Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Keynote Speech on the Launch of the Multiple and Concurrent Partnerships Campaign by the Speaker of the National Assembly Honourable Patrick Balopi

Republic of Botswana (10/3/09): TAUTONA TIMES no 6 of 2009
The Weekly Electronic Press Circular of the Office of the President “Democracy, Development, Dignity and Discipline”

B1) 5/3/09: Keynote Speech on the Launch of the Multiple and Concurrent Partnerships Campaign (MCP) by the Speaker of the National Assembly Honourable Patrick Balopi

SALUTATIONS…Dumelang Bagaetsho

1. Today marks an important day in the history of our response to HIV and AIDS - an occasion for us all to witness the birth of yet another key milestone in Botswana’s response to the HIV and AIDS epidemic. What a moment for us in Botswana, the region and the world at large!

2. Today’s event comes only a few months after His Excellency President Ian Khama Seretse Khama challenged the nation to make social contract and commit to the theme: “Behaviour Change is My Key Responsibility to stop HIV and AIDS”. The campaign we are gathered here to launch is an attempt to call the nation to embrace this tacit life-time contract. It is also meant to fulfil our commitment to a high-profile national behaviour change programme focusing on factors that have been acknowledged as the key drivers of the HIV and AIDS epidemic.

3. Director of ceremony, we have been grappling with a difficult question of why, despite considerable strides we have made in the fight against HIV and AIDS, we still continue to notice rise in new HIV infections. The 2008 UNAIDS Global AIDS Report contests that without greater progress in reducing the rate of new HIV infections, the HIV epidemic cannot be reversed nor can we sustain treatment. As a country, we have since acknowledged that there is no other course that has potential to break the back of the epidemic than prevention; hence our bold move to come up with the National Operational Plan for Prevention. The Plan calls for a high-profile, national campaign that targets the acknowledged drivers of the HIV epidemic.

4. As we looked at the evidence base both in Botswana and the Southern African region, it was clear to us that one of the drivers of HIV in Botswana is the practice of having more than one partner in the same period of time, referred to as Multiple and Concurrent Partnerships (MCP). This therefore meant that we needed to develop a comprehensive multi stakeholder National MCP Campaign that has brought us here.

5. This Campaign aims at contributing towards reduction in HIV incidence by reducing the percentage of Batswana who engage in MCP. This will be done, among others, by raising awareness about MCP and HIV risk, by encouraging communities, peers, families, couples and individuals to debate and reflect on risks and values; and by showing those at risk the benefits of changing behaviour and de-stigmatizing HIV. The campaign will empower individuals, not only with life-saving knowledge, skills and abilities, but also with the confidence and motivation to initiate and sustain changes in their lives.

6. All these are premised on the understanding that behaviour change can only occur if there is a desire to change within the individual and if there is an enabling environment for adopting and maintaining new behaviours. In order to create desire to desist from MCP, the campaign will promote alternative behaviours by means of benefits that are relevant, attractive and important to people’s lives.

7. At the same time, the campaign will shift perceptions of the risks and costs of MCP, so that the benefits of sticking to one partner outweigh those of having more than one. For creation of an enabling environment for adoption and maintenance of new behaviours, we must focus on the values and norms that shape us as nation. To this end, we must consistently promote self-worth and dignity as benefits of sticking to one partner and being in a relationship that is characterized by emotional commitment rather than transaction.

8. We must provoke our young women to reflect on the kind of people that they want to be now and in the future and promote positive affirmation based on dignity, discipline, character and personal achievement.

9. Self-worth and dignity must be part of an alternative sense of what it means to be a well rounded culturally secured Motswana who is not dependent on measuring oneself materially against others, but achieving one’s aspirations through own efforts. This will include affirmation of not getting involved with different people for material gain, but being the kind of woman that any man would be proud to have as a wife or as a mother to his children.

10. For our young men, we must promote new norms about masculinity that are not about bedding more women than the next man, but about being a son and father to be proud of, and a lover whose woman would never need to look elsewhere. We must build new norms about male friendships where harmful competition to have more partners is replaced by male friendships that support each other’s primary partnerships.

11. We know of cases where couples can’t openly discuss their sexual relations under the pretext of culture, tradition or taboos. These give some partners an escape route to satisfy their desires somewhere else. We also know of men and women who stray away from their primary relationships on the same premise. This campaign will attempt to equip our people with confidence to communicate with their primary partner about sexual and relationship issues. Better communication within relationships will result in healthier, more stable and more sexually satisfying primary partnerships.

12. We launch this campaign, well aware that MCP is not an easy topic. It requires vocal and concerted leadership in all sectors. This campaign will have the greatest chance of success if political, traditional, faith and civil society leaders all talk openly about deeply entrenched cultural values and norms, gender relationships and other challenging issues. This must be done in a manner respectful of traditional values that shape us as a nation than those that divide or destroy us.

13. Although we have a track record of being early adopters of promising approaches to HIV and AIDS like PMTCT, ARVs, Routine HIV Testing and many others, all eyes will be on us see how we progress this ambitious undertaking. We know that we do not have all the answers, and so do many others, about this topic. But with all our concerted efforts, we believe we shall have something to share in the long run.

14. In order to rally the nation behind this campaign, and ensure everybody is reading from the same hymn book, the campaign has a brand that carries a logo and a central unifying slogan as shall be explained to you when we unveil it. We call on everyone to identify with this logo in our programming and implementation of MCP and other related campaigns. We want the media to move in sync with this campaign and its logo as part of its social responsibility, as media’s role in transmitting the right messages to influence positive values cannot be overemphasized.

15. I believe the campaign brand will command attention, create momentum and a sense of belonging to everybody involved in HIV prevention efforts. It will indeed rally the whole nation to confront multiple and concurrent partnerships and work towards achieving the goal of Zero New Infections by 2016.

16. In conclusion, I would like to thank all of you here present and challenge you to take the MCP campaign to every corner of this country. It is now my singular honour and privilege to officially declare the Multiple and Concurrent Partnership National Campaign officially launched. PULA !!

No comments: