Speeches from the Summit

“Repowering HIV/AIDS communication and programming"

Keynote address by Mrs Jeaneette Kagame, First Lady of Rwanda and Chairperson of the organisation of African First Ladies against HIV/AIDS, at the African Broadcast Media Leaders' Summit on HIV/Aids
Johannesburg, South Africa, 4 October 2005

Your Excellency, Joaquim Chissano;
Dr. Drew Altman, President and CEO, of the Kaiser Family Foundation;
Advocate Dali Mpofu, CEO South African Broadcasting Corporation
Media Leaders;
Distinguished Guests;

Ladies and Gentlemen:

I am honoured to be here at this Dinner hosted by the South African Broadcasting Corporation. I thank the organisers for inviting me to speak today.

I would also like to recognise the partners of this summit: the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, SABC, the Nelson Mandela Foundation and the South African Broadcasting Association and for joining together for this important event.

Partnerships with this wealth of diversity and talent are much needed in Africa and I thank you for leading the way.

Perhaps you are wondering - as I did when I received this invitation - why I’m here. Addressing such a specialised audience. I am certainly not a media expert. To tell you the truth, while I understand the media’s importance, the inner-workings of your industry, puzzles and intrigues me.

Luckily for me, those specific details are why you are here.

I am here as an African mother and an African citizen, representing other mothers, concerned about our children’s futures – now threatened by HIV. And, one thing I am sure of is that we are all gathered here because we share a common desire, to make a difference in this pandemic.

This is the reason I was so keen to be at this event and to speak to this remarkable audience. Every initiative aimed at mass audiences needs the kind of partnership I see before me – a synergy created by like-minded organisations.

As media experts, you know your audience and how best to reach them. Many of us working to fight AIDS lack this technical know-how. We often have to improvise as best as we can. We need your advice, your experience and skills, to effectively communicate with the populations we are trying to reach.

You, as the media leaders of Africa, are in a position to make a notable difference on our continent in the fight against HIV/AIDS.

A few weeks ago, during the UN Summit of Heads of State and Government, on the Millennium Development Goals, Dr Peter Piot, the executive director of UNAIDS, offered some encouraging news. He described how we have reached a stage in the response against HIV/AIDS where we have achieved a “triple momentum”.

  • The first, being – political will;
  • Second - increased finances;
  • And third - emerging results.

The dream of an HIV-free generation in the near future is within our grasp.

However overwhelming the epidemic appears, the majority of our people are HIV-free. We have a moral obligation to treat and care for the affected. But we also have to keep HIV- free, those who have not been infected - even if this means resorting to, a door-to-door education campaign.

It is clear, we have much work to do before the dream of a HIV-free world, becomes a reality.

The problem posed by HIV/AIDS in our communities, remains immense. Infections are still on the rise in our part of the world – especially among the youth. Indeed, every effort is required to continue and intensify this fight.

Let me tell you about one initiative, I am proud of.

The Organisation of African First Ladies against HIV/AIDS – OAFLA , a group working together to give the epidemic a mother’s face, has recently launched a prevention campaign that will soon span the continent.

We are calling it the “Treat every child as your own” Campaign.

For the members of OAFLA, this effort fills an important gap, all too often absent, in prevention initiatives for youth. That is - the meaningful involvement of adults, charged with the care and well-being of young people.

We are issuing a call for the reawakening of our consciences, as adults trusted to provide secure homes, schools and communities for our children.

Excellency, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen:

As mothers and advocates, the members of OAFLA feel very strongly about protecting all of Africa ’s children.

We are more than concerned about what is happening to the children and young people of Africa – we are frightened.

  • We are frightened that our children are growing up in a world that does not care enough, in communities that are not equipped to protect them, from one of the greatest disasters of our time.

  • We are frightened that at a time when our children, struggling to forge identities in this globalised world - as they grow into adults - too many of them will have to deal with the tragic reality of HIV infection.

  • We are frightened that the steady growth, that all our countries are working so hard to achieve, will mean nothing, when our populations are too sick to sustain the development, or reap the rewards.

We believe that parents, guardians, teachers, and other adults, who are responsible for the care of children, are their first line of defence against HIV, and have the absolute obligation to protect them from harm.

The fact that HIV is infecting so many young people is an indication that, somehow, we are not fulfilling our duty as protectors of children.

The goal of “Treat Every Child As Your Own” is to prevent new infections among young people, by renewing every adult’s sense of shared responsibility, for children’s welfare. Children need each one of us - not just their parents - to raise them and protect them.

I appeal to you, to reach out to African mothers and all parents, who are concerned about our children ’s futures.

We know how powerful the media is – you have proved it to us again and again. Many of you here, are in the business of providing programming to fill the airwaves, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. And yes, we - your customers - need to be informed, educated and entertained.

As recommended by the Global Media AIDS Initiative, mainstreaming HIV/AIDS appropriately, into appealing programming, is absolutely critical. This is precisely because radio, print and TV are such an important part of our lives.

The fact that you are all here today – media leaders from 20 countries - shows that you are prepared to be part of the solution. We have the tools we need, to guide our role in this fight. The Millennium Development Goals are clear about where we need to be by 2015 – can we make it?

My request - and if you allow me – my challenge to you – is for all of us present here today:

  • To recognise the grave danger that young people are in;
  • To acknowledge that we have the obligation and the means to change this picture;
  • Finally, to commit to working together to protect the children of Africa.

It is imperative that we do so now, because our actions today, will determine the kind of Africa we wake up to, tomorrow.

When you have the ability to hold the attention of so many, it would be unforgivable not to use the opportunity, to make an impact.
I am truly glad that this summit is taking place. And I am honoured to be here with you. I am certain, that you will succeed in developing a plan of action for effective programming, and that the proposed African Media Partnership, will be a critical vehicle to convey AIDS messaging across Africa.

I wish you the very best as you continue to work on making a difference and look forward to the outcome of this Summit.

Thank you.