Project Description

Whats inside:
Special report:
Why the silence?
in Africa
News from the
Relegated to
the village
Testing rights for
pregnant women?
Women’s voices…
Familiar with
being criminalised
Regional voices…
I am alive!
In her opinion…
Why I love
the zone
In Focus…
Eastern Europe: Women’s Rights
Before its Too Late!
Eastern Europe is currently the
region on the planet where rates
of new HIV infections are rising
dramatically, with a 66% regional
increase since 2001. Ukraine and
Russia are the most severely impacted,
while treatment access among
Eastern European countries is
far below necessary, with less
than a third of those who need it
receiving antiretroviral therapy.
While intravenous drug use
remains the primary mode of
transmission in the region, some
experts fear that the epidemic is
on the verge of making the switch
to a generalised heterosexual
epidemic, which could place
many more lives at risk. Sexual
transmission is already the
source of 42% of infections,
with the sexual partners of drug
users and sex workers the most
at risk. As a result of this trend,
increasing numbers of women
are contracting HIV, in addition
to being affected by their
partners’ status. In some countries in
Eastern Europe, including Ukraine,
women now make up nearly half
of the population of people living
with HIV.
While the pandemic in Europe
may include its own unique features,
as Katarzyra Palerjanik argued,
women, and women with HIV ‘have
the same problem in every country’,
disempowerment, violence, stigma
and discrimination. Women also face
increased biological and social risk of
contracting HIV, with young women
especially vulnerable worldwide.
According to Dr. Iatamaze
Veruamvivi, director of the Women’s
Centre, the epidemic in Georgia
is linked to these regional factors,
as well as to regional migration,
both in terms of immigration from
higher prevalence countries to
lower prevalence nations, but also
because as these nations make their
transition from communist systems
to capitalism, increasing levels
of migrant labour have helped to
spread HIV. In Georgia, this has
resulted in 2,300 cases of which 25%
are women.
In addition to difficulty accessing
treatment, basic prevention
measures are also seriously lacking.
Service providers report very low
demand for condoms, while sexual
education is limited or unavailable in
most countries. According to
Zhara Malyilyan of Armenia, one
high school principal, when
asked why sexual education is not
provided, answers ‘the less they know
the better’.
Mayilyan also explains that
gender norms and stereotypes make
it particularly difficult for women
to protect themselves from HIV.
Women are generally expected to
marry their first sexual partners,
while unmarried men are likely to
visit sex workers. Married women
and sex workers are both unlikely
to negotiate condom use. In one
survey, women who were asked if
they had ever experienced spousal
or partner rape, most responded
that they felt that providing sex
on demand was their ‘duty’.
Most women living with HIV
are infected through sex with
male partners. These realities
indicate that women are socially
disempowered; in Armenia, there
are no elected women leaders.
These conservative gender
norms are not ‘traditional’ in the
sense of being timeless and ancient,
instead more conservative social
realities have emerged in Eastern
Europe as a result of the transition,
as well as the rise of fundamentalist
religious trends, including Christian
and Muslim organisations that
oppose the de-stigmatisation of
sex, condoms, sex work, drug use
and people living with HIV. These
movements have also helped to isolate
and disempower women, as they push
for subordinate roles for women and
limitations on women’s sexual health
and reproductive rights.
A further complicating problem
Mujeres Adelante Thursday • 22 July 2010
Daily newsletter on women’s rights and HIV – Vienna 2010
Kate Griffiths
for people living with HIV in Eastern
Europe is the deterioration of public
infrastructure as part of the transition,
including declining healthcare systems.
This means that access to healthcare is
limited to all citizens, while people living
with HIV face stigma, including rejection
from clinics where doctors and clinic staff
fear that if they admit patients living with
HIV, their existing clients will abandon
the clinic. In some instances women with
sever uterine bleeding were turned away
from ambulances and hospitals, due to their
HIV status.
Women living with HIV in Eastern
Europe face dual discrimination, as people
living with HIV and as women. This can
include workplace discrimination, where
women with HIV are socially isolated and
often forced out of jobs. For women living
with HIV whose partners die of AIDS, the
situation is often particularly grim. Facing
rejection by their in-laws, they are likely
to loose their inheritance, their homes
and often their children. The attitude is
summarised in a saying which is translated
as ‘why would I now want a stranger in
my house’?
