The First Ladies know the daunting tasks ahead of them: today one said so poignantly, “Illness has taken Africa hostage.” One delegate reminded us of the devastating toll that AIDS is taking on their economies; she described how AIDS is a multiplier of poverty, orphaning more children, killing more mothers, and reducing families to rubble.
They talked of prioritization: how does a continent or a community decide what to tackle first? Some believe that only massive external economic investments, including aid, will solve the biggest problems. Others said family planning is the answer because it’s the “best buy,” while a third group said that it’s all about condoms -- we need more condoms “big time.” The First Lady of Mozambique was eloquent in her emphasis on educating girls as THE key investment. And Eunice Brookman-Amissah, former Minister of Health of Ghana and VP of IPAS/Africa Alliance, talked about how driving abortions underground leads to unsafe procedures. She was direct and strong and wonderful.
Thanks to Musimbi Kanyoro from Packard who promoted The Maputo Plan of Action and told the First Ladies to “Use it!” to convince their husbands to move forward on sexual and reproductive health. The first sentence of that document says it all. The Framework... seeks to take the continent forward towards the goal of universal access to comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services in Africa by 2015.
It’s all there -- all the policies and programs we need to save mother’s lives. The leaders have agreed to it. Now the First Ladies have it. Next step: implementation! Much more tomorrow. Starting with Sarah Brown’s keynote, my speech, and a video address from none other than Laura Bush!
Jill Sheffield is the founder and Executive Coordinator of Women Deliver.