*This is a guest blog post written by Maria Jose Landeira Oestergaard, Zonta International/Zonta International Foundation President, 2014-2016
From 2000 to 2015
Fifteen years ago, world leaders adopted a global development agenda to end extreme poverty in all its forms. The eight targets they set to reach by 2015 became known as the Millennium Development Goals; among those goals were to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment, improve maternal health and reduce child mortality, and halt and reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS.
This month, as the UN General Assembly convenes its 70th Session and prepares to adopt a new set of Sustainable Development Goals, it is clear that the progress of the last 15 years and the success of the next 15 are in large part the result of, and dependent on, partnerships between the UN, governments and civil society.
The power of partnership and collaboration
Nowhere is the power of partnership and collaboration perhaps more evident than in Rwanda, where the U.S. Fund for UNICEF, Zonta International, the Government of Rwanda and other partners have worked together since 2008 to eliminate mother-to-child transmission of HIV and address gender-based violence. Through this partnership, Zonta has contributed nearly 3 million USD to achieve a nation free of AIDS and new HIV infection among children, adolescents, women and families; to support the national scale-up strategy for One Stop Centers; and to invest in community-based prevention of violence against women and children.
HIV transmission rates down to 1.36 percent
Today, as a result of this partnership, 97 percent of health facilities in Rwanda now provide antenatal retroviral treatment for PMTCT. Approximately 215,000 women and their families will benefit from HIV prevention and care and protection from gender-based violence and abuse, and 20,000 victims of gender-based violence and child abuse have been directly assisted by the Isange and Gihundwe One Stop Centers alone. 92 percent of HIV-infected mothers are receiving antenatal retroviral treatment, and more than 440 health facilities can now collect blood samples for early infant diagnosis for children born to HIV-positive mothers. All of these efforts have enabled Rwanda to reduce HIV transmission rates to infants to 1.36 percent – a remarkable achievement!
Zonta International and UNICEF
Rwanda is the latest success story in a long-standing history of partnership between Zonta International and the U.S. Fund for UNICEF, which began more than 40 years ago when the two organizations partnered to bring six mobile pediatric medical units to mothers and children in the remote areas of Ghana. Since that first project, Zonta has contributed nearly 5 million USD to eliminate maternal and neonatal tetanus in Afghanistan and Nepal, prevent female genital circumcision in Burkina Faso, support girls’ primary education in South Africa, provide wells for safe drinking water for women, children and families in Sri Lanka, and more.
As we look to the future and the new 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, we celebrate the power of partnerships like the one between the U.S. Fund for UNICEF and Zonta International, and we recommit ourselves to working together to address the most pressing issues facing women and children to realize human rights and gender equality for all.
“Today is not the last day of the past, but the first day of a better future we are building together. In collaboration with UNICEF, and with conviction, commitment and courage, I know we can do it!” – Maria Jose Landeira Oestergaard, International President.