Good morning. It is my pleasure to be here on this day of celebration. It is inspiring to look back on the USAID-funded Tsela Kgopo project and think about how many lives the project has touched, how many people are better off as a result of its hard work over the last five years.
The U.S. Government, through the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), has supported the Government of Botswana since 2003 in its response to HIV/AIDS, including care and support for orphans and vulnerable children, and by addressing gender inequalities that contribute to the spread of the disease.
The Tsela Kgopo project has been a shining star in Botswana’s efforts to combat HIV/AIDS at the community level. For five years the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) worked closely with local partners through the project to bring crucial health and social services to thousands of people in Botswana, including the almost 15 percent of children in the country who are orphans.
The U.S. government is proud to have collaborated with multiple government partners and ministries on this project.
I am also proud of our partner, Project Concern International, which implemented this USAID-funded project and ensured its success. In order to conduct the project, PCI established firm ties with multiple local organizations that understand the country, the context, and its people. I would like to thank all of those valuable partners today as well.
One of the hallmarks of USAID’s health programs in Botswana is a strong emphasis on community engagement, and this project is an outstanding example of that approach. The project focused right at the community level – with direct home visits, early childhood services, life skills training, even homework support – to make changes stick and give people in need every opportunity to thrive.
Through the Comprehensive Family Care approach, the project targeted vulnerable households to identify orphans and other vulnerable children, vulnerable caregivers, expectant mothers, abuse victims, unemployed youth, HIV positive, and chronically ill individuals to offer them critical services.
The Tsela Kgopo project also worked tirelessly for the welfare of women and girls. Fighting gender-based violence is a crucial part of the nation’s strategy to defeat HIV/AIDS, since we know it is one of the key drivers of the epidemic. Nearly 13,000 people were reached with services explicitly addressing gender-based violence related to HIV/AIDS. The project also helped establish self-help savings and lending groups to offer vulnerable women financial protection. During the course of implementation, 204 groups were formed with over 2,000 members, totaling over three hundred and fifty-six thousand pula in savings.
The good news is that this work will go forward. The local organizations that implemented the project remain operational, and their efforts will continue in a sustainable way long after the project ends.
As Nelson Mandela said, “There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.” Our two nations are united in the belief that we must protect the precious resource of our youngest generation. Over 31,000 orphans and vulnerable children were reached through this project, each one of whom deserves every chance of happiness and success. We are pleased to stand with all of the institutions that came together over the last five years to ensure a brighter future for these children and their families.
Thank you very much.