Back home in the United States capital, I woke up early this morning to attend perhaps the first advocacy event since the African First Ladies Health Summit earlier this week – that being a news conference for U.S. lawmakers, implementers and media rounding up the Summit’s activities and looking forward to actions being taken by the first ladies.
Two of the first ladies who attended the summit – Mrs. Maria da Luz Guebuza of Mozambique and Mrs. Adelcia Barreto Pires of Cape Verde decided to make a stop in Washington, D.C., on their way back from Los Angeles to make sure that the summit messages were heard by all partners involved – from the donor level to the country level to civil society. The event – organized by the Global Health Council – took place at the National Press Club.
Both First Ladies through their Portuguese interpreters laid out the major health issues in their countries and how they have and plan to address them in the future. Perhaps the most important part of the news conference was the feeling by both first ladies that they were energized to build on the partnerships they worked on at the Summit to work toward real results in bettering the health of women, children and families in their countries.
The highlight of the day came from Rep. Gwen Moore, D-WI, vice-chair of the Congressional Caucus on Women’s Issues, who gave a thunderous and enthusiastic speech about the U.S. response to global health issues and on the accomplishments of the two first ladies. Rep. Moore on behalf of the Global Health Council presented the first ladies of Mozambique and Cape Verde with 2009 Global Health Awards for the first ladies’ outstanding contributions toward improving the health of people in Africa. The smiling and hugging between Rep. Moore, Mrs. Guebuza and Mrs. Pires then commenced, to the delight of those in the audience.
Wrapping up the event, the Global Health Council's very own Executive Vice President Maurice Middleberg took a couple questions answered by the first ladies. As I review in my head what I have witnessed this week – a couple of thoughts. First, these gatherings will not alone help solve the major health issues facing Africa. However, we have seen in countries such as Rwanda and Mozambique that progress on key indicators in global health is possible if there is the political and social will to do so. If the gathering of the African first ladies is properly leveraged into spirited and concrete action in their home countries, then all the glamour of Hollywood and rhetoric of Washington will be worth it for the people living in their countries. I know that the Global Health Council and civil society stands to ready to work with them.
– Vince Blaser