Remarks by Mrs. Celina Cossa

Celina Cossa accepts award

On The Occasion of the Award Ceremony of the Africa Prize For Leadership for the Sustainable End of Hunger

New York, October 3, 1998

Mr. Chairperson, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

One day the true history of mankind will be written, and it will be a history of struggle and sacrifice, of war and peace, of failure and success.

It will be a history of the efforts and sweat of anonymous men and women associated with organizations such as the General Union of Cooperatives of Maputo.

It will be a history of the efforts and support of anonymous men and women associated with numerous non governmental organizations such as The Hunger Project.

It will be a history of men and women from different countries and continents that together have grabbed the moment and built a better world than the one in which they were living.

Mr. Chairperson, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

We grew up with the indignity of the colonial system in which everything: land, education, knowledge, means of production, was owned by the settlers. We grew up in a society in which social, racial, religious and gender discrimination was the dominant regime.

It is against all these odds that we struggled. And our form of struggle was through production. Since we did not command technology, we committed ourselves to training and literacy. By producing, we learned. By learning, we produced more and we produced better. And so we freed ourselves from the complexes of the past.

We engaged the struggle through the most vulnerable sector of the society - women and children that comprise the majority of the population. It is for the emancipation and dignity of women and for the secure future of our children that we develop our work in the General Union of Cooperatives of Maputo.

Whereas a woman's technical capacity grows through training and literacy, it is through production that she recognizes her role in the transformation of society. She is no more a passive component but a participatory component of the community, opening the way to social stability based on mutual respect and personal achievement, human dignity and self reliance.

Gender issues have always been a high priority in our organization, so we have involved ourselves in the problems of women, of maternity, of the health and education of children, the value of the family and the cohesion of the social group. Thus the mother can participate with greater dedication and security in productive activities.

For the next generation, besides the stability of family life created by mothers, it is the access to our schools, from kindergarten to the secondary and intermediate technical levels, and some even to university level that insure that our movement will continue.

Economical and social sustainability is based on principles and tools that have been evolving through a process of continuous systematic evaluation of results and discussions with the members of the associated cooperatives.

We are not dealing with a finished model of rural intervention, nor does it seem to be replicable. Our own perception continues to evolve and today we are quite far from our starting point.

We will carry on working together and will continue to do everything possible to improve ourselves and view the future with serenity and optimism. This is the challenge that we the cooperative members face, in order that future generations do not recall in us an image of poverty, of disease, of hunger, an image that for so long represented our continent, but that we wish only to be a souvenir of the past.

Mr. Chairperson, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is with great emotion that I am present at this ceremony. I am only able to be here today because of the enormous effort and participation of thousands of women, who have allowed us to reach the stage in which we find ourselves presently.

Allow me to refer here to the Government of my country that has always supported us, thus participating in the accomplishments we have attained so far.

I consider that the prize awarded to me is in fact a prize to the General Union of Cooperatives of Maputo, to all the women members, and to the people of Mozambique.

Above all, this Prize and this ceremony demand that we continue on the path in which we are engaged, certain that we are not alone, that we will continue to enjoy the support of all our friends and of the Government of Mozambique. We will not deceive you.

Thank you The Hunger Project.