Executive Director of UNAIDS Michel Sidibé last week appointed Namibia’s First Lady, Monica Geingos, as the organisation’s Special Advocate for Young Women and Adolescent Girls.
She will champion the newly launched Start Free, Stay Free, AIDS Free agenda. Geingos’ appointment is testimony of her growing stature and influence, especially in circles dealing with the needs of vulnerable groups and communities.
Since becoming first lady, Geingos has gone beyond being a mere businesswoman and has rolled out various charitable programmes, including setting up the One Economy Foundation, through which she aspires to help Namibians bridge the gap from the second economy to the first economy.
The One Economy Foundation in August awarded scholarships to 25 learners from low-income households through the Talented Individual Programme (TIP) of the foundation.
Seemingly, Geingos’ infectious passion and soft spot for the weak and vulnerable has not gone unnoticed – even overseas.
It took Sidibé a single meeting with Geingos on the sidelines of the 71st session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York to realise the drive and hunger the Namibian first lady possesses to help to the world’s needy and less fortunate.
Or perhaps the pair met at the UNAIDS side event, titled ‘Delivering an AIDS-free Generation’, on which Geingos was a panellist in June.
It was the June event that got American actress Whoopi Goldberg to jokingly say she would trade in the flashy Hollywood lifestyle and move to Namibia after Geingos chronicled the country’s successes in dealing with HIV/AIDS and women’s issues.
“I have to tell you, I met the First Lady of Namibia. Honey, she was like ‘Look, this is what we have to do. We have to change the culture where we demean women and don’t think that women are important’,” Goldberg said during the broadcast of The View, a TV show she co-hosts.
Following her participation in the June discussion, also in New York, Geingos was praised for her honest and direct observations on how the world is failing to meet the needs of young women and adolescent girls and on what practical steps are needed to close the critical gaps.
The Namibian first lady will use her position as UNAIDS special advocate for girls and adolescents to improve the health of adolescent women and young girls and Sidibé, a Malian, could not hide his enchantment.
“I am delighted that Madame Geingos has accepted this position. She will be using her platform to find partners and solutions to some of the difficult health issues facing young women and adolescent girls today, including HIV prevention and sexual and reproductive health, as well as access to education,” said Mr Sidibé.
“Young women and adolescent girls around the world have a new champion and we look forward to supporting her work.”
Geingos admitted that the risks faced by the world’s women and girl-children remain disproportionately and unacceptably high. “Young women and adolescent girls face the conflicting realities of a world that is increasingly recognising gender equality, while living in societies that continue to deny them the attainment of this shared right,” she said.
“While I am excited about the encouraging signs to rid the world of its patriarchal cloak, the risks faced by our young women and adolescent girls remain disproportionately and unacceptably high. It is an honour to team up with UNAIDS to work towards a generation that starts free and stays free from AIDS,” said Geingos.
Geingos was appointed as a champion of Start Free, Stay Free, AIDS Free, an agenda to put the world on “a super-fast-track” programme to end AIDS among children, adolescents and young women by 2020.
Aims to eliminate new HIV infections among children (aged 0-14) by reducing the number of children newly infected annually to less than 40 000 by 2018 and 20 000 by 2020. It aims to reach and sustain 95% of pregnant women living with HIV with lifelong HIV treatment by 2018.
Aims to reduce the number of new HIV infections among adolescents and young women (aged 10-24) to less than 100 000 by 2020. Provide voluntary medical circumcision for HIV prevention to 25 million additional men by 2020, with a focus on young men (aged 10-29).
Aims to provide 1.6 million children (aged 0-14) and 1.2 million adolescents (aged 15-19) living with HIV with antiretroviral therapy by 2018. Provide 1.4 million children (aged 0-14) and 1 million adolescents (aged 15-19) with HIV treatment by 2020.