Project Description

Whats inside:
Special report:
Women and Girls
on the Agenda
Feedback from
the Global
Village…
A Women’s
Networking Zone
News from the
‘margins’…
Only rights can
stop the wrongs
Women’s
Realities…
Doing something
right for women
Women’s Voices…
Positive African
women in Europe
In my opinion…
Women are
powerful
advocates
In Focus…
Outlawing Women…
AIDS 2010 is here
– and just as we
call for ‘women’s rights
here, right now’ – we see
a troubling continuous
trend to criminalise
women’s sexuality
in all its many facets
and expressions. With
disconcerting legislative
trends, such as the antihomosexuality
bill in
Uganda and expanded
efforts in many countries
around the world
to criminalise HIV
transmission, AIDS2010
is a critically important
venue to draw different
constituencies and
issues together in the
HIV, as well as across
the broader sexual and
reproductive health and
rights movements.
Addressing HIV through a
human rights framework necessitates
that we begin to unpack and unravel
the many ways in which women
‘wrestle’ for control of their bodies
and of their lives, the many ways in
which women’s right to make free
and informed choices are dismissed,
and the many ways in which women’s
bodies and lives continue to be
criminalised. Further, it necessitates
that we look not only at the impact of
the criminalisation of HIV on women’s
lives, but also at the overlapping and
intersecting implications which the
criminalisation of abortion or sex
work or drug use or homosexuality
bring to bear. And finally, it may
require that we begin
to debate within and
across communities and
sectors the underlying
factors, as well as the
overarching effects,
of the systemic and
structural criminalisation
of women’s sex and
sexuality.
What do we mean?
Motherhood is a
criminal act for women
living with HIV, where
laws exist to criminalise
HIV exposure or
transmission, particularly
in places where women
face mandatory HIV
testing in perinatal
settings. In many settings,
sexual pleasure and
desire are criminal acts for women
who love women. Young women face
restrictions in accessing the services,
information, and tools needed to
understand their bodies and to
make free and informed decisions
about their sexuality. The law on
the books and on the street mean
that women who engage in sex work
Mujeres Adelante Sunday •18 July 2010
Daily newsletter on women’s rights and HIV – Vienna 2010
Tyler Crone, Johanna Kehler
routinely face stigma, discrimination, and
many forms of harassment, including by
the police. Women who have been or are
in prison, as well as those who use drugs,
face compounded criminalisation – as they
frequently lose custodial rights to their
children as a consequence of accessing
services, lack access to family planning, are
forced to terminate any pregnancies, or give
birth sometimes in literal shackles.
Restrictions on women’s sexual and
reproductive choices and bodily autonomy
are part and parcel of outlawing women.
Criminalising women’s sexuality based on
their sexual choices, their sexual orientation,
their gender identity, and/or their HIV status
is part and parcel of outlawing women.
Restrictions on access to quality sexual
and reproductive healthcare, to emergency
contraception, to safe, legal abortion,
or to women-controlled HIV prevention
methods, including female condoms, are
also all part and parcel of outlawing women
– thus part and parcel of limiting women’s
2 Sunday • 18 July 2010 HIV and AIDS have been part of the global landscape for nearly
30 years, and will continue to impact the lives of millions of people,
particularly women and girls, far into the future. Policy makers,
programme managers and service providers have long been aware
that women and girls are uniquely vulnerable to HIV infection.
Social science research conducted across the globe describes how
the underlying causes of poverty and gender inequality heighten
the vulnerability of women and girls to HIV. Faced with high rates of
violence, poor access to school, health information, or legal services,
women and girls are often at a disadvantage when managing their
risk to HIV.
Global funders recently called for a more efficient use of
resources to better serve the healthcare needs of women. They
advocate integrating HIV prevention and treatment services with
other reproductive health and family planning services. This is a
highly desirable goal. Yet, even if countries improve their health
systems, this alone will affect only certain aspects of women’s
vulnerability to an epidemic fuelled by underlying legal, social and
economic inequality.
