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in your community to prevent and address GBV in all its forms, and what laws do you think need to be strengthened or repealed to help prevent and address GBV, and to protect the rights of women and girls in all of our diversity?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


Marsida Bandilli, Albania

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? 

There is a tremendous inequality in between different parts of the world and within our societies. We have to invest on closing the gaps: gender gap, educational gap and poverty gap. It is entirely unacceptable that there are still people who live with less than a dollar per day mostly women and girls. It women are exposed to HIV and that the face of the epidemic has become feminine. As a big gap in this direction is the lack of comprehensive sexuality education. It’s through intensive inclusion of SRHR education we would be able to raise awareness  and improve access to services. 

2. What effective strategies have worked in your community or setting to prevent and address GBV in all its forms & 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? 

GBV is a very complex issue to tackle because it is not just an individual issue, but also a humanitarian issue. The best way forward is to address GBV is from a societal perspective. Because of patriarchal cultures, women are oftentimes abused in various ways. In certain cases when women amplify their voices to denounce  violence, they may be faced with “judgements” from their neighbors, family, or even society at large. We have made significant advancement on women’s rights and their empowerment, but the GBV is probably one of the most sensitive and important aspects of women’s rights, where progress has been very little. It is important to start addressing this issue by educating everyone, women and men, to shift the mentality and make a transformational change in our “structured” beliefs. In the same way we have built traditions of “gender roles” in our society, we can unlearn what we have learnt. This is an unending fight, but it has to be incremental and consistent. 

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. Its 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

4. Why do we need a feminist HIV response?

Statistics show that women are twice as likely to contract HIV from unprotected sex as men. This is not only related to biology but its also about culture and poverty. In many countries, for women poverty can mean financial dependence on a partner. This means they are not able to buy condoms or contraception and cannot insist on using protection because a woman’s value is measured by her fertility. Women are in this case faced with a choice between motherhood and HIV and are not in a position to  insist on abstinence. For these reasons we need to tackle HIV from a feminist perspective. We need women to live healthy lives, to have right and free access to treatment no matter where the are from or where they live. When we protect women, we also protect the society, through intensified PMTCT. By putting our resources in the right place, we treat the root causes!!! 

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 adoption of SDGs?

I would like to see the SDGs taken very seriously. I would like to see a serious commitment from countries, stakeholders and directly involved individuals. If we fail to deliver results, all of us fail. But if we succeed to accomplish and commit to make consistent change in our societies, everyone benefits. There is no other way to achieve sustainable development, than with work and progress for ourselves and for generations to come. 

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


Ntlotleng Mabena, South Africa

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?

Although we have made great strides in treatment of HIV, as evidenced by fewer AIDS-related deaths, we are yet to make similar strides in the field of prevention of new infections. We are still seeing significant new infections amongst adolescent girls and young women. We need to honestly interrogate the factors that put women and girls at high risk, and afford enough resources in mitigating these factors. The key, is to involve women and girls in researching these factors and in finding possible solutions. We still have many cultural and social practices that place women in submissive roles making it very hard for women and girls to be able to negotiate their safety. If governments are serious about women empowerment, and in reducing the burden of infections amongst women, we need them to really be bold, and pass radical policies that place a power in the hands of women. This will mean that they remove power from the hands of men. Lip service on empowerment has not gotten us anywhere.

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 help prevent and address GBV, and to protect the rights of women and girls in all of our diversity?

There has been some activity that attempts to address the high levels of GBV in communities, although most initiatives are driven by civil society organizations. There has been a lot of programs that target men, as perpetrators of GBV. These programs engage men at community levels, and forces men to look at how they use their power, and how they view women. Although these have not necessarily translated into large scale behaviour change, it is a key area of intervention. We need men, to take responsibility for their actions and see the consequences of misogyny in their communities. But while we work with men, we should never stop working with women, especially those who find themselves as victims of GBV. We need to strengthen the public services available for victims of rape and abuse, and continue to make these services accessible to all women. We have women and girls who do not have access to adequate post rape care, and access to safe judicial services.

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

We need policies that place more power in the hands of women and girls. We cannot continue to have decisions on sexual and reproductive health and rights be made by people who are far from those situations. Women should and must have the power to decide about their own sexual health and reproductive health. Too often we see women been given censored choices. For instance, in my country, South Africa, abortion, under certain conditions, is legal, yet, thousands of women do not have access to safe, legal public abortion services. Many still resort to unsafe abortions, risking their lives, because there are no public abortion services offered in some areas. We say women have a choice to choose safe abortion services, but in actual fact, they have no choice because there are no facilities that offer the service in her community.

4. Why do we need a feminist HIV response?

I believe that we need a feminist public health response in general. Too many women fall victim to an unresponsive public health system, mostly because women do not set their own health agendas. When women begin to set their own health priorities, and also begin to find their own solutions to the health problems they face, we will begin to have women be part of their own solutions, and not just objects without an input.

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 adoption of SDGs?

I would like to see resolutions that place women at the centre of their discussions, resolutions lead by women, that are for women. Before they become technical, and start arguing from positions of power, they should first pause and think how their input affects the most vulnerable, most deserted women back in their own communities. I really hope the discussions at HLM will move us forward as women, and will not be filled with bureaucratic lip service.

Thanks to our partner Catherine Nyambura for her support on this project. See more at http://femnet.co/2016/06/07/4073/


Chelsie France, Guyana

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

A major current gap in the HIV response for women would be the lack of psycho social support. It is of the view that it is vital that women have access to proper psychosocial support since often times they end up being single mothers who, sometimes would’ve been vulnerable to the mother to child transmission of HIV. In addition, stigma and discrimination continues to create a gap for women and girls to access HIV services. In Guyana, patriarchy (male domination), and lack of skilled human resources become major barriers for women and girls to access HIV/SRHR services. 

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, protect the rights of women and girls in all of our diversity?

To combat the issue of Gender Based Violence, strategies such as sensitization through panel discussions, community outreaches and GBV screening when offering counseling services have been deemed effective. Also, through the Guyana Responsible Parenthood Association’s youth program, young people particularly young girls become aware and are better able to protect themselves. Laws that seek to protect women and girls have to be enforced and implemented.   

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

Young women should first be supported by their families particularly their male counterparts, through such they’ll be able to make independent decisions with freedom knowing that they’re supported by their male figures. In addition, young women can be supported by all communities NGOs, FBOs by providing the resources necessary to push the gender equality agenda. Moreover, governments should be open enough to be a part of the conversation. 

4. Why do we need an HIV feminist response? 

In order to experience the much needed change, a radical response is needed. It is important that women’s SRH issues be addressed since women are the ones who’re more vulnerable. HIV can be contracted more easily by the woman than the man. Often times women’s views and needs of sexual and reproductive health turn on deaf ears. Therefore, a strong holistic approach is necessary. 

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

Just recently, in Guyana, the Minister of Public Health disclosed that there are approximately 8000 people infected with HIV and that there are 500 new cases. It is with hope that there will be a more robust approach to eliminate HIV/AIDS all together and for much emphasis to be placed on the role of young people in combating HIV and protecting themselves. Also, what approach and how the issue of gender equality and equal access to SRH services will be addressed/ executed.

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-chelsie-france/ | Rural Reporters

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