President of African First Ladies Group Calls for Increased Political Power Among Women To Fight HIV/AIDS
Ethiopian first lady Azeb Mesfin, the newly elected president of the Organization of African First Ladies Against HIV/AIDS, recently said that women in Africa need increased political power to effectively fight HIV/AIDS on the continent, the Panafrican News Agency reports. Mesfin in her inaugural address said that African women "must have access to power. If we want to win the war against the poverty, we must empower them also to fight against the HIV/AIDS pandemic." Mainstream politics in Africa often marginalize women, leaving them without the power to influence decisions on their social and economic development, Mesfin said, adding that women "must be free to make choices to reduce HIV/AIDS."
Mesfin said that OAFLA's role in promoting the rights of women has become more critical in light of the global economic crisis. "OAFLA's role becomes more urgent in the face of global recession because women are the most vulnerable segment of society," she said, adding, "OAFLA therefore wants to play a greater role in the fight against HIV/AIDS in Africa." Mesfin also addressed the increasing incidence of sexual violence against women, and said, "We deserve to be in a world free of violence, where safety is real and where opportunities are boundless."
Also at the event, Meskerem Gunitzy Bekele, Ethiopia's country director for UNAIDS, said that 60% of people living with and affected by HIV/AIDS are women and children. "As high-profile advocates, OAFLA must contribute to effective response to the pandemic," Gunitzy Bekele said (Kwayera, Panafrican News Agency, 2/3).