Women who are also intravenous
drug users or sex workers can be triply
discriminated against. Women in these
2 Thursday • 22 July 2010 Ensuring Safety, Security and Autonomy…
Jayne Arnott
positions are seen by man, from police to healthcare workers to
family and friends as not having rights. Roma women with HIV are
likewise in the situation of being triply discriminated against and are
also socially isolated. They may also face increased risk of HIV and
violence in that they live largely as migrants.
Finally, young women are particularly at risk, largely due to
higher levels of drug use, unemployment, migration and ignorance
about HIV transmission and healthy relationships. Fewer than 10%
of young women demonstrate correct basic knowledge of HIV
prevention information.
The Central and Eastern European Women’s Network for
Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (ASTRA) is promoting
women’s rights as a critical intervention at a key stage in the
regions epidemic. This includes the right to be free of coercion
and violence both inside and outside the healthcare system,
and guarantees of women’s sexual and reproductive rights. The
organisation emphasises the importance of pre-empting forced
contraception, sterilisation and abortion, practices which plague
women living with HIV around the world. They also call for strong
youth education in sexual and reproductive health.
As a network of local organisations that both advocates and
provides services ASTRA is already part of the solution in a region
where countries are too often divided. By bringing experts and
advocates together to argue unapologetically for the effectiveness and
justice of women’s rights, they have already helped set the stage for
effective interventions to turn the epidemic in their region around.
Kate is a writer and ethnographer based in Durban, South Africa.
have also helped
to isolate and
women, as
they push for
subordinate roles
for women…
women’s rights
as a critical
Gender- based violence was the focus
of the oral poster session ‘Ensuring
Safety, Security and Autonomy: Why must
we overcome gender-based violence?’ on
Wednesday, 21 July 2010.
Michaela Leslie-Rule introduced
findings of a participatory research study
that engaged a group of Tanzanian
women around defining the language
of love, intimacy, sexuality and violence.
Leslie-Rule explored how women’s
responses revealed that inter-personal
violence was very much a private issue
and women participating in the study
presented with some tolerance for inter
personal violence. When exploring what
types of physical and sexual encounters
were considered to be violent, the
severity of the physical injury seemed
to be the determining factor. Women
also spoke in a manner that seemed
to indicate an expectation that it was
normal to experience some amount
of force or coercion from partners in
sexual encounters. This was not always
experienced as violence.
Women spoke about sexual agency
and desire using proverbs and allegories
that are passed down from grandmothers
and women elders in the community. It
is taboo for mothers and daughters to
discuss issues related to sex. This type of
information sharing presents opportunities
for interventions that could address
inter-personal violence and reduce the
risk of HIV, for example, through reaching
grandmothers and elders who are passing
on sexual information to ‘shift’ stories in
ways that can better equip women to
articulate female sexuality and sexual
desire. Leslie-Rule noted that it is often
women’s lack of sexual knowledge and
sexual agency that can lead to violence
in sex.
Gender equality is viewed
predominantly as a goal that the
government must work towards, and
placed in the public sphere with women
articulating the need, for example, for
education and economic equality and this
is prioritised over gender equality in the
private sphere. Women can perpetuate
gender norms that support gender
inequality and this limits opportunities
for men and women to be co-creators of
tolerant environments.
If gender equality is perceived as
being something that the public sphere
has to address, then the question is how
can governments and public services
strengthen their policies and programmes
to integrate and promote gender
equality both within the public and the
private sphere.
The session ended on the note that
is more than enough evidence regarding
the links between GBV and HIV, the
intersections, and the bi-directionality. It is
time to prioritise action!
Jayne is with the AIDS Legal Network,
South Africa.
News from the ‘margins’… Kate Griffiths
Relegated to the
Global Village…
The Trans women’s network from Latin
America and the Caribbean hosted a
session that highlighted the lack of attention
paid to the specific issues affecting trans
women in the fields of HIV advocacy and
research. While the speakers, Marcela Romero
and J. Villazan, opened by discussing the
issues affecting trans women in Latin America
and the Caribbean, the session quickly
evolved into a workshop on the needs of
trans women from every country.
