New York, 26 September 2018

  • Madame Adjoayi Sika Kaboré, First Lady of Burkina Faso, and President of the Organisation of African First Ladies
  • First Ladies, Members of OAFLA
  • Distinguished Participants; Ladies and Gentlemen

Maybe we should broaden this and call it First Spouses so that when some of you become Heads of State then the other partners can be around.

Let me also add that first, as you know with the General Assembly, I had a lot of engagements which I had some to cancel, others to postpone and find other ways.

Where I come from, when ladies call, you answer the call very fast and ready. So I had to answer the call of Madam Kaboré when she invited me on behalf of you First Ladies.

I am pleased to join you for this timely and important event, and I thank the Organisation of African First Ladies, for the invitation.

Africa cannot achieve socio-economic transformation when our people are not in good health.

Non-communicable diseases, especially cancer, are a growing public health threat and concern on our continent, exacerbated by weak health systems that we have to keep strengthening.

Africans who get sick, are more likely to die, than people in other regions, because life-saving treatment comes too late if it can be accessed at all.

Persistent gender inequality adds another layer of risk, for the health of women and girls.

Lower income and education levels, among other factors, contribute to disproportionately negative health outcomes.

The situation is most acute, with diseases that only affect women, such as breast and cervical cancer. Without proactive, gender-based policy-making, women’s unique health needs are likely to be neglected by health systems.

The scarcity of female doctors may also lead women to defer seeking treatment for sensitive conditions until it is too late.

However, like many of the challenges that Africa is facing, we know what needs to be done, and we have the means to work together and make progress.

We have seen good results, in controlling other complex medical challenges, such as HIV/AIDS. These experiences hold valuable lessons for the fight to protect women’s health.

First, there is consensus globally and in Africa, about the positive impact of Universal Health Insurance. It can be made affordable at every income level, and it saves lives.

Integrating routine cancer screening into primary healthcare facilities increases the likelihood of early detection and treatment.

Second, we need to continue investing in innovative partnerships, to build strong and sustainable national health systems. Increased political will is required to ensure that we meet these strategic objectives.

Finally, more Africans than ever before own mobile phones and access the internet. Digital tools are already transforming healthcare delivery, by expanding access and reducing costs.

But we should always ask if women’s health has been adequately incorporated when deploying new technological applications.

Momentum is building globally, in the fight against breast and cervical cancer. The United Nations High-Level Meeting on Non-Communicable Diseases, taking place tomorrow, is an important signal.

So is the ongoing work of the African First Ladies, together with the African Union and the World Health Organisation, to produce a roadmap for advocacy, that will add enormous value to these efforts.

Distinguished First Ladies, Ladies, and Gentlemen; we are just here once again to join you and commit ourselves, our country, our people, and especially our women, to this cause that we can fight and win.

I wish to congratulate you for this important work, and I thank you for your kind attention.