More must be done. We believe that a meaningful, effective
AIDS response, at its core, demands an understanding of how
women live. Here are our recommendations:
• Understand who women are and what they need. Services
often focus on women’s singular needs, such as food or
livelihoods, or their singular identities as mothers or sex workers.
They are women and mothers. They are sex workers and loving
partners. They are at risk of hunger and HIV.
• Craft a response that recognises that women live every day
in relationships with families, communities and institutions –
connections that influence their HIV risk.
• Let women speak for themselves and articulate their needs.
This means intentionally placing women in leadership positions
– especially those living with HIV – on national and international
decision-making bodies, as well as ministries and committees
that address issues affecting women.
• Make policies work. National HIV responses must have a multifaceted
vision that truly addresses women’s needs. Government
leaders must mandate, coordinate, fund and be accountable for
strategic plans that ensure women’s right to full, healthy lives.
It’s time we did better by women. Let’s get it right – right now.
Sarah, Katherine and Reshma are from the International Center
for Research on Women (ICRW).
Meet Women Where They Live
Creating a Meaningful, Effective AIDS Response for Women
Sarah Degnan Kambou,
Katherine Fritz,
Reshma Trasi
right to have control over their bodies, women’s right to autonomy and
bodily integrity, as well as women’s right to be free from all forms of
violence and making decisions about their bodies and lives without
fear and coercion.
Women whose choices and lives are perceived to step outside
the ‘norm’ are outlawed, whether it be in fact or in practice. All of
these facets of criminalisation inhibit women’s access to social and
healthcare services, and subject them to discrimination, harassment
and other human rights violations. These various facets of outlawing
women and criminalising women’s sex and sexuality also greatly
impact on the effectiveness of the AIDS response, as well as on the
progress in protecting and advancing especially women’s sexual and
reproductive rights.
Say no to criminalisation –
and to outlawing women in all its forms.
To be a part of this debate, join us on Wednesday, 21 July 2010,
from 5:15 to 6:15pm in the Women’s Networking Zone for debate on
‘Outlawing Women’.
Tyler is the Coordinating Director of the Athena Network and
Johanna is the Director of the AIDS Legal Network.
…require
that we begin
to debate…
the systemic
and structural
criminalisation
of women’s sex
and sexuality…
News from the ‘margins’… Thierry Schauffauser, He-Jin Kim
Sex Work:
Only Rights Can
Stop the Wrongs…
At this symposium, members of the Global
Network of Sex Worker Projects (NSWP) from
Latin America, Europe, Africa, South East
and Central Asia will elaborate
on human rights issues that sex
workers face in their country or
region, and how they affect the
vulnerability of sex workers.
Since the beginning of the
HIV epidemic, sex workers have
been targeted and stigmatised as
scapegoats responsible for the transmission
of HIV to the rest of society. Yet, when sex
workers have access to information and
prevention materials, they have proven to
be among the best actors and actresses
in the response to HIV by educating their
clients about safer sex practices. However,
the repressive laws criminalising sex workers,
their clients and the sex industry limit good
practices in terms of HIV prevention and
access to treatment. Repression, violence and
stigma continue to drive the vulnerability
of sex workers. Such wrongs cannot be
countered by criminalisation, or by repressive
legislation.
Building a strong sex worker rights
movement can make a difference by
advocating for the decriminalisation of sex
work, and in favour of human and labour
rights for sex workers. The effective response
to HIV relies on meaningful involvement
of communities and their empowerment.
The human rights of sex workers will not
just benefit sex workers, as their education
and empowerment can affect their clients,
and thus influence the lives of
many others in society as well.
Repressive legislation, however,
will do nothing to empower
sex workers. On the contrary, it
will increase stigma and leave a
road open for further abuses and
subsequently losing sex workers
as valuable agents in the response to HIV.
The session ‘Sex Work: Only Rights
Can Stop the Wrongs’ will be held
on Thursday, 22 July 2010,
14:30 – 16:00, in session room 3.
