G20: A voice from Malawi


Dorothy Ngoma at Oxfam's Gender Justice Summit. (Allan Lissner/Oxfam Canada)

By Dorothy Ngoma, G20 citizen contributor

Dorothy Ngoma is the Executive Director of the National Organisation of Nurses and Midwives of Malawi and a member of the W8, a parallel organization to the G8 featuring women community leaders from developing countries.

In Malawi, we nurses see many women and children who are living marginal lives, in places where they feel little hope, and where they are surrounded by death and disease. That is part of the reason I joined the W8, a group of powerful women who represent the world's poor at the highest political level. We are strong women, strong leaders and strong campaigners from places like India, Thailand and Nicaragua who believe that education and health care must be accessible by all.
At the W8, we carry the voice of the poor to the G8. We are saying "keep the promise."
Sometimes it can feel that the fight is long and the victories are few. But our success can mean the difference between life and death.
Last April we happened to be in Europe doing a number of campaigns and we heard that there were three planes of generic drugs sitting on an airport tarmac in Denmark. These drugs were bound for Africa. They were anti-malarial pills, tuberculosis drugs, medication to help stop bleeding in women during delivery. They were anti-retrovirals, which help people live with HIV.
The drugs had probably come from India or China, where they were produced cheaply and could be sold cheaply. But they had contravened some kind of patent law, and so they had decided that the planes would just sit there. The planes had been grounded for about three months.
We requested a meeting with Danish politicians. We waited and waited and made it clear that we would keep waiting. When the meeting finally happened, only five politicians came, but that was fine for us. We went to their parliament and made it very clear that they must release those planes, because our children are dying.
We gave them the statistics and I told them that 16 women would die on this day because you guys are holding these drugs. They are sitting at your airport and you don't seem to care. We told them, we are not leaving until we are told you will do the right thing to save lives, because you are world leaders.
For two hours we were there. Eight powerful women. Eight very strong, powerful, militant women screaming to get those planes leaving.
We had to leave a few days later, but we learned that the planes left a week later.
That's why the W8 is here. We bring the voice of the poor to the highest political level, in this case the G8. They need to know the impact their policies are having with the world's poorest people.
So what we're saying to the G8 is this: Invest. Invest the resources to support developing countries. Keep your promises for funding. Because there are people at the end of these policies and they need and deserve your leadership.