A prominent HIV/AIDS activist, Ms Lennox used her address, which coincided with World AIDS Day, as an opportunity to call for greater action from parliaments in tackling the HIV/AIDS epidemic and working towards the MDGs. She expressed the hope that the week's exchanges 'have helped to create a sense of renewal of purpose towards the MDG targets.' She went on to outline her own efforts, and her particular interest: 'My main passion is aligned to the rights of women and children, as a woman and as a mother.'
Concluding, she reminded the parliamentarians present that 'we are all citizens of the world and have a responsibility to look after those living in it... As Nelson Mandela said, "it's in your hands." And it really is in your hands.'
Also speaking at the session, Rt Hon. Lord Malloch-Brown KCMG PC, former Minister for Africa, Asia and the UN and Government Spokesperson for the FCO took up the theme of parliamentarians' responsibilities, describing the MDGs as 'a modern Magna Carta' and 'a scorecard for voters to hold governments to account.'
The conference then closed with the premiere performance of a play produced for the occasion in partnership between People’s Palace Project, Queen Mary University and the State of the Nation Crew, Theatre Royal Stratford East.
The piece, in which actors spoke verbatim words of people living with HIV/AIDS, included hard-hitting messages such as ‘As a society we need a re-education of the importance of humanity and compassion,' challenging attitudes toward HIV/AIDS and encouraging parliamentarians to advocate against the stigma and discrimination that is so often faced by those suffering from the disease.
Over the course of the day, delegates also had the opportunity to hold in-depth discussions of possible approaches to vulnerable groups in society. In breakout sessions, they made specific recommendations to parliamentarians as to how to empower women and girls, HIV/AIDS sufferers, indigenous and minority communities and people with disabilities.
The major point to emerge in relation to all four groups was the need to change cultural perceptions and remove stigma, specifically making the media more inclusive to challenge stereotypes. It was also suggested that governments and parliamentarians lead by example – including disabled people in their staff, acting as cultural champions for ethnic communities, working towards gender balance in parliament, and giving accurate information on HIV/AIDS on a national level.
Tomorrow, delegates will disperse to share these and other resolutions with their respective legislatures; we hope that all found the conference constructive and beneficial.