Villazan highlighted the lack of research
on trans woman and HIV in her region, where
only two studies specifically track prevalence
among this population, suggesting that
rates in Peru and Argentina have rates as
high as 35% among trans women. According
to JoAnne Keatly, speaking form the floor,
rates are similar among San Francisco’s
trans population with rates among African
American trans women at as high as 56%.
Nevertheless, researchers continue to
neglect trans women, a population who
are vulnerable to HIV co-factors, including
violence and drug use, but who are also likely
to survive as sex workers, and who in some
countries may play a central epidemiological
role. Instead, government agencies, including
the Centers for Disease Control in the United
States include trans women in the research
category ‘men who have sex with men or MSM’.
This elision goes beyond a failure of the
research agenda, to the funding structures
of advocacy and service delivery, as well as
to the representation of trans women at the
main session of the IAS conference this week.
Said Keatly:
…I am angry. I am angry at the
organisers of this conference, because
I feel we must be heard. Instead we’ve
been relegated to the Global Village and
offered a stage to do drag shows.
By failing to distinguish between
populations of people living with HIV
who are gay men and those who are trans
women, the statistics ignore what may be
an even greater crisis among trans women,
and conceal the possibility of diverse
transmission modes and mechanisms. Trans
women activists argue that funding MSM
led organisations for trans programming
also leads to a lack of trans representation at
the organisational level and to continuing
increased marginalisation.
These concerns of invisibility and
marginalization echo those of lesbian and
bisexual women also battling stigma and
marginalisation in the movement for health
and human rights.
Kate is a writer and ethnographer based in
Durban, South Africa.
Thursday • 22 July 2010 3
and HIV in Africa
Jayne Arnott
This session ‘Men who have sex with men: Homophobia and HIV
in Africa’ explored some of the political, social and cultural
barriers to ensuring quality service provision of HIV prevention,
treatment and care to MSM in Africa. This was a significant
session with a singular focus on homophobia in Africa and the
impact on HIV and AIDS prevention, treatment and care for MSM.
The speakers spoke in a united way regarding the severity of
homophobia in Africa and with an equally strong voice regarding
strategies and interventions to access justice and equal rights
and access to prevention, treatment and care services.
Common threads running through the session, with
presentations on homophobia in countries such as Malawi,
Cameroon, Uganda and Zambia were increasing trends to
introduce new clauses criminalising homosexuality; invoking
harsher sentences; re-activating dormant sodomy laws; and
utilising an array of other laws to threaten, harass and detain men
who have sex with men, or in some cases, appear to be men who
may have sex with men.
What are LBGT activists and rights-based organisations doing to
access justice, rights and services in this climate of oppression
and state brutality? A core call was for human rights activists from
outside Africa to avoid intervening in a way that exacerbates the
situation, given the discourse on homosexuality as a western
import and un-African. There is an urgent need to address
the lack of legal defence services, as lawyers are too scared or
unwilling to defend individuals. The realisation of human rights
is not just about access to condoms and lubricant, but access
to justice, and access to full HIV prevention and health services,
without direct or indirect legal impeachment.
When asked from the floor what support could be given, an
eloquent response was, no more workshops, learn to listen to
us and to activists on the ground, give resources we know are
needed and help with skills training to take the struggle forward.
Jayne is with the AIDS Legal Network, South Africa.
4 Thursday • 22 July 2010 families. After giving birth, women
may not feel able to disclose their
status to their partner and his extended
family. To do so would compromise
their personal security and livelihood.
Lack of power to negotiate condom
use continues after the birth of the
first child. With a second pregnancy,
women report being treated with
increasing judgement and brutality
by exasperated service providers
sometimes resulting in unwanted
sterilisations, while in the delivery
room. Consent given under this kind
of duress is a clear violation of rights
and amounts to forced sterilisation,
an issue which is gaining traction in
international human rights advocacy
in Southern Africa, and a form
of institutional violence against
The President of South Africa
has committed to huge scale-up of
HIV testing, setting a target of having
15 million people tested for HIV in
the coming year. Most of these will
be women, many of them pregnant.
