Last week, mothers2mothers (m2m) had the privilege of joining in the buzz around the 29th Annual Summit of the African Union (AU) in Addis Ababa in Ethiopia. The Organisation of African First Ladies Against HIV/AIDS (OAFLA) launched its continent-wide Free to Shine campaign to end paediatric AIDS. m2m was invited to outline the strength and effectiveness of our approach in tackling the pandemic.
Juliet Nalumu, one of m2m’s incredible Mentor Mothers in Uganda, and our Uganda Country Director, Betty Mirembe, represented m2m, with Juliet invited to address the gathering.
Juliet delivered a thought-provoking and powerful speech, which culminated in a huge round of applause from everyone in the room—she was even singled out in the closing remarks by the Chair of OAFLA and First Lady of Ethiopia for special thanks!
She used her moment in the spotlight to echo the AU’s call to rapidly recruit, train, and deploy two million community health workers in Africa by 2020, explaining that we, at m2m, are adamant that the majority of these must be women. She explained:
“I am living testimony of what is possible in the fight to end paediatric AIDS. And I am just one of over 1,600 Mentor Mothers working across eight African countries. But if we are serious about ending paediatric AIDS by 2020, we must do more. The African Union’s commitment to employing two million more community health workers is a good start. I know the Free to Shine initiative launching today will play a vital role on this journey.”
Juliet added: “I call on everyone here to please ensure women living with the disease are engaged at every stage of the campaign, because we will continue this fight to end AIDS in our communities until we’ve achieved our goal. I commend you all for your attention to this vital issue, and stand ready to continue to play my part.“
After the formalities, Betty and Juliet met UNAIDS’ Executive Director, the World Health Organization’s Director for Africa and the First Ladies of Ethiopia, Kenya, Zambia and Mozambique, to name a few. It was also great to see some of our colleagues and supporters from Johnson&Johnson again.
We look forward to building on the energy that was in the room that day and will continue to highlight the difference that community healthcare workers make in the lives of women and their families.