Sunday • 18 July 2010 3
News from the Global Village…
A Women’s
Networking Zone
Building on a decade of women’s organising at and around the
International AIDS Conference, the Women’s Networking Zone
(WNZ) evolves from a two-year
consultative process to identify
key issues affecting women and
young women in relation to
HIV globally and with particular
attention to Europe and
Central Asia.
The WNZ is an inviting and
inclusive forum for bringing
together local, regional, and
global perspectives. Our
intent is to create space for and generate dialogue around
challenging and controversial topics such as criminalisation; sex
workers’ rights; injection drug users’ rights; safe, legal abortion;
sexual pleasure; coerced sterilisation; and the right to healthy
motherhood for HIV positive women. In Vienna, we seek also to
put a particular emphasis on young women’s active involvement
and leadership, as well as to
catalyze intergenerational
exchange.
Join us in the Women’s
Networking Zone for our
Opening on Sunday at 6pm
and throughout the week for
a provocative and engaging
programme.
4 Sunday • 18 July 2010 HIV, and tuberculosis. National
AIDS responses must also prioritise
financial and programmatic actions
that uphold the rights of women
and young people, and address
the discrimination and stigma that
often leaves them vulnerable to
infection. These investments must
include comprehensive sexuality
education for young people in and
out of schools; a strong national
programme to prevent and respond
to female-initiated HIV prevention
methods such as female condoms;
microfinance and social protection
schemes that strengthen women’s
economic positions and reduce
their vulnerability to HIV; and
programmes that engage men and
boys in the fight for gender equality.
The world is at a pivotal point
of defining concrete actions to
transform their funding and policies
into tangible changes in women’s
lives. Women across Asia, Africa,
and Latin America know what is
needed and what works. Access
to sexual and reproductive health
services is integral to good health
for men, women, and young people,
and underlies our ability to make
headway in confronting other health
issues as well. Foreign assistance
donors and countries where they are
shaping programmes to integrate
and invest in sexual and reproductive
health services means taking steps
to end the political stigmatisation of
these programmes and focus instead
on the real-life health benefits.
All donors, including the United
States and the United Nations, need
to do more to increase investments
in sexual and reproductive health
services, including comprehensive
sexuality education; support bold
diplomatic programmes for the
human rights of women; and engage
local organisations led by women
and youth.
Alexandra is the Programme
Officer, International Policy, at
the International Women’s Health
Coalition.
Beginning with the commitments
made at the International
Conference on Population and
Development in Cairo in 1994, and
increasingly over the past 16 years,
the international community has
recognised that providing a broad
constellation of health services in a
single location will ensure a higher
quality of care and positive health
outcomes. For women, that means
ensuring access to comprehensive
sexual and reproductive health
services in one place.
Consider, for example, the
circumstance of an HIV-positive
woman in rural Botswana. In
Botswana, which has the second
highest HIV prevalence rate in the
world, most new infections occur in
women. In order to obtain treatment,
she must travel 30 kilometres by
foot to a U.S.-funded clinic. The
woman must travel another 50
kilometres to find a clinic that offers
contraceptives that will enable her to
control her own fertility, or receive
screening to detect cervical cancer,
a disease that disproportionately
affects women living with HIV/
AIDS. Both clinics require
separate staffing, infrastructure and
overheads.
Currently, there are a number
of global health initiatives that
prioritise the strengthening of health
systems. The US Global Health
Initiative will seriously invest in
women-centred approaches that
can help provide for better sexual
and reproductive health outcomes,
and leverage significant support
from other government donors
and multilateral partners. The
International Health Partnership is
trying to build strong health systems
with co-ordinated investments in
disease-specific responses such
as HIV, in a number of countries,
primarily in Africa. Specific healthrelated
initiatives, such as the Global
Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis,
and Malaria, as well as maternal
health, family planning and child
health initiatives, also need to
examine how far they will go to
expand their mandate to include
broader health system issues.
