Highlights from RESULTS International Conference
“Time for Treatment,” she yelled.
“Ayyy, Ayyy!” the crowd responded.
Last week at the RESULTS International Conference (IC) near Washington, DC, Linda Mafu of the World AIDS Campaign in South Africa led RESULTS activists in a toyi toyi, a kind of South African protest, about access to HIV/AIDS treatment. Rising to their feet, US activists joined her in marching and calling for actions from government. Throughout the week, the call from partners remained the same – now is the time for treatment, and the US must continue to lead to end the AIDS epidemic.
For me, watching Linda draw everyone together to stand up and march really set the tone for the conference. This IC, more than ever, was about joining voices from all over the world to advocate for the rights to health, education and economic opportunity for the very poor. There we were, in a typical DC hotel conference space, toyi toyi-ing to end poverty.
With activists from over 30 states and 9 countries, RESULTS had over 400 people attending the IC to participate in advocacy skills trainings, issue briefings, and then Lobby Day on Capitol Hill to talk to members of Congress and their staff about both global and domestic poverty. By strategically aligning the RESULTS conference at the same time as the International AIDS Society Conference (AIDS 2012) at the same time, RESULTS had our largest conference ever. With this critical mass, we were able to have over 300 lobby meetings with members of the House and Senate.
As we all recuperate from the week of activities, will continue to post other updates from activists on the blog about their experiences at the IC but here are some of my highlights:
- 50 young people ages 18-25 participated in the IC through the RESULTS Emerging Activist Leaders scholarship program. These folks came from all over the US – literally from Alaska to Florida! I loved the energy they brought to the conference and I’m thrilled that these savvy young people are the future of RESULTS.
- More new activists than ever before attended the IC 2012! It was especially exciting to have activists from partner organizations like Feminine Power, Shot@Life, ACEI, FACE AIDS, Student Global AIDS Campaign, and Stop Hunger Now join forces with RESULTS.
- In her third year with RESULTS, volunteer Nancy Gardiner kicked off the conference and spoke about her journey to become an activist to end poverty. She told all the new people at the IC that she knew just what it was like to be in their shoes. Her words were wise, inspiring, and inviting. Watching her reminded me how anyone has the potential to grow into a powerhouse advocate.
- Former Senator and new RESULTS board member Bob Bennett shared his views of how to meet with members of Congress. This intimate view of what members of Congress think and how to influence them was really candid and helpful for volunteers going to Capitol Hill on Tuesday.
- Joining forces and building new relationships with African advocates (from South Africa, Senegal, Zambia, Kenya, Tanzania and Malawi) that were in town for AIDS 2012. I know having these partners go with RESULTS activists to Capitol Hill and represent their perspective countries added to the US advocacy efforts to fully fund the Global Fund.
- South African pop star Yvonne Chaka Chaka, the princess of Africa, breaking it down at the RESULTS reception on Capitol Hill.
- Getting to see all the amazing RESULTS volunteers in person!
On Tuesday after a long day of meetings with members of Congress and their staff, I got to hear several success stories from volunteers and watch them dance to Yvonne Chaka Chaka’s singing in the House Rayburn building. From what I saw and heard, I think this was the best RESULTS conference I’ve attended. I think many others would agree.
From toyi toyi-ing to dancing, this RESULTS International Conference was a festive affair. Who knew empowering citizens to fight poverty could be so much fun?