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#WhatWomenWant

Blended Blog for the 14th AWID Forum

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,
equity.
-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
services?

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


Kirthi Jayakumar, The Red Elephant Foundation


#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. Throughout the month of September we will be highlighting young feminists and the work they’re doing to advance the vision, priorities, and rights of women and girls in all of their diversity. #WhatWomenWant provides a democratic platform equalize all voices and catalyze cross-movement action towards what truly works for women and girls. 

I sleep for a few hours every night – I’m usually on my phone and social media around the clock. But that night, when I received a message asking for help, I was asleep. The guilt for not being awake ate me up, and kicked me into action. 

Recently a distraught friend, who had just moved to the United Kingdom after her wedding, left me sixteen messages asking for help. She was caught without a way out of an abusive relationship. Her husband monitored her phone and laptop, and locked the house when he left it, leaving her behind. He beat her, often times being aggravated when she screamed for mercy. On many days she slept without food because he didn’t let her eat. I would learn later that she had been putting up with this for nearly 13 months. She couldn’t Google the nearest shelter or emergency support services, because using her phone meant that he could trace her. 

After sending me the messages, she pulled out her SIM Card and cut it up, left her phone behind, and managed to slip out of the house. She made her way to the closest railway station; as a foreigner who had not yet become a citizen, she wasn’t aware of what rights she had on foreign soil. She spent a day switching trains until she could muster enough courage to call home and ask for the help of her parents in India. They were able to get in touch with a shelter, where she was taken care of. Her father brought her back to India, where she now lives, while proceedings for her divorce are underway. 

 Her story shook me up. She had put her trust in me, and I was asleep. What if there were many women like her, seeking help from across oceans, simply because they don’t know how to seek help locally? What if they continue to be vulnerable to abuse or violence, and can’t seek help because they have no access to the outside world? I wanted to do something about it. 

I spent a couple of weeks talking to women to understand the factors that could hinder one’s access to crisis response. Most of the answers were obvious: lack of money, awareness, knowledge of a foreign language if they were in a different country. Then came the ones that were harsh to digest: one survivor was afraid to Google help because it left traces on the browser history – and she worried about forgetting to erase the entries in her nervousness. Another survivor told me her former partner had installed spyware in her system – and she had no idea because it was so inconspicuous. An aid worker volunteer said that fear came from being unable to verify the authenticity of a care provider – given that many organizations are forced to cut down on intakes, services, or programs, or even close down, for want of funds. 

 I had kicked the hornet’s nest. I was dealing with something that was so huge, it was no exaggeration to say that the nuances had nuances. I spent restless hours brainstorming the many dimensions to fill the gap between services and victims in need of those services. Then the idea struck me: what if there was a way to verify organizations in cities around the world, and present the data so that women anywhere could access a service they most needed? What if, then, this mapped data could feed into a mobile app that could be accessed by women anywhere? So a mother in India could get in touch with a shelter or the police in the UK to ensure that her daughter was rescued, or a girl in Singapore could help her sister in Ireland access urgent medical care by accessing the resource appropriately for her. 

 I worked with volunteers from my team at the Red Elephant Foundation, as well as the UN Online Volunteering program to handle the task (a BIG SHOUT OUT to Laura Donati, Manmeet Kaur, Abubakar Abdullahi, Alka Mann, Georges Gedeonachi, Heather Thomas, Lance Orwa, Luqman Rabe and Prathyusha Sadhu!). We split a massive list of 197 countries among us, and by the end of two months we had a list of 5000 organizations around the world who provided aid to women who have survived violence. After the data collection I spent each night verifying that the organizations were functional: inquiry calls to their lines, online website verification, their social media presence, and conversations with people in the areas these organizations were in. Slowly as the map took shape, we realized there were entire countries that appear not to have comprehensive services. There were several segments of areas such as far Eastern Russia, parts of Central Asia and Africa that had little to no data that was accessible. It had also become apparent that we couldn’t have all the answers and find all the organizations in all cities of the world (although the aim is to get there). 

We decided to make it a crowdsourced map, where people could submit reports of organizations, that we could verify and add. I started to build the data into a crowdmap. Inspired by Harassmap and Safecity, I realized there was a sense of clarity, ease and fluidity when data is visualized – rather than a downloadable directory or a pair of drop-down menus. When visualized, data helps see where resources are inadequate – so even aid providers can establish initiatives accordingly – to cover areas that are otherwise unattended to. Our team split the data into categories and mapped them with color codes: Legal help, Medical help, Resources (Food, Shelter, Clothing and Supplies), Education and Empowerment Programs, Police, and Ambulance services. 

 When we had mapped about 97 countries, I made it live from our website. We assumed no one would notice, and went about data mining. Little did we know that impact was taking shape. A young lady in Sri Lanka was suspicious of her sister’s behavior. Her sister, married and settled for close to three years in Europe, would call home once every two weeks, seemingly normal. Eventually it became apparent to the sister in Sri Lanka that her sister in Europe was facing violence. The young lady in Sri Lanka follows our website, and in her curiosity she had stumbled onto the map. As luck would have had it, we had mapped a bunch of crisis response centers in her sister’s city. She called one, and with the help of the police, her sister was rescued. 

 At some point in the process I was beginning to wonder if this task made sense at all, but the universe found its way of bringing this powerful story to me at the right time. With feedback, we’ve come to understand that accessing this map seems easier, given that it is just one entry to be deleted from browser history if one feels they are being watched. We also know that women feel empowered about being able to help other women anywhere in the world. Now the map sits online, ready to help, and a mobile app will soon be made available. 