Recently, increased attention
has been given to scaling up support
for maternal and child health, given
that the Millennium Development
Goal 5 on improving maternal
health, is the least likely to be
achieved by the year 2015. Although
reducing maternal mortality ratios
and providing universal access to
reproductive health should become a
greater priority, narrow and technical
interventions, such as emergency
obstetric care and contraceptive
supplies, in themselves, will not
achieve improvements in maternal,
and therefore child health. Women
need to be treated with care and
respect, have access to an entire
package of services, and have their
human rights protected, in order
to achieve any of the Millennium
Development Goals. In addition,
governments must also recommit
to achieving universal access to
prevention, treatment, care and
support of HIV/AIDS (MDG 6), if
women are to have a true chance
at leading just and healthy lives.
Comprehensive approaches that
invest in the long-term, sustainable
capacity of the health system to
provide adequate care for women,
and their newborns, are required.
Civil society’s meaningful
participation in building stronger
health systems is crucial to both
better health outcomes and greater
accountability on the part of policy
makers. The UNAIDS Agenda for
Accelerated Country Action for
addressing women, girls, gender
equality and HIV is currently
being rolled out and presents an
opportunity for civil society, the
UN system, governments, and all
relevant stakeholders to direct AIDS
programming for women.
The Agenda contains possible
actions that governments can take
to ensure that women can access
a package of integrated services
for sexual and reproductive health,
…invest in
women-centred
approaches that
can help provide
for better sexual
and reproductive
health outcomes…
…the world
is at a pivotal
point of defining
concrete actions…
taking steps to
end the political
stigmatisation
of these
programmes…
Women’s Realities…
Doing something right for women
in the AIDS response?
Alexandra Garita
Women’s Voices…
Positive African women in Europe
A positive black African woman
is confronted with huge trust and
confidentiality fears, and has to deal
with being far away from home,
whether by choice or not, often having
lost family members through conflict
or AIDS, facing racism and many other
related issues.
Stigma and discrimination are rife in
the communities, as well as in the health
services. Some women fear jeopardising
their employment/jobs (being the ‘bread
winners’ of the household), or their
citizenship or asylum applications by
testing for HIV, and in so doing ‘disclosing’
their HIV status. Some women in
partnerships fear violence from husbands
or partners, who blame them for the
infection, just because they got tested
first – one of the major causes of women
presenting late for treatment, as they
rather not know their HIV status than have
to deal with the repercussions of a positive
test result.
Around 70% of positive women
living in the UK are from high prevalence
countries; a similar situation can be found
in other European countries too. It is also
a reality that some women with HIV and
their children are being held in asylum and
detention centres, without access to ARVs.
Looking at these and the many other
challenges for positive African women
living in Europe, there are many reasons
for going to the AIDS 2010 conference
in Vienna. The conference offers a rare
opportunity to draw attention from
around the world on what is happening in
Europe; an opportunity to raise awareness
and to highlight of what is happening at
their own doorsteps in their regions.
There is a great need for European
society, media, professionals and
governments to change their attitudes,
policies and practices, in order to reduce
the vulnerability of women and girls to HIV
and rights abuses, not only in Europe and
Central Asia (the geographic focus of the
conference), but globally.
There has also been little progress in
building and sustaining strong regional
activism in Western Europe, especially by
and for positive women, compared to
other parts of the world. Although the lack
of a European positive women’s network
has multiple reasons, language is one of
the main challenges. A direct response to
this need is the newly founded Women in
Europe and Central Asian Regions+
(WE-CARe+) network.
Attending
the conference
is also an
opportunity
to share best
practices,
network, meet
and converse
with the leading
pharmaceutical
industries,
medical and
scientific minds;
to get to know
the newest level
of research; to
engage with
policy makers, funders and donors and
– together with other women from all
over the world – to reignite the flame of a
common cause and reassert the human
rights of women as a core of universal
human rights.
