Shirin Choudhary, India


#WhatWomenWant is a collaborative effort launched by the
ATHENA Network and driven by young feminists and young women from around the
world. The campaign has created space for activists and advocates across the
women’s movement to amplify their voices, power their solutions and claim their
agency. The #WhatWomenWant online campaign aims to inspire
renewed leadership and drive momentum towards realizing the vision, priorities,
and rights of women and girls in all of their diversity and to end HIV as a
public health emergency.  It provides a democratic platform and space to
equalize all voices and catalyze cross-movement action towards what truly works for women and girls

1. 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
services?

The HIV response for women
and girls needs to respond to their specific, contextual needs. The stigma associated
with, and the constraint placed upon the sexual lives of young women is high,
and the HIV response can only be appropriate if it is seen through a
comprehensive sexual and reproductive rights lens. This means prioritizing
comprehensive sexuality education (CSE). Comprehensive means that all young
people, men and women, should have access to all their sexual rights and health
needs, and be empowered to make decisions regarding their sexual lives, without
having to face structural and cultural barriers. Without the help of CSE, it is
impossible to fully meet the health needs of young women around the globe

2. 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.

3. Why do we need a feminist HIV response?

HIV/AIDS is not just a
health issue, but is related to our social and cultural lives. The response to
HIV needs to be a feminist one because we need a societal reform. This reform
is most needed in the way we treat people living with HIV, and in the way they
access medical care. Feminism empowers young women and aims to create an
environment that is conducive to their empowerment. It is important for young
women to be able to access information, support, and essential care, when it
comes to HIV/AIDS, and a feminist response aims for just that!!

4. What is your top health priority for women and girls in the next 5
years as it relates to HIV?

For me, one of the major
priorities is comprehensive sexuality education. Any sort of health education
is incomplete without information on HIV/AIDS, STIs and RTIs. It is also
incomplete without looking at gender and sexuality in a healthy and positive
way. CSE, when deployed correctly, creates an environment  for young women
and girls to be able to assert the needs of their bodies. The fight against HIV
needs such an environment

5. The 2016 Political Declaration on HIV and AIDS, along with other
global and regional policy instruments have made bold pledges to achieve
gender equality and address HIV for women and girls. How can national
governments practically translate these commitments into actions?

National governments need
to be able to get the support from local women’s civil society organisations
and reach grassroots levels – communities that might be needing support and
healthcare but never get it. They also need concrete and transparent action
plans, that involve the people they want to reach out to. The response to HIV
should not be one where people are seen as merely beneficiaries of policies,
but also as drivers of change and agents of their own wellbeing – and this goes
especially for young people. National governments need to let go of
conservatism and move towards a society where young people are provided
relevant and accurate information about their bodies and sexuality, and are
trusted to make their own decisions.

Special thanks to our partner, Catherine Nyambura, for her support on this project. See more at http://ruralreporters.com/young-feminists-blog-series-on-whatwomenwant-featuring-shirin-choudhary/


Tshepo Ricki Kgositau, Botswana & South Africa


#WhatWomenWant is a collaborative effort launched by the ATHENA Network and driven by young feminists and young women from around the world. The campaign has created space for activists and advocates across the women’s movement to amplify their voices, power their solutions and claim their agency. The #WhatWomenWant online campaign aims to inspire renewed leadership and drive momentum towards realizing the vision, priorities, and rights of women and girls in all of their diversity and to end HIV as a public health emergency. It provides a democratic platform and space to equalize all voices and catalyze cross-movement action towards what truly works for women and girls. 

 1. 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 services?

I want to speak to transgender women (transwomen) as a marginalized group of women who continue to be a community of women disenfranchised from accessing general health care services, more importantly HIV/SRHR services in the African context. HIV service provision continues to be discriminatory towards transwomen which makes it difficult for them to access basic health care. More importantly discrimination by health care providers not only deters them from accessing HIV services but it as well blocks many who test HIV+ from being retained on treatment and care.
This speaks to the problematic service provider attitudes, that stems from a lack of understanding & lack of training on comprehensive sexual diversity and gender diversity. Providers reinforce their religious and cultural norms and values to perpetuate the discrimination & stigma at women who present atypical or having gender diverse expressions. Research continues to register a growth of the HIV incidence rate amongst transgender people in general, but more apparent amongst the transwomen. 

