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First Ladies from Commonwealth Member Countries Join Battle Against Cervical Cancer

by Daniel Sabiiti
6:58 pm

First Lady Jeannette Kagame speaking at the launcheon

Spouses and partners of Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM2022) in Kigali have committed to take action on cervical cancer elimination ensuring women have access to vaccines.

The commitment was made this June 24, 2022 during a CHOGM luncheon side event that brought together partners of Commonwealth (CW) Heads of Governments and Foreign Ministers to discuss the way forward in beating cancer among women.

Hosted by Rwanda’s First Lady Jeannette Kagame, the event also brought together First Ladies, cancer survivors, international health organizations and members of the International Taskforce on Cervical Cancer Elimination in the Commonwealth.

In 2018, the World Health Organization (WHO) called for global action to end cervical cancer this century, a treatable disease that kills one woman every two minute globally while 600,000 women get infected every year.

Though the Commonwealth represents only 30 per cent of the world’s population, it accounts for 40 per cent of global cervical cancer incidence and 43 per cent of cervical cancer mortality.

Conquering Cancer is Possible

Through the current “Conquering Cancer” campaign which shows the world that cervical cancer elimination is possible.

Mrs. Kagame said that the Global Cervical Cancer Elimination Strategy is a key to reaching the  2030 Sustainable Development Goal target 3 and 4, which aims to reduce by one third, the occurrence of premature death as the result of a Non-Communicable Disease.

One of the features of this strategy is the vaccination of girls under 13 years, against Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) which causes cervical cancer.

First Lady Jeannette Kagame said that Rwanda is no exception to this Commonwealth-wide commitment against cervical cancer.

“We are confident that in the next couple of years, before 2030, 70% of women eligible for cervical cancer screening will have received their potentially-life saving screening,” she said.

“The Global Cervical Cancer Elimination Strategy is our guide; vaccines, screenings and treatments our tools, the responsibilities we hold over women and all members of the Commonwealth, in sickness and health, our manifesto.”

Cancer survivor Karen Nakawala spoke about the devastating impact of cancer. She said: “Going through cancer impacts your life in all forms, in all sorts.

“As a woman, it impacts your sexuality, it impacts your mental health, it impacts your physical health, so it impacts you in more ways than you can imagine, and I think that is why I get annoyed when I hear a woman has died of cervical cancer – a cancer that we can eliminate because we have the tools, and we have the know-how. So why are we still letting our sisters die?” Nakawala said.

WHO Assistant Director-General for Family, Women, Children and Adolescents, Dr. Princess Nothemba Simelela, urged the Commonwealth spouses to continue leveraging their social capital in advocating for expanded access to cervical cancer prevention and treatment services, and to share experiences to achieve their common goals toward elimination.

At the luncheon, the initiation of the Lancet Oncology/Commonwealth Secretariat Commission report on International Development Aid and Global Oncology was also launched.

This report will take stock of the landscape of cancer research and cancer care for the 2.5 billion people that make up the Commonwealth and will inform policies to improve outcomes for patients with cancer.

The event also launched the Commonwealth version of the ‘Conquering Cancer’ documentary which highlights cervical cancer elimination initiatives in various Commonwealth countries.

The documentary was widely welcomed, and delegates agreed to promote it in their own countries, to increase awareness of Cervical Cancer.

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