September 8-11 is the 14th Association of Women in Development (AWID) Forum in Brazil. The 2016 Forum is a space to re-imagine and co-create a future free from oppressions, injustice, war and violence and to develop concrete strategies for people and planet based on our shared humanity. It brings together a broad diversity of movements and sectors to collectively strategize for feminist futures: from women’s rights and feminist movements (including special attention to Brazilian women’s rights activists), to peace, economic justice, environmental, and human rights movements, among others. #WhatWomenWant is proud to be a platform for young feminists to amplify their voices, power their solutions, and claim their agency through a presence at AWID.
1. How can young women be supported to break structural barriers
that hinder the progress towards gender equality?
Young women can be supported first and foremost through education and opportunity. This includes providing young women the
opportunities to take on positions of leadership within communities and
decision making processes. This means an equal seat at the table with power and
autonomy over their own bodies, sexual health and education. If young women are
provided education and access to information their potential is infinite. I
often think to the phrase “Educate a girl, empower a nation” to break structural barriers and to implement equality and perhaps most importantly,
-Melissa Fairey, Canada
2. What is your top health
priority for women and girls in the next 5 years as it relates to HIV?
Reproductive health rights of course, but also, very importantly, to include psychological support…
The other day at my HIV clinic I saw a woman crying.
She had just received results on her HIV+ status. She was all
by herself. I gave her my number though I´m sure she’ll never call the unknown
girl who gave her a phone number and spoke to her some unintelligible language…
My heart broke at the certainty that she´ll go through this process by herself
with no mental support at all.
-Xiana Albor, Spain
3. What does the end of AIDS mean to you? What role can the women’s
movement play to accelerate progress?
To me, the end of AIDS
means the end of stigma and discrimination that HIV+ people have to face every day. It means that we live in a world where AIDS isn’t the end of life. Around me, I know many people who have many misconceptions about HIV and living with HIV. These
misconceptions need to be cleared through CSE. The women’s movement has done a wonderful job so far, of empowering young women
around the world to assert and engage with their own rights, with regard to
their bodies. We need to continue this struggle so that all young women can
assert their bodily autonomy and integrity, and be able to safely access their
rights to lead fulfilling lives.
-Shirin Chowdhary, India
4. What are the current gaps in the HIV response for women and girls,
and what are key barriers and enablers to young women accessing HIV/SRHR
The gaps exist at international
and country-specific policy levels. However, these gaps further get amplified
at local implementation level. Being a young woman and/or an adolescent girl
brings with it much unwarranted stigma so much that essential HIV/SRHR services
are unavailable and if available still inaccessible. As a healthcare provider I have personally witnessed the stigmatization of sexual activity of girls. There
is also a grey area between parents and healthcare workers in primary
healthcare level to decide who is responsible for educating the girl child
about sexuality and reproductive experiences in adolescence. The proposals to
provide Comprehensive Sexuality Education in primary and secondary schools has
not been implemented in many countries, and we can only wonder what this is
doing to young girls.
Nsovo Xiluva, South Africa