Four Africans receive Africa Prize for Leadership

New York- US (PANA) -- Four Africans who have made extra-ordinary contributions to the fight against HIV/AIDS in their countries were Saturday awarded the Africa Prize for Leadership at a colourful ceremony in New York by The Hunger Project, a non-governmental organisation committed to reducing poverty in the world.
The four joint winners are Amelia Jacob from Tanzania, Bishop Dennis de Jong of the Catholic Diocese of Ndola in Zambia, Tibebe Maco of Ethiopia and Jonah Gikova from Zimbabwe.
The award usually carries a cash amount of 100,000 US dollars, but Hunger Project doubled it to 200,000 dollars this year with each of the winners taking an equal share of 50,000 dollars.
Jacob was awarded the prize for defying the stigma of the disease and leading a courageous campaign against HIV/AIDS.
Diagnosed with HIV in 1993, Jacob, whose husband had died from the disease and left her to cater for their five children, founded an organisation, Service Health and Development for People Living Positively with HIV/AIDS (SHDEPHA+), through which people living with the disease could discuss their concerns openly and get counselling.
The Tanzanian has created training manuals in English and Swahili that focus on the psychological, medical and social needs of people living with the virus.
In her acceptance speech, Jacob said her organisation now has 25 branches throughout the country generating awareness about the disease and the need to respect patients while also proving them with a forum to get counselling and support one another.
Bishop de Jong helped break the silence about AIDS in Zambia and taught the people how to prevent the infection.
Under his leadership, the Diocese of Ndola created the Integrated AIDS Programme in 1993 to educate the public about the disease, provide care for those infected and AIDS orphans and link communities to external sources of funding and technical expertise.
De Jong said at the award ceremony that his efforts on AIDS was just an aspect of carrying out his faith: "demonstrating that God loves all people, whether they had AIDS or not".
He appealed to all believers and fellow religious leaders to overcome the conspiracy of silence about AIDS.
The Roman Catholic cleric said his prize money would be used to provide computer training for AIDS orphans and other needy children.
Maco, a nurse in Ethiopia, was prompted to do something about AIDS by the lack of effective action to stop the pandemic in her country.
In 1999, she formed the Hiwot HIV/AIDS Prevention, Care and Support Organisation (HAPCSO), with her personal funds to create awareness about the disease in the community and bring about behavioural changes to halt its spread.
The organisation organises HIV/AIDS prevention workshops and seminars for high school students, teachers, women's associations and other community organisations.
HAPCSO also distributes condoms and literature, and assists in strengthening home-based care.
Describing the award as a great support and challenge, Maco promised to work harder in the campaign against the disease in her country.
Of all the winners, Jonah Gokovah, a bearded man with a calm countenance stood out for focusing his anti-AIDS campaign on men.
His organisation, Padare/Enkundleni Men's Forum on Gender, focuses on teaching men to change their concept of masculinity that encourages risky sexual behaviour and drives the pandemic.
The organisation, he explained, encouraged men to be active in discussing gender issues and helping them to end practices that amount to abuse of women and children.
"We fight to eradicate sexist behaviour from the society," he said, adding that the notion that men should have multiple sex partners is not acceptable.
The organisation also lobbies for legislation that protects women, particularly in the home, he said.
The President of The Hunger Project, Joan Holmes said the award was a tribute to Africans who struggle daily and demonstrate extra-ordinary resilience and courage in their efforts.
"We stand in solidarity with you now and in the future," she states.
The countries from which the prize winners were chosen have among the highest HIV prevalence rates in Africa, which itself, accounts for 25 million of the 36 million people living with HIV world-wide.
A total of 12 million AIDS orphans live in Africa out of the 13 million in the world.
The AIDS pandemic has claimed 22 million lives, 17 million of them in Africa.
Saturday's award was the 14th in the annual series.
African leaders that have won the Prize in previous years, include former Senegalese President Abdou Diouf who got the premier award in 1987, President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe in 1988, President Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria in 1990 and former Ghanaian President Jerry Rawlings in 1993.
Former South African President, Nelson Mandela got the prize in 1994, President Sam Nujoma of Namibia got his the following year, while former Malian President Amadou Toure was awarded the prize in 1996.
Yoweri Moseveni of Uganda got it in 1998.

14 october 2001 17:24:00

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