2. What does the end of AIDS mean to you? What role can the women’s movement play to accelerate progress?

A pluralistic and inclusive women’s movement is a vital move towards ensuring that all diversity of women identities and expressions are represented when discussions, lobbying and advocacy around HIV and SRHR is advanced. The women’s movement continues to expose the multiple vulnerabilities of women to HIV, and doing this in an inclusive and plural manner ensures that women as the section of community that is most affected by HIV is targeted and addressed in a holistic sense which is the only way in which the end of AIDS can be achieved. It is important to ensure that no sub-communities or categories are left behind in the endeavor to end AIDS and advance SRHR for women as one member of society left out of HIV programming is an impediment to reaching this goal. 

3. Why do we need a feminist HIV response? 

Integrating a feminist approach to HIV programming enables programmers to efficiently remedy the socio-economic barriers that hinder access to HIV and SRHR services for all people for a holistic redress of the incidence and prevalence of HIV. Feminism allows us a lens that fully interrogates the multiple layers of vulnerability to HIV that are perpetuated by patriarchal structures in society; a feminist approach enables us to deconstruct gender and body policing that continues to deny women agency over their bodies and hinders access to services. A feminist approach offers the HIV discourse an opportunity to overcome social barriers that continue to deny LGBTIQA identifying persons access to HIV services. With a feminist approach the HIV discourse can tailor messaging in a manner that bridges the gap of access to HIV services by men which is perpetuated by gender stereotyping which define accessing health care as feminine. Feminism also creates linkages between socio-economic inequities to various social problems such as the inability to access general health care and HIV/SRHR services. 

4. What is your top health priority for women and girls in the next 5 years as it relates to HIV?
It is important that HIV literacy be incorporated into school curricular early to equip girls with the knowledge on HIV prevention. This should be done in a comprehensive manner where parents of girls are re-socialized to ensure that girls do not continue to be left vulnerable to contracting HIV simply from a lack of knowledge and confidence to protect themselves. Society has for a long time stigmatized women’s sexuality as something that is shameful and not to be encouraged; which is how girls and young women have long been robbed of the agency to determine their safety when engaging in sexual activity which persists in womanhood. I am of the strong opinion that society needs to be assisted to revisit the subject of sex in its entirety, more importantly revisiting women’s sexuality in an empowering manner to ensure that girls and young women grow with the correct knowledge regarding their bodies and their vulnerability to HIV. 

5. The 2016 Political Declaration on HIV and AIDS, along with other global and regional policy instruments, have made bold pledges to achieve gender equality and address HIV for women & girls. How can national governments practically translate these commitments into actions? 

Governments need to make deliberate investments into social dialogues that address the position of women and girls in society. In particular articulating the harm caused by the status of women and girls as beings without sexual agency. Government investments need to go towards repositioning women in society with a clear intent to deconstruct social and gender normativity that places women at the helm of HIV. This can only be achieved if governments build strong relationships with various civil society actors not only in the HIV stream but across sectors. This will enable access to a wide audience in society to reconstruct and reposition the status of women in light of vulnerability of women particularly to HIV. 

Thanks to our partner Catherine Nyambura for her support on this project. See more at http://ruralreporters.com/young-feminists-blog-series-on-whatwomenwant-4/


Xiana Albor, Spain


#WhatWomenWant is a collaborative effort launched by the ATHENA Network and driven by young feminists and young women from around the world. The campaign has created space for activists and advocates across the women’s movement to amplify their voices, power their solutions and claim their agency. The #WhatWomenWantcampaign aims to inspire renewed leadership and drive momentum towards realizing the vision, priorities, and rights of women and girls in all of their diversity and to end HIV as a public health emergency. It provides a democratic platform and space to equalize all voices and catalyze cross-movement action towards what truly works for women and girls.

