Mali Youth Summit: Speech
I am proud and delighted to be here with you today. You represent the new young individuals who will lead the way towards an HIV-free next generation.
Ever since I started engaging myself in the AIDS-response, I have been convinced that young leaders must be given a voice and space where ever important decisions are made.
One reason is the fact that 40% of all new infections are among young people under the age of 25.
But most importantly: Young people are already mobilizing at country, regional and global levels, building momentum for the AIDS-response. More than 100 young activists gathered here in Bamako today are living proof of that. You are not only the leaders of tomorrow, but also leaders of today.
This session is about what we can learn from other transformative social movements. I am going to tell you about a fantastic young man I met a couple of years ago. His name is Oscar Morales, and in 2008 he used Facebook to rally 12million people to protest against Colombian guerrilla organization FARC.
Look at this;
(Shows flim cut from Zeitgeist).
This is just one story. Social media tools are empowering young people in new areas of advocacy. The most recent example being those of the young people of the middle east, telling their leaders that they have had enough of not being listened to.
Young people don’t just play Nintendo and eat junk food, or are engaging in drugs and reckless social and sexual behaviour. Young people stand up and fight for what they believe in. Young people are a vital part of the solution.
Social media tools are giving us fantastic new opportunities.
Some of you might argue: Social media is not “the answer”. And you are right. I agree. Social media is not the core of any movement, but they are tools that can be utilized for engagement. In the end, it is your courage and your ideas that will make a difference.
Young people must be mobilized to engage in conversations and activism around treatment access, generic medicines, FTAs, and TB co-infection.
The message from the Civil Society hearings is loud and clear: HIV affected communities must be funded to engage in the advocacy and activism needed to move our response forward.
My message to you is: When you experience lack of core funding, lack of data on young people, lack of personal rights or lack of access to treatment, use your courage, use your ideas and start your own social movements.
Use your networks to create a momentum so that our leaders cant afford not to listen.
Make them so powerful that world leaders cannot neglect them.
In the past, people who organized protests often remained anonymous. The One Million Voices Campaign showed their real names and faces. They had so much support, it made them feel safe. It gave credibility.
That goes for the AIDS-response as well. HIV-positive youth leaders fight social stigma every day by adding a face and name to HIV.
I have been fortunate enough to meet a lot of young people living with HIV, who are taking local or global leadership roles in the AIDS-response.
In 2009 we had the pleasure of hosting 40 people from around the world to a Young Leaders Summit in Oslo. I was truly impressed and inspired by their openness, their courage, their energy and their strong commitment. I am very happy to see some of you again here today!
One of the young leaders that came to Oslo in 2009 was Todd Murray. He has started a great campaign called “does HIV look like me?”
Here you can look at his way of trying to fight the stigma that most HIV positive people face every day.
(Shows film cut from Swaziland)
The One Million Voices-campaign started on the internet, but ended up having tremendous impact in real life.
I strongly believe that the same thing is possible with the mobilizations made by young activists in the AIDS-response all over the globe – like the “does HIV look like me” campaign.
Young people must be mobilized to respond to deeply entrenched stigma and discrimination and a growing conservative backlash which threatens their access to sexual and reproductive health services, sexuality education, sexual expression, harm reduction and safety as human rights defenders.
One of our main challenges is to support stronger partnerships between young key-affected populations and the global HIV-response.
You are all important leaders in your countries - and you are part of a global response.
Use your skills and commitment to empower young people at country and community level to take ownership of the AIDS-response.
There is no doubt in my mind that young people can be powerful leaders and change the world. Let`s start here in Bamako this weekend!