Sunday • 18 July 2010 5
Grace Chipeya
…some
women fear
jeopardising their
employment…or
their citizenship
or asylum
applications by
testing for HIV…
Sunday, 18 July
13:30–15:30 A Positive Powerful Voice: HIV Positive Women’s
Leadership and Participation Mini Room 6
The Provision of Comprehensive Services to Street Sex Workers
in the Russian Federation Mini Room 2
An Intergenerational Conversation: Does the Struggle for
Realizing the Human Rights of Women Still Matter to
Young Women? Mini Room 5
15:45–17:45 How to Guarantee Women’s and Girls’ Sexual
and Reproductive Rights in the HIV Response?
Session Room 7
Monday, 19 July
10:30–12:15 Beyond the Evidence Base: Rights and Justice
for Women – Will the Vienna AIDS Conference Make a
Difference? Women’s Networking Zone
11:00–12:30 Our Bodies, Our Rights: Young Women’s Forum
on SRHR Mini Room 8
Male Participation in Prevention of Vertical HIV Transmission
Programmes: Mobilising Men to Protect Their Partners
and Children from HIV Infection and Access HIV Care and
Treatment Mini Room 10
14:00–15:15 Women’s Power on the Panel: A Regional
Approach to Universal Access and Human Rights
Women’s Networking Zone
16:30–18:00 Prevention Now: Female Condoms and Tools for
Use, Programming, and Advocacy for Universal Access
GV Session Room 2
17:00–18:00 ‘Before we were sleeping but now we are
awake’ – How Stepping Stones Makes a Difference to Young
Women’s Lives Women’s Networking Zone
Upcoming
events
Zonibel Woods in conversation with
Sophie Dilmitis, World YWCA
representative on the Conference
Coordinating Committee of the
International AIDS Conference, on
successes and challenges in placing
women and girls on the agenda of the
International AIDS Conference and
beyond.
The World YWCA also invested
a great deal of time preparing
women to understand how to access
the conference and be included in
the conference programme. Many
women in grassroots communities
do not understand what abstracts
are, or how they are able to share
their work and experience in the
conference. The World YWCA
invested in learning opportunities
for our own movement on how to
submit a well-written abstract, how
to set up a conference profile, and
why women should take the time to
apply for a scholarship. All of these
things create a barrier to community
women being able to be included in
the conference programme.
Why did you feel you needed to
push these issues at the AIDS
conference?
I remember attending my first
IAC and how it radically changed
my own life. I was a young woman
recently diagnosed with HIV and
not connected to the global AIDS
movement. I had not disclosed my
HIV status – nor had I ever met an
activist or many other people who
were open about their HIV status.
It was because of my experience
at the IAC that this became my
springboard to disclosing my status
and becoming an AIDS and women’s
rights activist.
The World YWCA really wants
to ensure that community women,
especially young women living with
HIV have the same opportunity.
The World YWCA knows how
community women can benefit from
the immense opportunity that this
conference offers to change lives,
shift perceptions, and increase
knowledge and advocacy on HIV,
as well as a space to share their own
important life experience.
Politically, the IAC is a platform
that shares key research findings,
lessons learned, gaps in knowledge
and best practices, and promotes
dialogue among organisations and
activists. Most importantly the
conference can focus international,
regional and national advocacy on
HIV, which affects global policy and
funding around women and girls
in the context of HIV and AIDS. It
is through the International AIDS
Conference that global policy is
debated and further developed.
As a women’s rights organisation
we strive to secure space for women
and to ensure that women and girls
remain on the global AIDS agenda.
Sustaining women and girls on
the global AIDS agenda is vital if
we are to influence global policy,
resources and research that affect
the lives of women, young women
and girls. Global policy on HIV and
AIDS define healthcare services and
global approaches for women and
girls, but some times these policies
do not reflect the realities of women
and girls.
Women are not adequately
being supported and empowered
in regions where there is a
feminisation of the epidemic. In regions where women do
not account for the majority of infections, programmes
and services only target women in the context of sex work
and or vertical transmission programmes. Even then, the
complexity of women’s lives –for example sex workers who
are mothers may experience violence and may need access to
reproductive health – is often not understood, nor taken into
account in the AIDS response.
