honored to have her join the team as a key leader of the organization. Through her experience leading the way, advocating for LQBTQIA+ rights, women’s rights, and universal healthcare throughout Togo, it’s clear that she has taken on the spirit of one of her role models, Margaret Thatcher, who once said, “If you want something done, ask a woman.”