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Tanzania, United Republic of

Girls’ education advocate delivers message of hope to First Spouses during World Summit

© UNICEF/HQ05-1131/ Markisz
Lydia Wilbard, an advocate for girls’ education in Africa, speaks with Laura Bush, wife of US President George W. Bush, and Nane Annan, Honorary Chairperson of the First Spouses event.

NEW YORK, 23 September 2005 – Like many visitors on their first trip to New York, 26-year-old Lydia Wilbard stopped by the United Nations last week. Unlike most tourists, however, Lydia had arrived to deliver a speech during the 2005 World Summit.

At a briefing for First Spouses hosted by Nane Annan, wife of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, Lydia joined a distinguished panel of speakers who addressed the relationship between girls’ education, HIV/AIDS and development.

The event, co-sponsored by UNICEF and UNAIDS, was moderated by UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman, and also featured remarks from Peter Piot, Executive Director of UNAIDS; Rima Salah, Deputy Executive Director of UNICEF; and Rachel Ong, a peer educator and advocate for HIV-positive youth in Asia.

© UNICEF/HQ05-1131/ Markisz
Lydia Wilbard addresses the briefing for First Spouses on girls’ education, HIV/AIDS and development.

Lydia’s story

Lydia spoke to the First Spouses about the importance of girls’ education and her own struggle to complete school against daunting odds in Tanzania.

Orphaned at the age of 10, Lydia was sent to live with an aunt who already had seven sons. While the boys went to school, she was kept busy with domestic chores, studying late at night after the rest of the household had gone to sleep.

In spite of numerous obstacles, Lydia was the only child in her class to pass the exam for secondary school, and was awarded a scholarship by the government. She is now studying to become a nurse at Muhimbili University in the capital city of Dar es Salaam.

“I bring to you a story of hope,” Lydia told the group, “a real story of hope for village girls like me.”

As well as supporting herself and her extended family by running a small photography business, Lydia works with CAMFED, a non-profit organization dedicated to improving girls’ education in Africa, to ensure that other children will have the opportunities that she fought so hard to secure.

“There are millions of girls, like the Lydia I once was, who can only dream of education,” she said. “They need our assistance, not next year, not tomorrow, but today.”

Watch the video for more on Lydia’s presentation to the First Spouses.




September 2005:
Lydia Wilbard tells her story of hope at the First Spouses briefing, held during the 2005 World Summit.

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