Health services cannot hope to cope
with such numbers while protecting
the rights of counselling, consent
and confidentiality of those most
in need of it. Counselling is often
replaced with information provision
and pressure to test. There is little
understanding of readiness to test,
and research is needed on this.
There is a clear need to increase
testing, but human rights must be
protected. To ensure this, there is a
need for further analysis of gender
and power relations in health systems
in the context of pregnancy and in the
context of HIV testing, as well as a
review of current testing models of
practice to encourage both women
and men to test outside of the context
of pregnancy.
Luisa and Fiona are gender
and HIV consultants.
In 2007, the WHO published
guidelines on provider initiated (‘optout’)
testing in an effort to increase
the number of people being tested
for HIV. Gender and human rights
advocates have raised concerns about
‘opt-out’ testing opening up potential
for human rights to be compromised
or violated. Policy-makers have
dismissed these concerns as based
on anecdote, and have asked for
evidence to support these arguments.
Today in the Women’s
Networking Zone of the Global
Village at AIDS2010, the results
of a research project supported by
the Open Society Institute’s Public
Health Watch were announced by
three South African-based human
rights organisations: AIDS Legal
Network, Just Associates and Justice
and Women (JAW). The results
evidence how provider initiated HIV
testing in the context of pregnancy
has become another form of violence
against women.
‘Opt-out’ testing assumes an
equal relationship of power between
client and service provider. Yet,
women in the study were relatively
young. Many of them had grown up
in families disrupted at an early age
by HIV. They had been absorbed
into extended family systems, had
often given up on education and
were frequently unemployed. Sexual
relationships with men were often a
route to survival, making negotiation
of condom use difficult. For many,
pregnancy was their first point of
entry to health services, and their
life circumstances often combined to
render them especially vulnerable to
compromises, abuses or human rights
violations in the healthcare setting.
Pregnancy was often an
additional, unwanted burden to
already complicated lives. Many
women had conflicting feelings about
the pregnancy, but there was no room
in clinics to discuss this. They were
immediately pushed into having an
HIV test, thereby facing yet another
potential burden that they didn’t
feel ready to face – that of an HIV
positive test result.
Women’s rights in the areas
of counselling, consent and
confidentiality were regularly
compromised or violated. In overstretched
services, rural clinics
are often staffed primarily by
nurses (with infrequent visits
from doctors), who themselves are
overburdened both at home and in
their communities, as well as in the
workplace, and may indeed be facing
many of the problems their clients
encounter, including being HIV
positive themselves. Confidentiality
is often compromised. Nurses and
counsellors have queues of women to
see, and often announce test results
in front of others, or through open
doors with teeming waiting rooms
behind them.
Pregnant women receiving an
HIV positive diagnosis commonly
experience judgemental attitudes
at the hands of health providers,
including in the delivery room,
where women living with HIV
may be attended to only after HIVnegative
women have been assisted,
due to lack of medical implements
and fear of infection if these are
used first to assist positive women.
For women choosing not to test,
punitive measures were reported,
including refusal of care. Such is the
dehumanisation of the health systems
that women frequently choose not to
go back to health service providers
until they are really sick. Conversely,
the smallest measure of kindness was
received with incredible gratitude.
Provider initiated testing also
needs to be seen in the context of
power relationships the women
experience in their households and
…provider initiated
HIV testing in
the context of
pregnancy has
become another
form of violence
against women…
…’opt-out’ testing
assumes an
equal relationship
of power between
client and service
Women’s Realities…
Testing rights for pregnant women?
Luisa Orza and Fiona Hale
Women’s Voices…
Familiar with feeling criminalised
Being sent to prison and being
on trial is a traumatic experience
on its own. Receiving a diagnosis,
whilst in prison, is very frightening
and traumatic.
It has been seven years that I learnt
of my immediate response, when being
given my diagnosis in prison. I had blocked
it from my memory, my experiences of
trauma had various elements, from a
partner nearly dying, to feeling completely
helpless and powerless over my loss
of liberty, as a result of which I was not
allowed to see him.
