This column is part of Edge's blog by Regina O'Numb. The words and pics are by Debbie Kreuser.

Sunday, 28 November 2010

FOR BONO: Vision Over Visibility

Many U2 fans and followers have long admired U2 for their social activism for issues as diverse as the environment (Greenpeace) to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi (Amnesty International). One of the areas that U2 will be best remembered for in terms of their social activism is Bono's strident advocacy for Africa with his involvement in the establishment of several organizations devoted to a brighter future for the Continent - EDUN, (RED) and, of course, ONE.

This Weds, 1 Dec 2010, World AIDS Day, marks the eight anniversary of "The Heart of America" tour which featured Bono, Ashley Judd, Chris Tucker and several other famous people travelling to nine cities around the "heartland" of the USA speaking about the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Africa and of how average Americans could help them through advocacy for Africa's Future by joining with Bono's new organization, DATA (Debt, AIDS, Trade, Africa).

This tour would also introduce to the world a new spokesperson for Africa, Bono's choice for a "face" of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Africa - Agnes Nyamayarwo of Uganda.

Bono had met Agnes in May 2002 during his infamous trip to Africa with then U.S. Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill. They had visited the office of TASO Uganda ( ) and Bono was so overwhelmed by Agnes' personal life story and the way that she carried herself with dignity, courage and grace, that he recruited her to come to the USA to join him and the others to speak her truth....which she did.

Agnes came to Lincoln Nebraska on World AIDS Day, 1 Dec 2002, and joined the others present there at the forum. She quickly won over the audience's hearts as she shared her story with them that evening in Lincoln.

I know - because I was there. I got the chance to meet most of the participants in that first DATA event, including Agnes and Bono to thank them for bringing to public awareness the situation for people in Africa suffering the adverse effects of HIV/AIDS.

Agnes would go on and stick close to Bono's side over the next five years of African advocacy through DATA, and then through ONE, which came into existence in May 2004.

I met Agnes again in March 2007 at a regional ONE training workshop in Houston and my life has never been the same. We instantly bonded on many levels - as mothers, as women, as social activists. I think we both knew that day that we would be friends for life and that either one of us would do whatever they could for the other.

That was March 2007 - this is November 2010 and nothing has changed. We are as close today as ever....if not more so.

Agnes recruited me to help her to publicize to the world about the women's group that she founded in January 2004 - the Mulago Positive Women's Network (MPWN) of Uganda - a group of women receiving their AIDS meds from TASO Uganda but who had banded together in a women's economic co-operative to try to better support themselves and their children through the sale of their authentically African handmade crafts.

As someone who has long loved crafts from around the world, especially Africa, this was a no-brainer for me. I immediately started posting at U2 fansites about Agnes and the MPWN, started a MySpace page for them, developed a modest website for them and finally found a home for the MPWN at Agnes' Facebook page.

Over the last three years, we have sold approximately $10,000 in MPWN crafts for the women and raised thousands of people's consciousnesses regarding Agnes and the MPWN....but more needs to be done.

And on this World AIDS Day, 1 Dec 2010 - eight years from the start of "The Heart of America" tour - Agnes and the MPWN will launch a new venture that YOU ARE INVITED TO JOIN IN.

Every month, Agnes Nyamayarwo and the women of the Mulago Positive Women's Network will be hosting LIVE interactive online forums at the link below. You will be able to join them in their forum and hear them speak DIRECTLY TO YOU about their daily lives, their needs and their hopes for the future.

You will be able to ask them questions and each month they will feature a different craft item that they make and demonstrate to you exactly how that craft item is made!

It is a BRILLIANT, low-cost way to connect people around the world who support the empowerment of some of the world's poorest women by allowing them control of technology which can vastly improve their lives.

The broadcast will be live between 10:00am - 12:00pm EST on 1 Dec 2010 at this link:

PLEASE JOIN US ON WORLD AIDS DAY as we once again hear from the woman who inspired a movement - Agnes Nyamayarwo of Uganda and members of the MPWN. It is an event that you don't want to miss.

Bono and Agnes at the Lied Center, 1 December 2002, Lincoln Nebraska, at the start of "The Heart of America" tour

Bono and Agnes, May 2004, at the rally which started
the ONE Campaign, Philadelphia PA

Bono's handwritten endorsement given to me by Bono with a big smile on his face in Sept 2009, Chicago Illinois, for our activities for Agnes Nyamayarwo and the MPWN

by Deborah Kreuser ♫