Deputy Prime Minister Khupe on Women and Girls


July 25, 2012

MS. GIBSON: I want to bring into the conversation the Deputy Prime Minister of Zimbabwe. We are so honored to have you here. Deputy Prime Minister Khupe, your country – it’s interesting to me because I was in Zimbabwe in 2003. It was a very difficult time for your country; you and I were discussing this. Since then, your country has taken a fascinating lead in prioritizing issues of women and girls with respect to HIV. Why don’t you explain to all of us how that could be, and also whether that could be replicated. Because my understanding, I believe in fact Secretary Sebelius said this, across Sub-Saharan Africa there is 60 percent of those living with HIV are women and girls. What are you doing in Zimbabwe that is so specific and useful for women and girls, and could it be replicated across Sub-Saharan Africa?

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER KHUPE: Thank you very much. First of all, I’d like to take this opportunity to thank the U.S. Government for the support they’ve given to my country to try and end HIV. And I’d also like to share with you – and I think this is what is happening in all the countries – that women constitute 52 percent of the population. In my country, women contribute more than 80 percent of the gross domestic product in my country. Half of the food consumed in my country comes from a woman’s hand. Women work 10 times harder than men. Women are creators of wealth. (Laughter and applause.)

But if we try to interrogate to say, what is it that the benefit at the end of the day? What is it that we are rewarded with? HIV wears the face of a woman. Poverty wears the face of a woman. Discrimination wears the face of a woman. Inequality wears the face of a woman. In Zimbabwe, currently 1.2 million people are infected with scourge of HIV and AIDS; 600,000 – out of the 1.2 million, 600,000 are women and 150,000 are children. So it is a clear indication that HIV wears the face of a woman. And this is the reason why as a country we’ve come to understand that women are a force to reckon with, and this is why we have made them our focus in our AIDS response.

Currently Zimbabwe reported improved awareness as a result of massive educational programs which have led to behavior change. We also recorded an increase in the use of condoms, and the use of condoms have paid a dividend, and coupled behavior change our prevalence rate reduced from 28 percent to 14 percent. We have more than 500,000 people at the moment who are receiving ARV treatment, but out of the 1.2 million.

And our major focus as well is elimination of new HIV infections among children and keeping the mothers alive. We have made sure that we increase the number of sites for PMTCT from 960 to 1,560. So now women able to go to those areas, and 86 percent of the women received ARV prophylaxis, thereby making sure that there’s no vertical transmission.

So we have done all those things. At the same time as a country, we have introduced (inaudible), It was introduced in 1999. And last year alone, it managed to generate 26 million, and this year we are expecting that it’s going to generate 30 million. So this is the money which is also used to make sure that people, especially women, have good access to ARVs.

But at the same time, I think it is important that when we talk about HIV and AIDS, let’s talk about it within the context of poverty. Because as much as we are giving our women ARV prophylaxis, ARVs, as long as these people do not have food, the medication will do more harm than good. You’ve got – you’re supposed to take that medication with food. So we give them those ARVs. We go out to the villages. Because they do not have food, they end up not taking that medication.

But on the other hand, you are saying, oh, we are assisting Zimbabwe. We are giving them ARVs, but you don’t know that most of the people in the villages are not taking that medication because they do not have food. And I would like to plead, especially with the U.S. Government and other development partners, to say as we give people ARVs, let’s also give them food hampers for the period of the treatment. That’s the only way I think we can try and end HIV.

And at the same time, I strongly believe that it is important that all the men get tested for HIV, because once they’re tested and they start taking medication, they will reduce the viral load, and thereby making sure that we do not have more HIV infections. And if all those things were to be done, believe me you, we will get to zero.

In Zimbabwe again we started the program with male circumcision. As we all know, research shows that HIV – I mean male – men who are male circumcised, they go to 60 percent chance of not getting infected by the scourge of HIV. So in Zimbabwe right now, 50,000 men have gone going through male circumcision. Our target is 1.2 million by the year 2015, and we’re hoping that by then all those men would have been tested. As long as we do all those things, I strongly believe that we can definitely turn the tide and end HIV. (Applause.)

MS. GIBSON: Deputy Prime Minister Khupe, could you explain the GlobalPOWER Women Africa Network and the Harare declaration? Because this is about the global unified approach. I want you to – if you can keep it quite short, I’ve been told that we don’t have that much time – but I would love you to explain what that network is and what the Harare declaration is.

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER KHUPE: First of all, our touchstone for the GlobalPOWER Women Network is the excellence of Joyce Banda, the President of Malawi, and she has done fantastic at the work to make sure that this network becomes strong. GlobalPOWER Women Network is a network which brings in women from all walks of life, women parliamentarians. And it means that because we realize that our leaders in Africa who have been penning signatures, in so far as (inaudible) are concerned for (inaudible) declarations. But when it comes to implementation, they have done absolutely nothing.

For instance, if you look at the Abuja declaration, they set in 2001 in Abuja and we agreed that we were going to lead from the front to end HIV and that we were going to make sure that 50 percent of their budgets were towards health so that we so that we end HIV. Up to now, very few countries have done that. So we want to hold them accountable. We want to make sure that we transform those signatures into action.

So women who are in the executive where policies are made, where budgets are discussed, will make sure that there is no budget which is passed as long as if it doesn’t take into consideration the needs of women. In parliament as well, women parliamentarians will ensure that no budget is passed, no law is passed, as long as if it doesn’t take into consideration the needs of the women. So this is what GlobalPOWER is all about. We want to hold our leaders accountable, and we will definitely do that to make sure that they transform their signatures into action.

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