How would you define success and did you achieve it?
In organising Vienna 2010 it has been a challenge to
keep women and girls on the agenda. AIDS 2010 will have
a strong regional focus (Eastern Europe and Central Asia)
and address harm reduction issues – which are often not
addressed through a gender sensitive lens. As women and
girls do not make up the majority of infections in Europe,
they are not adequately addressed and prioritised in most
national programming and budgets.
However, this conference has more women on the
committees, chairs and as plenary speakers than in previous
AIDS conferences. The conference programme committees
(the Scientific, Leadership and Accountability and the
Community) have 32 women and 16 men. We see this as a
step towards success. Sadly we have learnt through this and
other processes that we don’t only need to achieve gender
balance – we need to ensure that
the people on the committees
understand why women are more
vulnerable and thus need to be
prioritised in HIV and SRHR. For
example, AIDS 2010 will have great
focus on people who use drugs and
harm reduction. Within that space
we hope that there will be adequate
programmes that explore why
women who use drugs, especially
pregnant women who use drugs,
need to access programmes that are
linked to sexual and reproductive
health services that also address the
violence women often experience
because they use drugs.
What is part of the unfinished
agenda when it comes to women
and girls?
The unfinished agenda is not
…community
women can
benefit from
the immense
opportunity that
this conference
offers to
change lives…
Special report:
A challenge to keep women and girls on the agenda…
6 Sunday • 18 July 2010 Zonibel Woods
*
In HIV policy-making, the ‘evidence base’ is considered vital for
ensuring that actions respond to realities rather than ideologies.
But a narrow understanding of what constitutes ‘evidence’ has been
detrimental to women and girls. Historically, women have been
excluded from clinical trials, making it difficult to know whether or
not findings are as applicable to women as to men. Furthermore,
the scientific and academic research communities have been slow
to address issues of particular importance to women. And crucially,
the evidence base has largely failed to take into consideration the
human rights of women in relation to HIV.
On Monday 19th July, from 10.30am-12.15pm, the Women’s
Networking Zone will host a panel discussion: Beyond the
Evidence Base: Rights and Justice for Women – will the Vienna
AIDS Conference make a difference? It will explore the following
questions in relation to girls’ and women’s experiences of HIV:
• Who is setting the research agenda?
• Where are young women in the research agenda?
• How does the evidence base improve things for
women?
• Why are issues important to women so underresearched?
• Where are the gendered discussions of research
findings?
• Why are women’s experiences dismissed as ‘anecdote’?
• And what can be done about this?
We have a fantastic panel lined up, including Alice Welbourn, Jill
Gay, Shirin Heidari, Quarraisha Abdool Karim, and Laura Ferguson.
The session will be moderated by Ida Susser.
Come and be part of the debate!
abortion services in countries where it
is legalised – continue to be coerced
into sterilisation.
As we move into this conference
that will call for accountability for
Universal Access we must not forget
that for Universal Access to be
universal the rights of young women
and women living with HIV must be
upheld.
We must not forget to:
• Invest in HIV comprehensive
prevention strategies that
are grounded in sexual and
reproductive health and rights
and that address violence
against women
• Ensure that all AIDS responses
promote and build on young
women’s leadership
• End stigma and discrimination
which continues to drive this
epidemic
* This report is an excerpt from a
longer interview by Zonibel Woods.
only on the CCC or the IAC – it is a
global agenda that is to ensure that
women, young women and girls are
treated as equal citizens around the
world.
In many situations around the
world, women’s rights are violated
explicitly because of their sex –
simply for being female. In some
countries, women still struggle to
assert their rights to inherit property
or to own land, despite the great
number of women farmers and as
single heads of households. With
so many AIDS related deaths this
creates an additional burden on
women. In others, women and girls
are not empowered to gain the same
access to economic or educational
opportunities as their male peers.
Across the globe, women and girls
are disproportionately impacted
by human rights abuses, such as
violence and human trafficking. This
situation not only erodes the dignity
of individual women and girls,
but also inhibits the progress and
prosperity of entire communities.
