My fellow brecanites, I am so delighted to be in your midst today. It is a joy to experience the first ever BRECAN Annual General Meeting. This is indeed an exciting landmark in BRECAN’s history and we should all be proud of this feat. This year marks the 24th year of BRECAN’s existence and as a founding member, I can authoritatively tell you that BRECAN has been through it all. We didn’t get here by chance, we have been through the highs and the lows, we have gathered in many and in few, we have had days of plenty and days of nothing, in all this however, one thing remained constant; our dogged resolve to eliminate breast cancer as a life threatening disease in Nigeria.
Truly BRECAN has not been without her challenges but these challenges have toughened us up and helped us navigate the muddy waters of dysfunctional health system and poor attitude towards volunteerism. BRECAN as an NGO depends on volunteers and donors to achieve her aim, unfortunately, many Nigerians do not understand the concept of volunteerism. Many that started this journey with us left midway, they did not get the financial gains they thought will come with being a member of BRECAN.
We have come a long way in this journey and I am thankful to everyone for being a part of BRECAN’s success story (both those who were once with us and those who still are, you all have contributed your quota in the fight against breast cancer and you are highly appreciated). When we started in 1997, we were very few. At that time, women were ashamed to be tagged a breast cancer survivor due to the stigma, but today the story is different. We have more women coming out to tell their stories as survivors, and this has led to the establishment of Team Survivor Nigeria, an arm of BRECAN, providing financial and psychosocial support to breast cancer patients.
Over the past years we have made giant strides. We have supported hundreds of breast cancer patients through our crowd funding. Although getting the funds has not been easy, that soothing sigh of relief that is glaringly expressed in the face of the beneficiaries and their families brings immeasurable joy to the heart of every BRECANite and gives us the nudge to do more. We are equally all aware that our advocacy activities have been yielding remarkable results in the past few years.
After series of advocacy visit to the Ondo state house of assembly, the state legislators voted over $3 million in the 2018 budget to fund cancer control and kick-start the establishment of a cancer centre in the state. The appropriation continue to roll over subsequent budgets to ensure the fund is available whenever the project is ready to be kick-started. This for us is a great achievement knowing how distasteful cancer interventions are to most political stakeholders in Nigeria. Currently we are engaging health professionals and other stakeholders to key into the Ondo state cancer control plan.
BRECAN has also been working closely with the State Ministry of Health of Ondo, Imo and Oyo State to ensure that the States have workable cancer control plans for their citizens. Over the past few years, we have marked the World Cancer Day and Breast Cancer Awareness Month by collaborating with State Ministry of Health to organise seminars, Jog 4 life and other awareness creation initiatives. Another major achievement was the creation of the Coalition Against Cancer in various States. With this initiative we have been able to utilize joint forces to tackle issues around breast and cervical cancer across States.
With the advent of coronavirus and the need to be more strategic in creating breast and cervical cancer awareness, this year BRECAN in collaboration with Ondo State lunched the Breast and Cervical Cancer Awareness for 21000. Through this project, the State ministry of health in collaboration with BRECAN will be providing all year round hospital-based opportunistic awareness for people (especially women) seeking both cancer related and non-cancer related care at all the health facilities in Ondo State.
As a result of our creativity in creating breast cancer awareness, BRECAN has received high note recognitions from the international community. Our home grown Sekem dance for breast cancer awareness caught the attention of the current US President’s organisation, Biden Cancer Initiative, and BRECAN was invited to represent Nigeria and BVGH’s Africa Access Initiative at the 2018 Biden Cancer Community Summit. BRECAN’s strides were also recognized in Harvard and University of Heidelberg, Germany in 2018 and 2019 respectively.
My dear Brecanites, It is amazing what we have achieved in our 24 years of existence, we however still have a long way to go. A staggering 14000 women still die of breast cancer yearly. These are our sisters, mothers and daughters. We cannot relent at this time. We must all join forces to combat breast cancer everywhere in Nigeria. I am charging fledgling chapters to rise up to the task before them. We can achieve more if will rise up to this task together. No one should be left behind.