Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Can we link Sagam village with French efforts against HIV/AIDS (SIDA)

Eva ROGO-LEVENEZ ia a daughter of Sagam. She recently participated in this event to mobilize the public in the fight against HIV/AIDS. Eva wants Sagam village to participate next year and showcase the many innovative things being done there. She will be linking Kenyan participants she met at the festival with the village and writes...


Luc Barruet and Eric Elzière created Solidarite Sida in 1992, while they were still students. Over ten years’ experience fighting against Aids has given this organisation credibility recognised by its different partners. Since its creation, Solidarité Sida has always desired that the innovative and complimentary actions by its other partner organisations show solidarity with each other. By this, Solidarité Sida has become a natural partner to about 150 French and foreign organisations fighting against Aids across the world.

Volunteers or the heroes to this cause are young women and men, between 18 and 25 years old with names like Adeline, Noé, Vincent, Marie-Laure, Claire, François…. Fighting for something they believe in. About 3,000 of them live in France and their aim is to mobilise youth to refrain from careless habits and to try to prevent the spread of Aids.

Solidarité Sida’s ambition is to be an example and a window-case for voluntary, realistic and supportive young people who have refused to capitulate to Aids. Solidairité Sida plays the role of an actor and a mediator of solidarity as well as that of prevention. It offers young people the opportunity of being useful to society and by its actions it encourages a better perception of the reality of HIV, thereby encouraging them to want to do more.

The organisation commands exceptional support from thousands of actors, artistes, political leaders, businessmen as well as the media in France. It chose right from the beginning to launch its events through direct communication with the public, this has proven quite an effective way of publicising exceptional “rendez-vous” like the well known “Festival Solidays” that takes place annually at the beginning of July in Paris. These are exceptional dates for mobilising, feasting and sharing experiences through debates, round tables, forum and music by simply enjoying some of the best artistes on stage.

This year, Festival Solidays invited 200 artistes, including some of the most “in” voices at the moment, like the Servant, Garbage, not forgetting French artistes like Luke, Mickey 3D, Juliette, Camille, Calogero, or Vincent Delerm (quite “in” at the moment). Even Patti Smith, one of the main New York underground leaders in the 70’s had tears in her eyes when the Minister for Culture and Communication, Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres evoked in his speech, her good friend, the photographer Robert Mapplethorpe who died of Aids in 1989. The Ivorian, Tiken Jah Fokaly closed this year’s festival with African reggae that inflamed the greenery of Hippodrome de Longchamp just after Kassav, the group from Guadeloupe had left the stage on an extremely high note.

Solidarité Sida organisation is determined to use its powers in mobilising the public and the media to spread the word for the organisations and support to Africa, Eastern Europe, South America, Asia and France as well. It invited 29 foreign organisations under their sponsorship from all over the world. Kenya was distinguished by two strong organisations led by women championing for Women’s Rights and economic powers.

Kenya Widows’ and Orphans Support Programme (KWOSP) is a national non-governmental organisation started by a group of widows as a forum for mutual support and empowerment for widows and orphans in Kenya. Its objectives are: to promote, encourage and empower widows economically to reduce poverty within their midst by training them especially in the context of new technologies, to provide them with opportunities to learn, share and reduce their vulnerability to social, economic and sexual exploitation that expose them to HIV infection or re-infection, to provide orphans, like any other children, with adequate opportunities, access to basic needs such as food, shelter, medical care and education. The list can go on….

Susan Koyoo, the Project Co-ordinator of KWOSP sums it up by saying that “their mission is to reduce the physical and psychological suffering of widows and orphans infected or affected by HIV/AIDS and improving their quality of life.” KWOSP has a Drop-in-Centre at Kariobangi, and another centre at Awasi in Nyando District.

Positive Women Action Group, (PWAG) is led by Judy Gathoni Mwaura and Margaret Vosevwa Aseneka from Nairobi. Take a look at Judy or Margaret’s face and there is no doubt, these are positive women who look ahead and not backwards. The Festival lasts 3 days, on the last day, PWAG represented by Judy was one of the 3 organisations during the presentation of foreign organisations to the massive public, to talk on stage about their daily struggle. In three days, about 135 000 people attended the festival despite the fact that Bono of U2 was giving concerts that same weekend in Paris.

Festival Solidays was a moving moment that cannot possibly leave one indifferent. Try to imagine these determined men and women, happy to be in Paris to share experiences, how they live, no matter how painful, to laugh, gather information, sharing everything, even a tin of beer or dancing to a good African tune from CD players they had brought to the stands. Picture this: a Filipino was dancing his head off to Congolese music, whilst rumba was almost continual at one of the neighbouring stands next to the Kenyan one. Our lovely Kenyans had brought with them some traditional music, highly appreciated. Life can be hard, tragic at times where they come from, but at Solidays there was laughter and camaraderie. This is the place where some of those infected or affected by Aids were heroes because nobody was there to judge, but to feast together, the atmosphere was convivial, and gives them hope for tomorrow.

Fred Odhiambo Oganga, the only gentleman who accompanied our three champions for women’s cause is the Finance Officer of Women Fighting AIDS in Kenya (WOFAK), he is a well-composed fighter with a keen ear to listen.

I was invited for the first time to this festival to present to the public and to the professionals the Junior African Writers (JAWS) HIV/Aids Series by Heinemann Educational Publishers in Oxford, books for HIV/Aids Education Programme. The presentation was at Association Village Salon an area reserved for the press, debates and round table discussions that took place. I am the translator from English to French of this series of books that deliver and support HIV/Aids education, child-centred fiction / non- fiction to readers for the Francophone countries.

It is my wish that more Kenyans, and Sagam will participate in this eye-opening, happy festival next year. 42 million people are already infected across the world, 6 people below the age of 25 get infected every minute, young or old, men or women, we are all affected by the pandemic. As individuals or as citizens, we need to support those fighting against the scourge and those suffering from its tragic consequences.

We all have a role to play!

Translator/Consultant in Publishing

Eva is a daughter of Sagam, resides in Paris, France but is a regular visitor to the village of her birth. She has written and published books on HIV/AIDS and donated some to the village recently. The village encourages all the diaspora to remember the village, wherever you may be (kama ibetie kichiemo!).

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