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Katherine Wynne, Canada

1. What do you see as the current gaps in the HIV response for women and girls and what are key barriers and enablers to accessing HIV/SRHR services? 

One of the most crippling blockades in the HIV response for women and girls is the ever-present scientific data gap. The Global South in particular is fraught with omissions in data collection that starts at the birth of young girls and ripples across their lifetimes. According to the Director of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Sarah Hendricks, “when we don’t count women or girls, they literally become invisible.” Failing to register births can block access to healthcare and other essential services for mother and children, skew measurements of policy efficacy, and inhibit outreach initiatives. To address this issue, data collection agencies (governmental or otherwise) and the scientific community must be educated on the importance of gender-equitable data collection. 

2. What effective strategies that have worked in your community to prevent and address GBV in all its forms & what laws do you think need to be strengthened or repealed to prevent and address GBV and to protect the rights of women and girls in all our diversity? 

The elimination of GBV in all its forms must be a battle fought by men as well as women. The involvement of men and boys is crucial if we are to overhaul the societal norms and practices that have allowed GBV to proliferate in the past. The movement must therefore be cultural, as well as legislative, if we are to truly end abuses against women. A heavy emphasis must be placed on educating young boys on the importance of gender equality. Coupled with the proactive measure of educating men against GBV, there must be a robust reactive mechanism in place so that victims of GBV may seek legal recourse. 

3. How can young women be supported to break structural barriers that hinder the progress towards gender equality? 

Societies must grow in such a way that women are afforded the same opportunities as men. These opportunities must be supported socially and protected legally. In order for women to break the structural barriers that hinder the progress towards gender equality, young women need equal access to: education, technology, healthcare, leadership, and finances. These initiatives must be actively undertaken across sectors – both public and private – in order to ensure that advancements towards gender equality are achieved and sustained. In order for this to be achieved, young women must play an active role in policymaking. Multilateral forums such as the Commission on the Status of Women are beginning to involve youth, but national governments must take robust efforts to hear the youth voice, seat youth at the decision-making table, and address their demands for gender equality.  

4. Why do we need a feminist HIV response? 

Each year, 15 million girls are married before the age of 18. Around 120 million girls worldwide have experienced forced sexual acts at some point of their lives. Each year, one in three women will experience physical or sexual violence, mostly by an intimate partner. In many regions, women who have been sexually abused by their partners are 1.5 times more likely to acquire HIV compared to women who have not experienced partner violence. The response to HIV is therefore not merely a medical one, but a social one. Communities must curtail the staggering presence of GBV in order to begin to address the cessation of HIV among women. 

5. The world will meet in June at the High Level Meeting on AIDS 2016, what is one of things you would like to see come out of this meeting? Especially that it happens after the adoption of the SDGs?

 Of all the outcomes the global community is seeking to achieve out of the upcoming High Level Meetings on AIDS 2016, the most essential is the collective agreement on the need to educate men – young and old – against GBV. Beyond this, affirmative steps must be outlined so that a concrete system for this education may be implemented in local communities worldwide.

Thanks to our partner Catherine Nyambura for her support on this project. See more at: | Rural Reporters