Dany Philippe – Mauritius

Dany Philippe – Mauritius

Date: May 29, 2012
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I work with a very new organization called LEAD, based in the capital of Mauritius. My work started much earlier than that, though, in 1998, working in the areas of HIV/AIDs, substance abuse, and drug prevention. I worked in a rehabilitation center, but after many years there, I could see the need for new ways of working. We were making a small difference in one place, but for wider change we had to reach out to other organizations, and create linkages.

Now, I work with a CSO that values working as an association. We have an executive committee with 11 people, that is gender balanced. We work in 12 neighborhoods to train leaders and community development officers. One element of our work that I find particularly meaningful is the international AIDs candle lighting ceremony, every 20th of May. We hold national and local activities on this day, and the solidarity and symbolism of these activities is always inspirational; we have more than 20 neighborhoods involved.

Even though we are still a new organization, we have managed to forge a close connection to Gender Links. This has been essential to our work, because gender issues are so intertwined with HIV/AIDs. At the moment, we share office space with Gender Links. So far, they have helped us a lot to build media and communications capacity.

We have many ideas for future cooperation, and I have no doubt that as our work grows from a nascent organization, our partnership with Gender Links will also grow. We have a vision of training leaders, even in small villages throughout the country, that can work in schools and other places in the community. We can get there if everyone works together. We have a lot of opportunities; even in rural areas, people are quite aware of HIV/AIDs, and know the risks. There is a lot of awareness, and a lot of willingness to collaborate in solving this problem. However, there are also conservative communities where talking about sexuality is a taboo, and where culture can be very restrictive. This is where we are learning about different ways of bringing our message to people, and one space where we can continue to collaborate with Gender Links.

So far, we have worked very hard with civil society to get free access for all. The progress we have made in building a civil society coalition on this has been very rewarding. Working together as a network can be very challenging, because it comes with so many difficult political dynamics. But we know that it’s worth it when we see the results; today in Mauritius, HIV positive individuals who are not working receive a pension, and free transport. This has been a great achievement. However, big challenges still remained. For example, we have the highest rate of intravenous drug use in sub-Saharan Africa. We are a free and democratic country, and if we all work together, civil society and government, men and women, we can really accomplish a lot. We are taking steps in the right direction, getting municipalities and district councils on board. With all this good will, now is the time that we must work particularly hard to fight HIV/AIDs and achieve gender equality.


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