On a sunny evening in early May – just a few days before Mother`s Day – the sights and sounds of Africa came to downtown Toronto.
More than 150 guests gathered to raise funds in support of improving the health of moms and babies throughout communities in sub-Saharan Africa. Guests scooped up unique silent auction items, enjoyed African-inspired food, shopped at vendors selling African-made crafts and bid on some exciting items (including a safari in Kenya!) in a live auction. The Resolutionaries Marimba Band kept guests entertained with live music. And, some lucky people went home with up to 12 bottles of wine, thanks to their winning ticket in the wine wall raffle.
Amref Health Africa’s Global CEO Dr. Githinji Gitahi, visiting from our headquarters in Kenya, thanked the guests for their support and highlighted the organization’s 60 years of experience partnering with African communities for lasting health change. He also drew upon the stark contrasts in the health care available to Canadians versus people living in sub-Saharan Africa – contrasts that mean 5 of 10 deaths in sub-Saharan Africa are children under the age of five while in Canada, 8 of 10 deaths are people over the age of 60.
Keynote speaker Nice Nailantei Leng’ete shared her experience as an eight-year-old girl who spoke out against the practice of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM, also known as Female Genital Cutting or FGC) in her Maasai community in Kenya. Young Maasai girls are often subjected to FGM/C as part of a cultural rite of passage into womanhood. Nice told the guests how she ran away, more than once, to avoid FGM/C and how her grandfather eventually agreed that she could wait to be circumcised, thinking that Nice would one day relent. It wasn’t until Nice told her grandfather that she would leave home for good to avoid FGM/C that he consented to her decision.
From that day forward, Nice told the guests, she worked within her community to end the practice of FGM/C, eventually winning the support of elders, men, and women to maintain the rites of passage for girls without FGM/C. Today, Nice continues to work with communities to address harmful traditional practices, such as FGM/C and early marriage, that prevent girls from becoming, what she calls, “the women of their dreams.”
More than 30 volunteers at MAMAOTO ensured a fun evening for everyone, doing everything from welcoming guests, to managing the silent auction, to serving appetizers and drinks, to cleaning up at the end of the night.
MAMATOTO could not have happened without the support of our lead sponsor, Morneau Shepell, and all those who contributed to making the evening such a success!