Being exposed to women frequently
trying to commit suicide in the dorms I
shared with other inmates, together with
my enforced isolation and feelings of
shame, impacted on my psychological
and emotional well-being massively that I
subsequently lost three quarters of my hair
through sheer stress.
Being strip searched naked, officers
finding bags of my hair and reading on
HIV in my cell was a great violation of my
rights to dignity and privacy, and triggered
previous events where violation had
been experienced.
Many women, including myself, leave
prison with a diagnosis of post-traumatic
stress. Since being in recovery, I have spent
long periods of time in trauma therapy;
it has taken years to unravel just my
experience of prison.
My post traumatic stress means loss
of health of those around me triggers me
into extreme anxiety which is exacerbated
by significant years of physical violation in
active addiction. Moreover, the traumatic
feelings were amplified by my own
experience of blatant discrimination from
health professionals in healthcare settings
where discriminatory practice caused great
harm, psychologically and emotionally.
It is outraging that the prison service is
incapable of differentiating between the
state of depression and feelings of suicide.
It is incomprehensible that people with
mental health issues can ask for help, there
is none.
The moment a woman enters a prison,
a world of daily uncertainty presents itself,
along with a loss of freedom and liberty,
and a person’s identity. Some will gain a
perceived identity, due to an addiction to
substances, prostitution, mental health,
sexual orientation, immigration and an
HIV status.
As a women in recovery from active
drug addiction, living with HIV and an
‘out lesbian’, I am all too familiar with
feeling criminalised, due to a preferred
sexual orientation, a past IDU, and a health
condition that still 30 years on from the
first isolated case is still hugely stigmatised.
Being in prison should not be a barrier
to accessing the right HIV treatment and
support, and yet prisoners are forced
into isolation due to astonishing levels
of discrimination. Fear of persecution is
a significant barrier to women accessing
support around their HIV status. Where as
with other illnesses one can seek support
on the wings,
with HIV this
just could not
be considered.
I felt incredible
shame and
isolation when
I received my
although my
saving grace
was Positively
UK. I believe
my experience
have been
different had
I not been
enough to engage with this organisation.
I feel it also important to say my
confidentiality was maintained by
healthcare staff.
Loss of liberty and freedom does not
equate to a complete loss of human rights.
Sophie is with Positively UK.
Thursday • 22 July 2010 5
Sophie Strachan
…fear of
persecution is
a significant
barrier to women
Thursday, 22 July
09:00-10:30 Plenary Session Session Room 1
9:45-10:45 Young Womenís Perspectives: Abortion and
Sexual Orientation in the African Context
Women’s Networking Zone
11:00-12:30 Advocating for Women-Centered HIV Prevention
Technologies and Environments Mini Room 8
LBT: Gender and Sexualities GV Session Room 1
12:15-13:30 Launch of the Womenís HIV Prevention Tracking
Project: A Five-Country Study on the Implications for Women of
Medical Male Circumcision for HIV Prevention
Women’s Networking Zone
14:30-16:00 Leaders against Criminalization of Sex Work,
Sodomy, Drug Use/Possession, and HIV Transmission
Session Room 4
18:00-19:30 Vagina Monologues: Women Speaking Out to
Address the Intersection of Violence and HIV
Women’s Networking Zone
18:30-20:30 Transforming the National AIDS Response
to Address Womenís Rights Mini Room 6
Sexual rights as stand alone
rights in the context of HIV
prevention seem to have
slipped out of the human
rights discourse in relation to
HIV and AIDS. For effective
HIV prevention approaches
we need to engage with, and
talk about sexuality, support
and promote sexual rights,
and advocate for the right to
sexual information and the
right to sexual choices.
The various panellists in the
Tuesday’s satellite session on
‘Sexual Rights and HIV Prevention‘
focused on sexual rights of women
and youth, the criminalisation
of same-sex sexuality in Africa,
critical HIV prevention for MSM
from a sexual rights perspective,
and sexual rights – a challenging
topic in Eastern Europe and
Central Asia.
Claudia Ahumada, from the
World AIDS Campaign, started
her presentation by noting that this
was the only stand-alone session
at the conference on sexual rights!
