First Ladies From Africa Commended For Their Transformative Grassroots Programs

On February 10, 2016 In Latest News

The sitting First Ladies of Africa were today commended as champions of transformation and change in their respective countries where they have initiated programs that touch the common man. At the same time, challenges facing the adolescents and youth in the continent including HIV/AIDS, early marriages , unwanted pregnancies, sexual health and rights , equal access to information and  credit dominated the conversations at the 7th Africa Conference on Sexual Health and Rights (ACSHR) in Accra, Ghana. The President of Ghana John Dramani Mahama, African Union Commissioner for Social Affairs Mustapha Kaloko and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Executive Director Prof. Babatunde Osotimehin said the First ladies are doing exceptionally good  work in their countries that contribute to visible achievements towards improving the status of maternal health and child survival, HIV/Aid screenings, education and women empowerment. “These initiatives  support the overall work of our governments and we shall support the First Ladies to achieve their objectives”, said President Mahama when he officially opened the ACSHR conference at the Kempinski  Hotel. First Lady Margaret Kenyatta was among the six First Ladies attending the opening ceremony of the continental three-day conference where 6 others have also confirmed attendance. President Mahama, Commissioner Kaloko and Prof.  Babatunde broadly  referred to issues related to maternal and child health, which touched on the African First Ladies’ programs including the First Lady of Kenya’s Beyond Zero campaign, one of the most visible initiative being hailed across Africa. The Beyond Zero initiative, the First Lady’s flagship initiative addresses itself to the challenges of HIV/Aids, Maternal health of mothers and child mortality through the distribution of mobile clinics to all underserved areas across the 47 counties in Kenya. Ghana’s First Lady Dr Nana Lordina Mahama who is hosting the conference is the patron of the Lordina Foundation which oversees several programs at the grassroots dealing with Maternal health and child survivor, education of girls and empowerment among other programs. She is the current President of the Organization of African First Ladies Against HIV/AIDS (OAFLA). Besides the programs by the First Ladies, several speakers who addressed the conference zeroed in on the issues of early and unwanted pregnancies, HIV/AIDS, Sexual Health and rights, education and the empowerment of adolescent girls and women, which were identified as the greatest obstacles to towards full realization of potential by women. Members of OAFLA were urged to prevail upon the African governments to stop the marginalization of women and girls by ensuring equal and quality education and work for both gender,  and full participation of women  and girls in social, economic and political  affairs of their countries. Elderly men were castigated as the carriers of HIV/AIDs virus among young girls as a result of multiple partners and polygamous tendencies . Professor Babatunde Osotimehin said the largest number of   HIV/AIDS infections among girls can be traced to old men. “We must stop this. We must also stop early marriages by old men and agree that 18 years is the minimum age for marriage for our girls”, said the UNFPA boss. He also called for the stoppage of Female Genital Mutilation saying it adds no value  among the victims. He said investing in health and education are the greatest investment any country can make adding that the recent Ebola scourge in Africa could have been contained had the continent invested in  Health. “Ebola was not the problem. The problem was our weak health systems in terms of equipment and human capacity”, he said. He also called on African governments to invest more on its youth which constitutes the majority of the 16 billion people. “We should do more for the youth”, he said Besides the First Ladies, over 2000 participants from across the African continent are attending the conference co-ordinated by the Curious Minds-a youth-led NGO on the theme of: “Realizing Democratic Dividend  in Africa: the Critical Importance of Adolescents and Youth Sexual and  Reproductive Health and Rights”. The conference has been held every two years since 2004, to dialogue on concrete actions towards policy programming on sexual and reproductive rights in Africa. The conference has previously been held in South Africa, Kenya, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Namibia and Cameroon.

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