9 July 2007

Kenya: Leadership Pledge in War On Aids

Nairobi — The women's conference on HIV and Aids came to a close with calls for action and improved individual and collective responsibility in tackling the pandemic.

About 2,000 delegates from 95 nationalities attended the international women's summit on HIV and Aids, ending their talks with a promise to lead the change in response to the disease.

The women, who were meeting at Kenyatta International Conference Centre (KICC), came up with the Nairobi Call to Action, a 10-point action plan aimed at developing leadership of women and girls to respond to HIV and Aids.

The Nairobi 2007 Call to Action affirms that the recognition of the rights of women and girls was essential for an effective response to the global Aids problem.

Decision making

It identifies specific strategies for change that can be implemented through individuals, families, faith groups and communities as part of the global women's movement.

The 10 areas of action are ensuring meaningful involvement of women in relevant decision making and promoting gender equality and the human rights of women and girls; ensure their physical, sexual and psychological safety and security.

Others are to promote their sexual and reproductive health and rights, ensure their education, economic security and access to resources, including the right to own and inherit property.

They concluded with the statement: "We can lead the change we wish to see in the world."

Speaking earlier, South Africa's deputy president Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka urged African leaders to urgently find ways to stem poaching of health workers by developed nations.

The leader, who also chairs the country's national Aids control council, called for the strengthening of Africa's health systems saying their capacities were challenged.

And at a separate function, Ms Mlambo-Ngcuka urged African journalists to cover stories touching on the continent with a Pan-African context to correct the negative image portrayed by Western media.

According to her, African journalists had a duty to re-brand the continent by taking into consideration the positive social, political and economic development witnessed all over the continent.

During the launch of the East African Bureau of the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC), the deputy president took issue with foreign corresponds for portraying Africa as a continent that was always faced with war and famine.

The 11-day meeting was organised by the World Young Women Christian Association (YWCA) as part of the organisation's governing assembly meeting which meets every four years.

It was the second time in 36 years that the YWCA World Council was convening its meeting in Africa. The last conference was held in Ghana.

The meeting sought to mobilise urgent responses to rising HIV infection rates among women and girls in every region.

Dr Musimbi Kanyoro, the World YWCA general-secretary said the call to action was not just words on paper.

"It is a personal pledge each of us at this summit is making in our hearts and with our hands. Women are committing themselves to do something to win the war on Aids," she stated.

"Where one woman acts, more will be inspired and be committed. More will take action until there is no power that can stop us," she stated.

The women pledged to work towards expanding access to services for women infected and affected by HIV, including safe testing, treatment, support and to promote the human rights of young women and children.

They promised to promote the human rights of young women and children by revising Aids strategies to respond to the reality of their situations.

The meeting also pledged to advocate for increased resources to support the capacity of women to lead change on HIV and Aids and promote the participation, empowerment and leadership of women at all levels.

Their signatures

During the last day of the meeting yesterday, participants appended their signatures as a personal pledge of action on HIV and Aids. They also held a rally in support of women living with HIV and Aids.

President Kibaki opened the summit on Thursday in a ceremony attended by United Nations deputy secretary-general Dr Asha-Rose Migiro, World Health Organisation director-general Dr Margaret Chan and Joint United Nations Programme on HIV and Aids executive director Dr Peter Piot.

It was preceded by a one-day forum of about 500 HIV positive women.

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