At AFRAVIH, “Voix EssentiELLES” are fighting for what counts

Communiqué de presse • 07 April 2022

Since 6 April 2022, the French city of Marseille has been hosting the 11th AFRAVIH conference, the Francophone Alliance of health actors against HIV and chronic or emerging viral infections. Founded in 2009, AFRAVIH’s aim is to bring together health professionals from different communities engaged in the fight against HIV in French-speaking countries.

From Ouagadougou and Abidjan, Farida Sonia Tiemtore and Pélagie Akoua Kouame took part in the conference to promote the Voix EssentiELLES pilot initiative, implemented by Speak Up Africa, a non-profit strategic communications and advocacy organisation based in Dakar, Senegal, and co-funded by the Global Fund and Fondation CHANEL. 

« We are delighted today to meet the heroines working on a daily basis and in their respective communities for gender equality and more specifically the fight against HIV/AIDS and gender-based violence. Their stories and their voices are essential to advance our common goals and strengthen the capacity of organisations led by women and girls. »

Françoise Vanni, Head of External Relations and Communications at the Global Fund.

Voix EssentiELLES aims to support women and girls, in all of their diversity, by meaningfully engaging them in decision-making processes and spaces that influence health policies and programmes in Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire and Senegal. Through this pilot, Speak Up Africa and its partners aim to address four main challenges, namely

  1. the limited political participation and representation of women and girls in decision-making spaces for policies and programmes that affect their health,
  2. deep-rooted harmful socio-cultural practices, including various forms of violence,
  3. insufficient and indirect resources dedicated to women-led community organisations, and finally
  4. the limited capacity of small grassroots organisations to engage in advocacy work.

« Voix EssentiELLES allows us to carry out real advocacy, at our level and in our communities, in particular for women and young people, who are in my opinion the pillars of our development. We can eliminate HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, but to do so we need a collective solidarity that echoes across borders. From Burkina Faso to Abidjan to Dakar, we are fighting for what’s important, and we are keen to see this project scaled up across the entire sub-region. »

Farida Sonia Tiemtore, Founder and President of Héroïnes du Faso.

Because voice, decision-making and leadership are vital factors for the empowerment of women, the Héroïnes du Faso association works for the well-being of women in the land of honest men (and women). Its goal is to promote respect for women’s sexual and reproductive health rights, social engagement, education and the empowerment of women. Through the Voix EssentiELLES pilot initiative, in which it participates, a catalytic fund of 170 million CFA has been created to support selected women’s and girls’ organisations with achievable time-limited objectives. 

« We are working tirelessly on common sustainable development goals for global health. To achieve them, we also need to think about and support the goals of women and girls at community level. Listen to them, support them and fund them, because their solutions and actions must be our guidelines for the development of our strategies and action plans. »

Stéphanie Seydoux, France’s Ambassador for Global Health. 

This September, the Global Fund will hold its Seventh Replenishment Conference where at least $18 billion will be needed to fight HIV, TB and malaria and to strengthen health systems. Since its creation, the Global Fund has invested over US$53 billion, saving 44 million lives and reducing the combined death rate from the three diseases by more than half in the countries in which it invests. In 2022, we need a new impetus for global solidarity and leadership.

« Funding from the Global Fund is crucial to the well-being of our communities. The inputs and medicines that enable us to fight HIV/AIDS on a daily basis save lives. In addition to these inputs, we need support to carry out our day-to-day work with women and sex workers. Voix EssentiELLES is an initiative that funds us directly and helps us to go about our activities, therefore funding from the initiative is more than essential for us and our beneficiaries. »

Pélagie Akoua Kouame, , Founder and Director of COVIE in Côte d’Ivoire.

Ultimately, community health is critical to achieve gender equality and end gender-based violence. To achieve this, innovative public-private partnerships are more than necessary in order to give a voice, a place and the tools they need to organisations that work daily with and for the most vulnerable people in our societies, women and girls in all their diversity. We need to change the narrative, change the paradigm and change behaviour and, above all, fight for what matters.

Marseille, 7 April 2022

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