Nearly 30 years into the HIV
epidemic, HIV programmes and
policies do not sufficiently address
the specific realities and needs of
women and girls, or fail to respect
and protect their human rights.
For example, service providers
often treat women disrespectfully
and reinforce stigma. Few HIV
services provide essential sexual and
reproductive healthcare and positive
women are often pressurised, or
even forced, not to have children as a
requirement for AIDS treatment.
When women are empowered
to assert their human rights, whole
communities gain in terms of
accelerated progress: skills are
upgraded, economies are revitalized,
families and society are safer. When
women’s rights are respected as
human rights, previously invisible
human rights violations are brought
to centre stage. For example –so
many women living with HIV
around the world, who access
…positive
women
are often
pressurised, or
even forced,
not to have
children as a
requirement
for AIDS
treatment…
Sunday • 18 July 2010 7
Will the Vienna AIDS Conference make a difference?
Fiona Hale
Supported by the Oxfam HIV and AIDS Programme
(South Africa)
Editors: Johanna Kehler jkehler@icon.co.za
E. Tyler Crone tyler.crone@gmail.com
Photography: Johanna Kehler jkehler@icon.co.za
DTP Design: Melissa Smith melissas1@telkomsa.net
Printing: invecon www.invecon.sk
www.aln.org.za www.athenanetwork.org
8 Sunday • 18 July 2010
In my opinion…
Women are very powerful advocates…
Jennifer Gatsi, Director Namibia Women’s Health Network and
Co-Chair of the Community Programme Committee
and inform others about rights and
access to services. We have high rates
of gender-based violence in Namibia,
but most women do not know what
to do and where to go for services.
Women generally do not know what
protections they are entitled to, what
the law says about violence against
women, and what services women
who experience abuse can access.
So, human rights knowledge for us
also means that we are skilled and
have the capacity to access whatever
services are available.
If I had one wish, it would be for all
women to have access to knowledge
about rights and laws in the country,
and the skills to challenge the
abuse, violations and mistreatment
they experience not only in their
families and communities, but also
in healthcare settings. I believe that
the more you train women on these
issues, the more you empower
women with the capacity to speak
out and to claim their rights. Women
are very powerful advocates for their
rights.
So I think that by empowering a
woman, we can see that change is
coming.
In 1993, when I started to get
involved in issues around women
and AIDS, women faced many
challenges and did not have any
platform, where they could come
together and talk about their
experiences and concerns. The
stigma was very high at that time,
and so was the lack of information
women could access. And now that
we are in 2010, I can see how stigma
is shifting a little bit.
By now, maybe 50% of women
are open about their HIV status, while
50% are still not comfortable to do
so – which is an indicator that even
though things have shifted, there is
stigma still in the communities. But
looking at women, especially young
women, who are coming onboard
and talking about their status, is
for me one indication that at least
now women do have the power to
support each other, even though
women are still stigmatised by their
families and communities, and also in
healthcare centres, and have limited
access to information, which makes
them to be at much greater risk of
human rights violations.
In Namibia, we launched our
national HIV/AIDS policy in 2008, but
the truth is that most women still do
not know that we even have such a
policy or what this policy says. We
also have a policy on violence against
women no one knows about. Women
need to know what policies are in
place and what they mean to them.
Women need to have access to this
kind of information in plain accessible
language that clearly explains what
the policy says and what it means
for women’s lives. Women need to
be empowered to look through and
understand the implications of these
policy documents, and to be clear
about what they mean to them in
their day-to-day lives – after all, the
policy was meant for people living
with HIV.
And women need to know how
to look for sexual and reproductive
health provisions in these policies, how
to identify gaps, and how to advocate
for their inclusion and prioritisation in
government programmes. It is crucial
that women know their rights and for
women to have the skills of how to
negotiate for their rights, and even for
services. If women know their rights,
they can advocate for their rights
…if women
know their
rights, they can
advocate for
their rights…