1. 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 services?


What I feel is that young women can feel judged when they go to seek health services. They do not feel comfortable or safe when talking about sexual partners or sexual practices. I´ve heard of a woman who went to the doctor asking for the HIV test, but the doctor was very surprised and in return claimed: “what the hell did you do lady, to need that test!” 

2. What does the end of AIDS mean to you? What role can the women’s movement play to accelerate progress? 

The end of AIDS means that everyone has access to antiretroviral therapy and health care. For free. It also means that people should be as fortunate and lucky as I am now to live in a country with free HIV treatment. The power that we women have in this is extraordinary, not just only because we can stop vertical transmission of the virus, but because we can say loud and clear: NO means NO (e.g., sorry, NO without a condom). 

3. Why do we need a feminist HIV response? 

The rates of men to women in relation to new HIV infection have changed. Not as many women were living with HIV in the past as we are now. From my point of view, this means that we were not ready yet and that we need to put more intention into model a feminist HIV response due to our particular characteristics. Of course, together with all the other communities! 

4. 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.

5. The 2016 Political Declaration on HIV and AIDS, along with other global and regional policy instruments, have made bold pledges to achieve gender equality and address HIV for women and girls. How can national governments practically translate these commitments into actions?

I would like to see more women studying medicine and research and more women and girls being involved in decision making and government. Finally, more NGOs, charities and movements such as the #WhatWomenWant should be empowered and resourced to thrive.


Blended blog on #WhatWomenWant


In this blended blog, we hear from 5 young feminists from Canada, Eastern Europe and India on what it would take to #endAIDS

HASHTAGS:  #WhatWomenWant #HLM2016AIDS #YAFDialogues #SRHRDialogues #EndingAIDS #WeAreTheEpidemic #TheAfricaWeWant

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 – Katherine Wynne, Canada

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

Gender based violence is a continual systemic issue. It has less to do with the laws but that laws are implemented and enforced without influence from patriarchal and misogynist roots. An example of this can be seen in the recent Jian Ghomeshi case in Toronto, Canada. Jian, a popular radio host, was found not guilty on multiple sex assault charges despite having numerous high profile
witnesses and evidence. In a Statistics Canada survey of victimization in 2013
472,000 women reported a sexual assault, with only 1,610 guilty verdicts in a
court of law. This is an unacceptable statistic that demonstrates the ways in
which laws are failing women in Canada. In order to protect the rights of women
and girls in diversity there must be strengthened enforcement of laws and a
changed narrative of believing the experiences of women -Melissa Fairey, Canada

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

It has to do a lot with empowerment, and empowerment comes from within. There are  millions of brave women who have made it; from poverty to empowerment; from gender based violence to empowerment; from being
silenced to being heard. Every woman that has made herself stand out of what
society has told her to do, with a firm belief in her inner values, is a model to follow. At the end of the day the structural barriers are constructed from
us; both women and men. In the same way they have been constructed, is how we
should deconstruct them. It’s only with determination, and firm belief in equality that we will be able to “disrupt” those models that
society imposes on us. Young women should always be supported to stay genuine
and true to themselves, to stand up for what they believe and to believe
they are as capable as men for any kind of job. History has proven that when
women got education, got to work and pursued their dreams, societies benefited - Marsida Bandilli, Albania

4. Why do we need a feminist HIV response?

Any comprehensive and effective HIV response needs to question patriarchal,
hetero-normative values and norms. It has to:

  • Be sensitive and supportive of the
    needs and rights of gender and sexual minorities
  • Fight against oppressive patriarchal norms such as slut shaming, taboo against premarital sexual activity and the
    over-emphasis on female virginity, enabling girls and women to discuss
    sexuality more openly.
  • Support rights of sex workers and marginalized communities

Only an intersectional feminist response can meaningfully fulfill these fundamental
conditions - Josephine Varghese, India

