It is with great pleasure that I participate in tonight’s ceremony celebrating the Maatla project. I have enjoyed listening to partners reflect on project achievements and the lessons that have been learned to enhance Botswana’s civil society sector.
It is encouraging to look back on USAID’s Maatla project and think about how many organizations the project has strengthened, how many people and institutions are better off due to its work over the last five years.
I love the name of the project, Maatla, meaning “strength.” Botswana truly is a country of strength in so many ways: the close ties and warmth of its people, its beautiful natural landscape, its commitment to freedom, and its strong and peaceful democracy. We celebrate these strengths with special attention this month, as we approach Botswana’s fiftieth anniversary of independence on September 30.
But of course there is still work to be done: to strengthen the country even further. Since 2004, the U.S. Government, through the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (or “PEPFAR”), has contributed more than seven hundred and fifty million dollars supporting the Government of Botswana in its response to HIV/AIDS. Through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the Maatla project steadfastly supported civil society organizations throughout the country since 2011 with training, development, and direct assistance.
In fact, 20 national NGOs and 84 district level organizations benefited from the project. Civil society organizations are out on the frontlines: delivering many important services to the people of Botswana, including HIV prevention, care and support; stigma reduction; services for orphans and vulnerable children; tuberculosis interventions; and gender-based violence awareness and prevention.
Maatla offered valuable skill-building to these organizations, including training on how to ensure quality services, obtain funding, develop long-term strategies, and collect accurate data. These organizations now have improved financial management, leadership and governance standards, training manuals, and many other technical resources. Armed with the right tools, Botswana’s civil society organizations are empowered and ready to respond to the health issues facing the country.
Although we are here today to mark the end of the Maatla project, U.S. government support to Botswana’s health systems continues in numerous different ways. USAID works closely with Botswana to improve health outcomes through many other PEPFAR-funded projects, including the “Linkages to Care” and “Advancing Partners and Communities” projects also managed by FHI 360. These projects are already taking into account lessons learned from Maatla and replicating its methods to enrich performance of their programs.
One of the hallmarks of USAID’s health program in Botswana is sustainability: connecting with the government and local organizations to equip them to proceed with the work on their own. Maatla is a great example of this approach. The network of civil society organizations strengthened by the project will use the provided tools and techniques to keep improving, to keep strengthening themselves from the inside out to defeat the HIV/AIDS epidemic and secure a bright future for all of Botswana’s population.
I would like to thank everyone involved in the success of Maatla, including our partner, FHI 360, which implemented this USAID project and helped ensure its success. I would also like to thank the Government of Botswana for its collaboration on Maatla and continued partnership with the United States government in general. We are proud of Maatla’s achievements and would like to congratulate everyone on a job well done.
Thank you. Pula!