News at DCU

Rose Bowl Sculpture unveiled

On Friday 30 November, the Kenyan Ambassador, Catherine Muigai Mwangi, unveiled the new Rose Bowl sculpture which has been donated to Dublin City University by the Rose Project. The ceremony was attended by DCU President, Professor Brian MacCraith, Mary Donohoe, Founder of the Rose Project and the artist Sandra Bell and her partner Derek.

Chief Operations Officer of DCU, Dr Declan Raftery, welcomed the Ambassador and guests to the ceremony which was being held on the eve of World AIDS Day. He said that he was particularly delighted to unveil the sculpture in its present location on the Main Mall; it will be enjoyed and appreciated by the whole DCU community of staff and students and by visitors to the campus. He went on to add, "The university is very honoured that the Rose Bowl has found a permanent home at DCU; it will be a visually remarkable reminder of the millions of AIDS sufferers and survivors throughout the world."

In her speech, Mary Donohoe outlined the background to the Rose Project, an Irish humanitarian organisation which has been funding innovative locally-led health programmes in Kenya and Malawi over the last ten years. The Rose Bowl was commissioned in honour of Rose Atieno, a 32 year old Kenyan woman who died as a result of AIDS, and who is estimated to have been the 40 millionth person to have lost her life to AIDS.

According to Mary Donohoe, who met Rose in November 2003, the day before she passed away:

"Rose lived in a rat-infested hut cared for by her 7 year old son. Her husband was HIV positive, and her daughter became infected as a result of HIV transmission during pregnancy."

There are no words to describe that encounter - the level of her physical and emotional distress which were due to abject poverty. The complete absence of healthcare was such that I decided that I would do everything possible to raise the profile of the pandemic and funds to alleviate the suffering associated with the disease.

Central to raising the profile of HIV was the decision of The Rose Project to commission a sculpture of Rose to commemorate her life and to remember all those who had lost their lives to the pandemic. Sandra Bell's beautiful sculpture has truly captured the essence of Rose.

Although the biological mechanisms underlying HIV/AIDS transmission are well-characterized, HIV prevalence and incidence continues to increase, demonstrating the need for improving understanding of the social and behavioural factors that contribute to HIV transmission.

It has been known for a long time within the international development community that the burden of the epidemic has rested on women and young girls since the early days of the HIV response. However thirty years on, decision-makers have failed to provide an enabling environment that allows women and girls to reduce their vulnerability to the virus.

Young women represent 72% of all those infected between 15-24 in Africa. If we are to address this tragic reality, gender inequality and gender-based abuse and violence must be addressed.

Universities are pillars for change in society, and this was central to the Rose Project when considering a final resting place for the sculpture. I can't think of a more progressive, motivated and dynamic university than Dublin City University as a home for this sculpture - a place where the issues that are driving this pandemic can be addressed and most importantly acted upon through the various Schools and Faculties.

The Rose Project currently works in partnership with the University of North Carolina and Helse Bergin University in Norway towards making healthcare assessible to some of the most disenfranchised women and children in the world. The current focus of The Rose Project's work is in Malawi where in 2009 we built a 200 bed maternity hospital in the capital city of Lilongwe. This is the largest maternal hospital in Africa facilitating 16,000 births annually. In addition, we fund a programme in partnership with Irish Aid ensuring all mothers attending the rural ante natal clinics surrounding Lilongwe and the maternity hospital itself have the option to be tested for HIV and receive treatment if positive. Finally Rose Atieno inspired me to take action - I can only hope that her presence here on campus has a similar effect on you and leads you to examine through the various schools why such injustices which lead to her death existed in the first place and tragically continue to exist. Hopefully you will then take action."