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

I consider myself an activist and thus have
divided feeling about treaty bodies and international organizations that
produce them. Sure, SDGs could make a nice path for progress – but we still
have to work “on the ground” because most of the governments do not take the
conclusions seriously. But on the other hand, if we do have the UN Women and
the CSW and the Convention on the elimination of all forms of discrimination
against women, it is wise to use them and their documents properly and wisely.
It would be wonderful if the conclusions of the meeting would actually be
implemented on the local level, and not just signed and put in the tray - Marinella Matejcic, Croatia 


L’Orangelis Thomas Negron, Puerto Rico

For a couple of weeks now, I have been collaborating with the campaign #WhatWomenWant. I tweet and retweet many stuff, but never posted an original message. During this days I have been reading “What Women Want” so much that I actually start thinking, what do I want? Like, what do I really want? It was hard to think about it, because sometimes you have in your mind a lot of recycled statements and slogans that you just forget about what you want for you. But this last weeks I have been so full of the “High Level Meeting”, media, university, elections, work and economic troubles, that it was impossible to think about what I really want, and this is it:

What I want is the guarantee that I will be in peace, I want mental health. I want to feel that this is not the wrong decade to be a young woman. I need to know that I will make it, that I don’t actually need to fulfil anyone’s expectative. What I want is nobody pressuring me to be the perfect young activist, with the perfect mindset, participation and statements.

What I want is to be able to watch TV, without feeling that I’m not pretty enough. I like to eat and what I don’t want, is to feel that I need to apologize for it. What I want is sexual pleasure, without feeling shame about it. I want that my doctor ask me about it, instead of ask me about the condom use first. What I want is not to be seen as a high risk person if I have sex partners instead of sentimental partners. I would like to feel the warm of the people instead my phone vibrating because most of the human contact now, is on the social media. What I want is better data and evaluation systems.

What I want is that governments take responsibility for their mistakes and inactions. What I want is that the government to stop running over workers women. What I want is a stable salary. I which that my activism, passion and creativity could pay for my rent and university. What I want is to see my friend and her children economically stable. I also which that she doesn’t see me as a bad influence to her children, because of my support of LGBTQI’s Rights, and my agnosticism.

What I want is to have less side effect caused by ARV. I would like them to taste like pistachio, then I would be 100% adherent without any doubt. But seriously, I want to stop taking medication and what I want is a cure. I don’t want to feel afraid if I’m using marihuana. What I want is to walk down the street without looking behind me to see if someone is following me. I would like to drink without feeling insecure.

What I want is that my dad doesn’t feel pressure because he need to provide to the family. I want him to be able to express his feelings. What I want is gender perspective on my nephew and niece’s classroom so they could be whatever and however they want to be. I would like to have more tools to provide to my friends living with HIV and wants to come out. What I want is acknowledgement of my multiple identities without having to choose between one of them. I would like that no one asked question to my ex-boyfriend when I was on the newspaper talking about being HIV positive. I also would like that my dad doesn’t have to explain anything when I’m on TV.

What I want is that the word “feminism” stop being seen as a bad word for many people. What I want is that every women be able to choose if they want to be mothers or not. What  want is that countries stop being so conservatives and recognize Key Populations and the decisions that people make. I wish someday the term “Key Populations” became useless because they are no longer vulnerable or unsafe. I which I could trust on the politicians that are willing to govern my country, and I would like to think that at least one of them can resolve many issues here.

What I want is no age restrictions for adolescents and young people when they want to access to any sexual and reproductive health services all around the world. What I want is stop being seen as a menace for others people life while having sex. What I want is that the main reason for my treatment is my quality of life instead the reduction of the transmission. What I want is more people with courage on the power positions. What I want is not being a token for the international initiatives. I don’t want any more empty agendas and declarations for decoration. I wish my voice could actually change the harmful practices and laws. What I want is less politic position with religious influence.

What I want is less transgender women being murdered in the USA and Latin America. What I want is that the state stop seen the sex workers as criminals in most of the countries. I want that most of the people treat other people who use drugs with dignity. What I want is an end to stigma. What I want is more appreciation for the activist work. I wish I could live in a world without borders. What I want is more love, more peace, more freedom.

Read more at https://rojavida.wordpress.com/2016/06/05/whatwomenwant/

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