Summit of First Ladies of Sub Saharen Africa
on Children and HIV/AIDS Prevention

Kigali, Rwanda 20-22 May 2001


We, the First Ladies of Sub Saharan Africa gathered in Kigali, Rwanda from 20-22 May 2001 at the invitation of the First Lady of the Republic of Rwanda, Mrs. Jeannette Kagame to deliberate, share experiences, and propose concrete actions and strategies regarding children and HIV/AIDS prevention on our continent.

1. We are acutely aware of the devastating impact that HIV/AIDS wreaks on the people of Africa and the world. AIDS affects all societies, none more than those of Sub Saharan Africa: it threatens all people, but none more than women and children. Further, the disproportionate vulnerability of women and children in the face of the pandemic raises extreme concerns about the adequacy of existing responses.

2. We recognise that young people and children are not only vulnerable to HIV infection but also bear the consequences and impact of this pandemic for the rest of their lives.

3. We are deeply concerned that many African countries are embroiled in armed conflict that destroys social infrastructure, causes displacement, and inflicts physical and psychosocial trauma on children which in turn increases their vulnerability to HIV and other diseases.

4. We believe that individual Governments and the International Community must actively seek to ensure a greater involvement of women and children in the fight against HIV/AIDS. The cost of our complacency in combating this pandemic is the very future of our children.

5. We, the First Ladies, acknowledge the outcomes and the valuable progress made as a result of the various conferences held in the continent of Africa. We recall the African Development Forum 2000 in Addis Ababa; the African First Ladies Summit on HIV/AIDS in Yaounde; the Heads of States gathering in Lome; and the African Summit of Heads of State on HIV/AIDS, TB and Other Related Infectious Diseases in Abuja. All these demonstrate the genuine commitment of African leaders to respond to the enormous challenges this catastrophe presents. This Summit was intended to build on these previous events by identifying practical strategic actions and coordination and evaluation mechanisms that can be implemented over the coming months.

6. We acknowledge that this Summit provides an exceptional opportunity to highlight the distinctive contribution that the continents' women political leaders bring to this fundamental issue. Our unique responsibility as mothers of our nations demands that we respond to the call of the most needy of our sisters and children. Therefore, we, the First Ladies, pledge our personal commitment to the fight against AIDS. Perhaps more than any other sector of African Society, we are best placed to ensure that the inequitable burden of HIV/AIDS on the lives of women and children becomes a paramount issue for the Global community. We commit ourselves to mobilise the resources necessary for this action.

7. The Summit recognises that that we, the First Ladies, can play a crucial role in galvanising the participation of women and children, with particular emphasis on the girl-child, from the community to the highest level of national leadership.

8. We note that in response to the mantle of responsibility that our duties as mothers and leaders accord us, the Kigali Summit has identified areas of interventions where we will assume a central role in tackling the scourge of HIV/AIDS both at home and throughout our continent. In keeping with the spirit of collaboration that marks events such as these, we also call upon our partners to support these efforts in order to make these resolutions a reality. Furthermore, we would also like to remind the men of our continent that they too bear great responsibilities in the face of this terrible disease and that their contribution to this struggle must include partnership with the women and children of their communities.

We commit ourselves to take responsibility to undertake the following:

A. HIV/AIDS prevention among Youth and Women

1. To advocate with our national Governments in order to ensure that policies and institutions that seek to address the impact of the pandemic on children/youth/women are given priority.

2. To promote increased partnership with men in combating negative attitudes and practices that contribute to the rapid spread of HIV and violence against children and women in our communities.

3. To advocate and support interventions that facilitate the adoption of safer sex practices and the development of life skills that will help youth to understand their sexuality and protect themselves from HIV infection.

4. To take a leadership role in mobilising the women of our nations in order to guarantee that the challenges facing women and the girl-child are highly placed on the national political and social development agenda.

5. Promote open and frank dialogue on the key social and cultural factors, which have increased the vulnerability of children and women to HIV.

6. To identify and support effective grassroots initiatives that target and involve women and children in developing effective community based responses in prevention, care and support.

7. To promote the right of all people, including children and youth, to design and participate in interventions that affect their lives.

8. To take a leading role in fighting the stigma and discrimination of people living with HIV/AIDS.

B. Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission

1. To advocate, in respective countries, for the rights of all pregnant mothers to receive access to antenatal care and quality voluntary HIV counselling and testing and for those who are HIV infected, the delivery of anti-retrivoral intervention for the prevention of mother-to-child transmission.

2. To promote the provision of reproductive health services and the improvement of maternal health and nutrition practices in order to ensure safe motherhood and reduction of HIV infection.

3. Advocate for increased access to treatment of opportunistic infection and anti-retroviral drugs for infected children and women.

4. To advocate for a comprehensive family care and support programme that provides home and community based care and treatment as well as other services such as nutrition, micro-finance and HIV/AIDS counselling for HIV positive mothers, fathers and their children.

5. To mobilise our communities to fight stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV/AIDS.

C. Children and HIV in armed conflict and post conflict situations

1. To promote peace building and conflict resolution within individual nation states.

2. To advocate both nationally and internationally for the issue of Children, HIV and Conflict to be on the agenda of both the June 2001 UN Special Session of the General Assembly on HIV/AIDS and the Special Session on Children in September 2001.

3. To advocate within individual nation states for the implementation of international guidelines that adequately protect Internally Displaced Persons with particular emphasis on the potential risks faced by women and children.

4. To advocate for an additional protocol to the CRC regarding HIV/AIDS and the protection of children in situations of armed conflict.

5. To support the decision of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda to categorise rape as a crime against humanity, and to promote the ratification of the International Criminal Court.

6. To develop programmes that aim to strengthen family tracing and fostering schemes both during and after conflict, thus lessening the number of children in institutional care where vulnerability to HIV infection is far more acute. Additionally, advocate for development assistance that addresses the needs of those who have suffered most in conflict.

7. Pledge to encourage a special focus on the conditions of women and children in refugee camps.

8. To advocate that "education and training on HIV/AIDS prevention should be made mandatory for all military and peacekeeping personnel, together with voluntary and confidential counselling, testing and treatment. Codes of conduct should be strictly enforced through disciplinary action, which can help lessen the incidence of sexual violence"[1].

9. To advocate for the signing and ratification of the optional protocol in support of an end to the recruitment of child soldiers who are amongst the most vulnerable to violence and abuse, and consequently to HIV infection.

This declaration represents an agreed commitment by us, the First Ladies of sub-Saharan Africa, to take forward in solidarity, actions that seek to protect and involve the children and women of the continent in the struggle against HIV/AIDS. Finally, we would like to draw your attention to the following:

WE REQUEST that the Heads of States taking part in the June 2001 UN Special Session on HIV/AIDS and again in the UN Special Session for Children in September 2001, take cognisance of the declaration and recommendations raised by the Kigali Summit. In this regard, we call upon them to prioritise women and children by incorporating these actions into the framework and outcomes of these sessions.

WE REQUEST that individual Governments, donors, UN Agencies, International NGOs, Civil Society and the Private Sector support the implementation of these recommendations at country level in order to develop a more effective, practical and integrated response to the HIV/AIDS pandemic commensurate with the magnitude of the challenge.

WE RESOLVE to strengthen the existing network of First Ladies by exploring the creation of a First Ladies' Alliance against AIDS, with an appropriate legal framework to foster solidarity, share information and experience and to mobilise support for the actions in this Declaration. Such an Alliance should coordinate with the activities of other organisations and should be open to the participation of former First Ladies.