Families for Life -a return to the ancient paths (14-12-06)

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BULAWAYO – The African Year of the Family 2006, kick-started in Bulawayo at the beginning of this year, has seen a widespread response in many parts of the continent. The highlights of the campaign include 5,000 people attending Year of the Family rallies in Lagos, 4,000 packing a church in Eldoret for a family celebration weekend, 100 young couples in Zimbabwe commissioned by their churches and trained by Family Impact in marriage, parenting and family outreach. In addition, the Families for Life Sermon and Study book has been printed in three regions, translated into French and used in sermons and cell groups in many churches throughout the continent.

From the outset it was realised that only one year would be insufficient to accomplish all that is necessary in Africa’s life-and-death battle against HIV and AIDS. The organisers therefore plan to continue the Year of the Family initiative in order to keep the momentum going. The result is a special emphasis on the family in Africa over the next four years, 2007-2010, through the Families for Life Project.

Africa is a complex land, haunted by the ghosts of a past characterized by exploitation, violence and suffering. Africa has been ravaged for her beauty. The continent is home to one third of the world’s natural resources, yet is characterized by the wealth of a few and the desperate poverty of the masses. It is a land that has come to depend on foreign aid and handouts for survival; where few will live to see 50, and few will die before they see war.

Africa has accepted the global view that it is the street kid of the world. Fear and timidity, submission and surrender have become ingrained cultural characteristics. Yet Africa has the potential to take ownership of its own destiny and to do so must utilize the strength present in African culture since the beginning of time – family life.

Family in Africa has long been under attack having been assaulted by slavery, war and forced urban drift. The HIV/AIDS pandemic is evidence of fractured families and splintered societies. However family is the only institution capable of addressing the impact of HIV/AIDS and remains the hope for the future of Africa. Family bestows pride and communicates character.

“Let the supportive family have the blessings of the Chief, the headman, the tribal elders and the traditional structure which is already in place. We have not lost our roots in Africa where culture(s) still hold great power. In addressing HIV/AIDS, we have not used the strengths of the traditional culture and our oral history! Culture is all about communication! In the West the success of a program relies upon effective marketing, in Africa it flows through traditional, wholesome family beliefs and structures alone.” – Edwin Mapara M.D. Former Medical Officer i/c HIV/AIDS program in Botswana.

The African continent bears the brunt of the global HIV epidemic in terms of both scale and impact. Of the 38 million people living with HIV globally, an estimated 25 million (i.e. almost 2/3 the global total) reside in sub-Saharan Africa – and this is despite the fact that the region accounts for just over 10% of the world’s population.

“In terms of death toll this is equivalent to one tsunami, the size of the one which devastated Southern Asia 26/12/04, hitting Africa every month. This is also equivalent to 9/11 happening twice a day every day of the year. The African towers, however, are falling in silence. There is no 15 second sound byte, no unforgettable image to be burned onto the human conscience.” The Silent Fall – Official Film of African Year of the Family 2006 (Rights secured).

Women and young people constitute the two groups most vulnerable to HIV infection in Africa. Half of all new HIV infections occur in the 15 to 24 age groups, while women constitute 57% of all those infected. Women and children deserve special attention in the design and implementation of successful interventions. However, men, because of the patriarchal and communal nature of African culture, powerfully influence both vulnerable groups. Any successful intervention must therefore prioritize men. The family is the one place where all three target groups intersect.

Nhau MuchiShona (21-12-06)
Fears of imminent blackout(07-12-06)

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