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UN World Summit: First Spouses event focuses on girls’ education and HIV/AIDS

UNAIDS Executive Director Dr. Peter Piot speaks at the First Spouses briefing.

NEW YORK, 14 September 2005 – As world leaders gathered for the 2005 United Nations World Summit, Nane Annan, wife of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, hosted a briefing for First Spouses that highlighted the relationship between girls’ education, HIV/AIDS and development.

The event, co-sponsored by UNICEF and UNAIDS, was moderated by Ann M. Veneman, Executive Director of UNICEF, and featured remarks by Mrs. Annan; Peter Piot, Executive Director of UNAIDS; and Rima Salah, Deputy Executive Director of UNICEF. The programme concluded with a song from UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Angelique Kidjo, who also addressed the gathering on the plight of children and women in Africa.

Lydia Wilbard, 26, who works with CAMFED, a non-profit organization dedicated to improving access to schools in Africa, spoke on the importance of girls’ education, while Rachel Ong, a peer educator and advocate for HIV-positive youth in Asia, spoke on the need to fight stigma and discrimination.

Both young women presented moving testimonials on their personal stories.

“We are still denied education; we can’t feel accepted in our workplace,” said Ms. Ong, referring to the experiences of HIV-positive people. “We have to expect to be ostracized if we come out into the open.”

But while the panel addressed the growing threat of HIV/AIDS and the unacceptably high numbers of girls who still do not attend school, the programme also struck a note of optimism.

“Everything is possible,” said Ms. Wilbard, who grew up in rural Tanzania and triumphed over difficult economic and family circumstances to realize her dream of studying to become a nurse.

“Education has made me independent, knowledgeable, confident and assertive,” she said. “It has thrown open a window, letting hope and opportunity into my life.”

“Let’s throw open the window for every girl who is not at school today and show her that we care about her plight.”


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14 September 2005
Highlights from the the First Spouses Event
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14 September 2005
Interview with girls' education speaker Lydia Wilbard
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Related links
Statement by UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Rima Salah to the First Spouses gathering (Word) [English] [French]

Lydia Wilbard's address to the First Spouses