In July, mother2mothers (m2m) attended Women Deliver 2023—one of the largest multi-sectoral convenings for gender equality—in Kigali, Rwanda (17th – 20th of July). Themed around “Solidarity, Spaces, and Solutions”, the conference provided a welcome opportunity to engage with friends and partners to explore some of the biggest challenges and opportunities in making gender equity a reality by 2030. With m2m Spokeswoman and community health worker Esther Mamba from South Africa in attendance, m2m’s goal was clear—to ensure that discussions and solutions were built on and anchored in lived experience.
Here are our highlights from the week.
- Joining the dots: Breaking silos to create gender equality by 2030, an official Women Deliver side event co-hosted by m2m and Cartier Philanthropy.
Wednesday brought with it m2m’s side event, co-hosted with Cartier Philanthropy, on ‘Joining the dots: Breaking silos to create gender equality by 2030’. Featuring powerful accounts of individuals dedicated to making gender equality a reality, this was undeniably a session to remember.
Some key moments included:
- Inspiring spoken word poetry from poet, activist, and UNHCR Ambassador Emtithal (Emi) Mahmoud on her home country of Sudan and what it means to be a daughter;
- A message from m2m Spokeswoman Esther Mamba about the importance of truly listening and seeing one another, especially when it comes to health care provision;
- A reminder from refugee rights activist Nyima Jadama on the power of using one’s voice to stand up for one’s own rights and those of peers;
- A spotlight on the urgent need for more and better “dot-joining” when it comes to mental health from Frank Harle, Country Director for StrongMinds Zambia;
- A powerful rallying cry from Dr. Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, former Executive Director of UN Women, reminding us about the importance of self-care for us to be revolutionary.
Thank you to everyone, and especially our partners at Cartier Philanthropy, who contributed to making this event such a success!
- The launch of the Gender Equality Fund
On Tuesday , GSK and ViiV Healthcare announced a $7.5m Gender Equality Fund through The Global Fund to advance community engagement for gender equality by creating space for women and girls to influence policy, strategy, and programmes related to gender equality and health.This a vital and exciting step to accelerate progress toward gender equality, ensuring that the women and girls closest to the challenges and therefore best placed to shape solutions, have the space to do so.
m2m was also delighted that Esther was invited to be part of the announcement alongside Sibulele Sibaca, a Global Health advocate and HIV Epidemic Response Ambassador with the Global Fund. Esther and Sibulele shared their experiences as women on the front lines of global health and their passion inspired attendees with Esther reflecting, “my journey proves that when you invest in women there is power, changing families and communities”.
True to the principles of the Gender Equality Fund, Esther and other community representatives will be invited to further consult with The Global Fund, GSK, and ViiV exploring how best to put the Fund into practice.
- Highlighting the importance of peer support in addressing young mothers’ mental health
Later on Tuesday, Esther joined a panel convened by United for Global Mental Health on ‘Young Mother’s Mental Health: Understanding and Addressing Their Needs’. Participating alongside Aline Cossey-Gantner from Fondation Botnar, Marijke Wijnroks from The Global Fund, and Hauwa Ojeifo from She Writes Woman, Esther shared her own experience of being diagnosed with HIV during her first pregnancy and the transformative impact of the support that she received from a peer from her community—m2m Mentor Mother Colile.
Esther emphasised challenges such as poverty and lack of opportunity that can lead to young women not prioritising their health, and spoke about the importance of meeting young women where they are, without judgement. As both client and peer, Esther has experienced the value of a peer-led model to deliver health care services, and the trust and connection that can be established through shared experience.
- HIV is a Feminist Issue (side event by Frontline AIDS)
On the final day of the conference, m2m attended a thought-provoking and inspiring session from Frontline AIDS. Moderated by Yumnah Hattas, the panel discussion featured Christine Stegling, from UNAIDS; Vuyiseka Dubula, from Stephen Lewis Foundation; Dr Lilian Otiso, LVCT Health; and Joyce Ouma, from Y+ Global. Major themes and take-aways included the need to centre HIV as a feminist issue; the need to invest in treatment, care, and support alongside prevention of HIV; the critical role young people must play in leading efforts; and ultimately that this is a marathon, not a sprint – engaging communities and operating with sustainability as the goal is key.
It is now time to turn this renewed energy and commitment to creating gender equity by 2030 into action! If you want to join us on this once and in a lifetime change, then be sure to sign up to our newsletter today, and find out how you can get involved.