We really need to challenge the ‘lip
service’ to integrating sexual rights
into HIV and AIDS responses.
Why is it that we are not
supporting women living with HIV
to exercise their sexual rights? We
should be outraged that positive
women are being subjected to
gross rights violations in relation
to having sex and making (or not
being able to make) reproductive
choices, with violations ranging
from dissuading women from
having children through to forced
abortion and sterilisation practices.
Why the silence? If we cannot talk
about sexuality, support sexual
choices, and integrate these rights
into HIV and AIDS responses, how
can we begin to address HIV and
AIDS prevention interventions,
programmes and services that work
and respect human rights?
Posing the question of ‘What
do we mean by meaningful youth
participation and what hinders us
from reaching this?’, Ahumada
talked about what youth need in
relation to sexual education and
services, and argued that adults
continue to make assumptions
about what youth need, which
often leads to barriers to access to
relevant information and services,
including HIV prevention services.
Ahumada further elaborated
on a series of impractical laws
regarding access to sexual
information and services based
on the age of consent that are in
place across the globe and that
impact greatly on youth ‘ability’
to access HIV prevention and to
make informed sexual choices. In
Chile, for example, if you are under
14 years old, you cannot consent
to sex and if you do, it is then
considered statutory rape, including
sex between peers. The law further
states that anyone under the age
of consent, seeking information
or services around sexual and
reproductive health within the
public health service, must be
reported to the police.
So how do we reach and
engage youth in information
sharing, promoting sexual rights,
safer sexual activity and sexual
autonomy within a climate
of criminalisation, as well as
measured and controlled access to
sexual knowledge
and services.
…we really
need to
challenge the
‘lip service’
to integrating
sexual rights
into HIV
and AIDS
Special report:
Why the silence?
6 Thursday • 22 July 2010 Jayne Arnott
Tikkannen referred to a survey conducted with MSM, in
which some men spoke about casual sex in a bathhouse as
being ‘bad’, as it is seen as outside the norm and as more
‘risky’, even when it is protected sex.
Whilst Tikkannen focussed on MSM, he also pointed out
that this framework can apply equally to other populations.
Given the applicability of this framework to other population
groups, the question remains, where
are the programmes that address
women’s realities and explore
alternatives in relation to sex, to
sexual pleasure and to protection
from HIV? Where are the policies,
interventions and services that
respect women’s sexual rights first
and foremost for their own sexual
fulfilment and sexual health needs as
well as for relevant
HIV prevention?
Jayne is with the AIDS Legal Network,
South Africa.
Ronny Tikkannen from
Sweden focussed on developing
a knowledge-based norm in
relation to HIV prevention for
MSM. In essence, he promoted
a more constructive approach to
HIV prevention interventions that
focus on unmet needs, rather than
an approach that pathologises
individuals, such as focusing
on ‘risk taking’ behaviour. A
pathological discourse promotes
a ‘them and us’ situation, and
is counter-productive in HIV
interventions. As Ronny aptly noted
‘We are all capable of
taking sexual risks and having
unsafe sex’.
Three unmet needs were
presented in relation to sexual
rights and needs of MSM in the
context of HIV prevention. Firstly,
the right to information that is
relevant to the prevention of
HIV transmission, which means
developing prevention information
that does not only focus on condom
use. Secondly, MSM have the
right to qualitative counselling
and information in relation to HIV
testing that expands into improved
healthcare in general.
And lastly, there is a need for
a non-normative knowledge base
of sexual information regarding
same sex practices, as sexual
information and the promotion of
safer sex practices are often framed
within a normative heterosexual
context. ‘Good’ sexuality and
sexual practices equals two people
in love at home and using condoms,
be they same sex partners or not.
This places, for example, casual
sex as less valuable and thus, more
‘risky’ as it challenges the norm.
…we are all
capable of
taking sexual
risks and
having unsafe
Thursday • 22 July 2010 7
Joy Lovelet Crawford, in the session Gender Inequality and
Sexuality: New solutions for old problems on July 21, introduced
the programme entitled ‘I am alive! Protecting the sexual and
reproductive health and rights of positive women in Jamaica’, and
highlighted different challenges of positive women in Jamaica.
