Former Peace Corps leader spreads word about AIDS prevention

Former USF President Betty Castor introduced Carol Bellamy Wednesday afternoon by asking how many people in the audience were returned Peace Corps volunteers.

The large number of raised hands that answered her question proved the influence of the Peace Corps, which Bellamy once led Bellamy was also the President of UNICEF for 10 years. Although she has been called a “radical feminist” by her critics, she has achieved success in the field of international relief and development. Before entering this field, Bellamy was an investment banker and politician, as well as the first woman President of the New York City Council.

When she began at UNICEF, New Yorkers would stop her on the street, recognizing her from her days in city government, and ask her how it felt to be out of politics.”I’m at the UN,” she would say. “I’m not out of politics.”

When discussing her passion of putting an end to the poverty that plagues two million people globally, Bellamy couldn’t help but address the role of the United States.

“We live in an incredible country, but it’s a very inward-looking country,” she said. “Our international news really stinks, frankly. If you want to get a story on the international news, you need to have the word ‘terrorism’ in there.”

Specifically, Bellamy takes issue with the United State’s silence on some major humanitarian problems.

“I suspect that if the entire state of Michigan dies within the course of a year, someone would notice.”

She went on to say that Michigan has a population of 10 million.

“In 2007, 10 million children under the age of 5 will die from preventable diseases like dehydration, malaria and measles. That’s 39,000 children under the age of 5 dying every day.”

She pointed out that the United States gives less than 1 percent of its budget to international aid, and 50 percent of that aid goes to six countries – all of which are allies in the War on Terror.

Bellamy is passionate about education for women and girls. She praised Nobel Peace Prize Winner Mohammed Yunus – but was quick to point out that Yunus didn’t discover microcredit – he simply involved women in the process.

Her mantra is “Empower women and educate girls!”

“If you do that, you’re going to have a dramatic impact,” she said. “If you want a return on your investment, educate girls. That’s it. If I did nothing else between now and when I kick the bucket, it would be that.”

Women who receive an education are more likely to be in good health and less likely to be a victim of HIV/AIDS, she said. Bellamy recounted that the subject of HIV/AIDS is getting an increasingly “female face” because of power relations affecting women in developing countries. She said that AIDS is a global issue, not just an African issue.

“We’re celebrating a terrible anniversary,” she said. “It’s 25 years since the discovery of AIDS – and it’s not going away.”

According to Bellamy, the answer to this is leadership.

“Leadership. Leadership plays a role,” she said. “Life is about choices. Poverty doesn’t just come out of nowhere, AIDS doesn’t spread through the air, war just doesn’t happen. It’s about choices. The world has to be better prepared to hold leadership accountable.”