Letter to World Leaders Calls for Action on Gender Equality, Fight Against AIDS

WASHINGTON — Ahead of International Women’s Day, 45 female activists from Africa co-signed an open letter to world leaders calling for concrete action on gender equality. In the letter, these advocates warn, at our current rate of progress, gender equality will take 108 years to achieve.

The co-signers, all women on frontlines of the gender equality fight in their communities in Africa, are advocating for progress on women’s rights and support for global health programs like the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB, and Malaria.  Their call is supported by powerful voices like Bono, Danai Gurira, Oprah, David Oyelowo, and Tom Brady. 

“For the girls who are married off as children or not allowed to go to school; for the women dying of AIDS – warm words are not enough. We need urgent action.” said Wadi Victoria Ben-Hirki, co-signer and founder of the Wadi Ben-Hirki (WBH) Foundation. “Politicians are saying the right things, but their rhetoric needs to convert to reality. We need to close the gap between promises and progress.”

AIDS-related illnesses are now the leading cause of death for women aged 15 to 44 on the planet, and 1,000 young women contract HIV every day. Later this year, the United States will need to make a pledge to the Global Fund, one of the most effective global health organizations on the planet. It isvital that elected officials continue the United States’ one-third pledge to the Global Fund and send a strong signal to the world that America’s leadership in the fight against poverty and disease remains steadfast. 

The full text of the letter reads:

Dear World Leaders,

We are the women at the frontlines of the fight against gender inequality and global poverty.

Every day we see the determination and dignity of girls and women facing down the toughest challenges. We see real advances and the power of people to achieve change.  We won’t surrender this fight, but we need you to play your part.

You promised to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls by 2030, but at the current rate of progress, this will take 108 years. This is unacceptable.  We need genuine progress, not grand promises.

We want implementation and accountability at every level – from this year’s G7 Summit to the Global Fund Replenishment; from our African Union leaders to our community leaders. We will be looking for your actions not your words; for funding to follow promises; and policy to turn into practice. It’s both the right and the smart thing to do for everyone.

To accelerate progress men must demand change with us so that we rise united not divided.  And women must have a seat at the decision-making table – because you can’t change what you don’t see.  

We’re not looking for your sympathy, we’re demanding your action. Because none of us are equal until all of us are equal.


Melene Rossouw, South Africa (Women Lead Movement)

Joannie Marlene Bewa, Benin (Young Beninese Leaders Association)

Wadi Victoria Ben-Hirki, Nigeria (ONE Champion/Wadi Ben-Hirki Foundation)

Samira Sanusi, Nigeria (Samira Sanusi Sickle Cell Foundation)

Fridah Githuku, Kenya (GROOTS)

Naomi Tulay Solanke, Liberia (Community Health Initiative)

Chmba Ellen Chilemba, Malawi (Tiwale Women’s Organization)

Togola Hawa Semega, Mali (KUNAFONI)

Dieynaba Sidibe, Senegal (Grafitti Artist known as “Zeinixx” Works at Africulturban)

Lola Omolola, Nigeria (FIN)

Aya Chebbi, Tunisia (African Union Youth Envoy)

Lydia Charles Moyo, Tanzania (Femina Hip)

Elizabeth Wanja Ngeth, Kenya (Kijiji Afrika)

Olaoluwa Abagun, Nigeria (Girl Pride Circle)

Mercy Abang, Nigeria (United Nations Journalism fellow)

Karimot Odebode, Nigeria (ONE Champion)

Dr. Stellah Wairimu Bosire, Kenya ((UHAI EASHRI)

Dolapo Olaniyan, Nigeria (The UnCut Initiative)

Scheaffer Okore, Kenya (Pan African Chamber of Commerce)

Diana Ninsiima, Tanzania (DOT Tanzania)

Salimatou Fatty, Gambia (GPE youth advocate)

Mildred Ngesa, Kenya (FEMNET)

Memory Kachambwa, Zimbabwe (FEMNET)

Julie Cissé, Senegal (GIPS WAR)

Dr. Tlaleng Mofokeng, South Africa (Global Doctors for Choice)

Mylene Flicka, Benin (Blogger)

Mercy Juma, Kenya (Broadcast journalist)

Oluwaseun Ayodeji Osowobi, Nigeria (Stand to End Rape Initiative)

Amina Abdulazeez, Nigeria (ONE Champion)

Hauwa Liman, Nigeria (Inspire for Impact)

Linet Kwamboka, Kenya (DataScience)

Saran Keïta Diakite, Mali (Malian Advocacy Group on SDGs)

Sagara Saran Bouare, Mali (Women in Law and Development – WILDAF)

Maimouna Dioncounda Dembele, Mali (Human Rights Activist)

Mariam Diallo, Mali (Association for Women’s Leadership and Development – AFLED)

Nana Toure, Mali (Sahel Youth Network)

Valérie Traoré, Senegal (Niyel)

Imameleng Masitha, South Africa (The Sexual and Reproductive Justice Coalition)

Mama Koité Doumbia, Mali (FEMNET Mali)

Refilwe Ledwaba, South Africa (Girl Fly Programme in Africa Foundation – GFPA)

Anta Fall Basse Konté, Senegal (FAWE Sénégal)

Danedjo Hadidja, Cameroon (APAD Maroua)

Martha Muhwezi, Kenya (FAWE)

Françoise Kpeglo Moudouthe (co-founder of Girls Not Brides)

Nana Semuah Bressey, Ghana (Nurse)

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