HIV in Jamaica is to a large extent a burden carried by the young
women aged 15 to 19 years, and this group is three times more likely
to be infected than the similar age group of men; as the women
contract HIV from older men. Crawford further established that
similar data applies to women ages 20-24. In the programme ‘I am
alive!’ the women are typically between 17 and 22 years of age, and
are all mothers. As the title of the programme reveals, first thing the
women are taught is to embrace the fact that they are alive in spite of
their HIV diagnosis.
In order to join the programme, Crawford emphasised that the
women must be able to commit for at least one year, so the selection
process based on interviews is a thorough one. Within the first
year, workshops on self-discovery, positive proactive parenthood,
sexual and reproductive rights, as well as prevention for positives
are conducted. The outcomes of the programme has been a higher
degree of motivation of the women, developing leadership skills,
child care skills, nutritional and physical care of children, improved
the reading skills of the women, and finally, improved relationships
between the young women and their family members.
Although the programmes is overall very successful, Crawford
concluded that there are still some challenges ahead, including that
even though the reading skills of the women had improved, they
still experience difficulties reading and understanding scientific
information presented in their medical files.
Sabrah is with the AIDS Legal Network, South Africa.
Regional Voices… I am alive! Sabrah Møller
Supported by the Oxfam HIV and AIDS Programme
(South Africa)
Editors: Johanna Kehler
E. Tyler Crone
Photography: Johanna Kehler
DTP Design: Melissa Smith
Printing: invecon
8 Thursday • 22 July 2010
In my opinion…
A day at the Women’s Networking Zone
Fiona Hale
I’m looking forward
to spending more
time at the Women’s
Networking Zone this
week – being part of
the discussions about
the work that women
are doing around
the world, gathering
ideas and developing
momentum for beyond
Vienna 2010. The WNZ
programme looks full
and fascinating – and
if today was anything
to go by, the rest of
the week will be both
inspiring and thoughtprovoking.
Fiona Hale is a gender,
HIV and sexual and
reproductive health
I spent much of today at the
Women’s Networking Zone.
This is a vibrant space within the
Global Village of the International
AIDS Conference. Open and
welcoming, it looks bright and
beautiful, with its colourful red,
orange and pink cushions, benches
and chairs. Under a decorative
washing line fluttering with women’s
underwear of all shapes and sizes,
(a ‘panting line’), a welcome table
is heaving with information on
women’s advocacy, experiences,
research and initiatives. Women sit
on comfortable sofas to talk. And
a full programme of sessions runs
throughout the day, drawing in
people who have come specially,
and those who just happened to be
walking by.
The set-up may be relaxed and
informal, but the discussions here
are serious. Women’s experiences
of stigma; how the ‘evidence base’
works for women; the rhetoric of
funding for women’s priorities; the
rights of young women; tensions
and challenges within the women’s
movement – all of these and other
often tricky issues were highlighted,
unpacked, argued. From the first
session of the morning, when
women shared their poetry, stories
and performance narratives, the
tone was set – this is a space
where women’s experiences and
perspectives are welcomed, where
the personal really is political.
During the course of the day,
speakers included women who
are in professional positions of
some power, and powerful women
working as activists, advocates and
mobilisers. What was striking was the
passion and the humanity each of
the speakers brought to the space.
Women – and men – from
all regions of the world came by.
Fiery women activists working at
grassroots, national and global
levels came together with women
in professional roles, including
epidemiologists, researchers,
government representatives
and indeed the Austrian Local
Conference Co-Chair, Dr. Brigitte
I asked a couple of women why
they had come to the Women’s
Networking Zone. Promise Mthembu
from South Africa told me,
It’s a safe space, and it’s
accessible. We are discussing
issues here that won’t necessarily
be on the mainstream
programme – feminist issues that
are important to us. And it’s a
meeting space where we can talk
to other women.
And Martina Lebinger, from
Saba in the Netherlands Antilles, had
come by chance.
I didn’t come here on purpose,
but it is very interesting to see
women who are visible, who
are working and fighting for
women’s rights, and also women
who are working at higher levels.
That is really important.