 As I write this, I have an email alert from an organization in Mumbai that provides shelter for women. They tell me that with the help of the crowdmap, they were able to direct a young woman in the US to the closest emergency medical help center. This makes me hope that providers can collaborate and not compete - encouraging and fostering better and easier access in the process. While I would like ideally that no woman in the world would face a situation that requires her to use the map, I also sadly acknowledge that we are not there yet. I hope the map helps as many women as possible in the world to get out of difficult situations with the least amount of inconvenience.

The map may be found here: http://gbvhelpmap.crowdmap.com 

 To contact Kirthi or the Red Elephant Foundation: info@redelephantfoundation.org


International Youth Day Blended Blog


August 12 is International Youth Day, and 2016’s theme was “The Road to 2030: Eradicating Poverty and Achieving Sustainable Consumption and Production”, with a special focus on goal 12 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Defining what this means for all young people including young feminists is critical. Young feminists have organized, mobilized and provided strategic insights on various issues that affect & impact them. Platforms such as the #WhatWomenWant online campaign have created space for activists and advocates across the women’s movement to amplify their voices, power their solutions and claim their agency. 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. How have young African feminists influenced the SDGs discourse and what has been your contribution? 

Young feminists have strategically informed the SDGs discourse through structures such as the Women’s Major Group. The Women’s Major Group was the first platform to launch the #WhatWomenWant online campaign during the Intergovernmental negotiations. This provided a platform for young feminists to boldly infuse their messages and advocacy priorities into the broader women’s movement. Across the continent, young feminists have been part of various national and regional formations that have shaped the SDGs advocacy discourse pre and post adoption. Young feminists continue to lead local and national efforts of shaping inclusive SDGs implementation. In Kenya, the SDGs Kenya forum is one such formation that is inclusive of feminist leadership, with FEMNET as co­chair and with young feminists as members of the coordination committee (Catherine Nyambura, Kenya). 

2. In Cameroon how has sustainable consumption and production been articulated?

In Cameroon, grassroots organisations continue to conduct series of activism around the SDGs, thus raising massive public attention and awareness around the SDGs and the need for sustainable consumption and production. Wild life agencies are also instrumental in propagating these views but the limitation to all these is that women and girls continue to be secluded from most of these strategic discussions. The statistics guide us to the fact that over 70% of primary commodities producers are women, yet less than 3% of them own or have access to these primary commodities/ resources such as land (Zoneziwoh Mbondgulo, Cameroon)
 

3. In Kenya how has sustainable consumption and production been articulated?

Kenya as a developing country still has a window period before such measures start being strictly observed. This is cautiously presented in the agreement that will be signed in Morocco following the Climate Change discussions held in 2015 in Paris. “The least developed countries and small island developing States may prepare and communicate strategies, plans and actions for low greenhouse gas emissions development reflecting their special circumstances.” This among other parts of the declaration encourage countries like Kenya to promote sustainable production and consumption however there is an urgency to specify a timeframe by which such planned actions will be implemented. (Sarah Kutahi, Kenya) 

4. What opportunities exist in advancing the discourse in sustainable consumption and production?

There are key national eventful moments such as the National Youth Day (February 11), National Day (May 20th) and March 8 (International Women’s Day) which can be explored by activists and advocates to advance discourses in sustainable consumption and production. There are also parliamentary sessions and meetings which activists can take advantage of to engage with key policymakers (Zoneziwoh Mbondgulo , Cameroon)

The rising empire of knowledgeable young people presents itself as an opportunity. Young people have realized the gap that has been created by the lack of policy infrastructure to actualize sustainable use and production including the recognition of youths as a resource and other available resources in Kenya. Leadership opportunities for young people is one opportunity that has not been exploited to the fullest and therefore presents a gap that when filled will advance the achievement of the SDGs in general (Sarah Kutahi, Kenya) 

We have a number of global platforms mostly on policy development and multilateral agreements that could be strategic in initiating conversations on sustainable consumption and production. Young feminists should continue to organize and influence conversations such as TICAD VI (in August), AWID Forum (in September) and GPEDEC (in November). (Catherine Nyambura, Kenya) 

Sarah Kutahi is an environmental scientist, freelance blogger, mentor and writer (currently contributes articles to Rural Reports (http://ruralreporters.com/) and Environmental Africa (http://environmentalafrica.com/). As a child of Mukuru Slums, her attention has shifted towards challenging the status quo of the people living in informal settlements through capacity building and education programmes as the program manager under International Christian Youthworks youth fellowship. Follow her on twitter: @SarahAnupi 

Zoneziwoh Mbondgulo­ Wondieh is an award winning humanitarian reporter, feminist blogger, community mobilizer, and sexuality activist – with over five years working experience and huge interest on women sexuality rights and their political leadership, as well as youth civic engagement and election violence in Africa, Cameroon in Particular. Currently, Zoneziwoh is the founder and executive director of a feminist advocacy organization, Women for a Change, Cameroon (Wfac) that seeks to work in and with communities of grassroots women on the promotion and protection of their sexual and reproductive health rights and girls education with disabilities. Wfac is a member of FEMNET. Follow her on twitter: @ZoFem, @WfacCmr 

Catherine Nyambura, is a Mandela Fellow 2016, Women Deliver Young Leader and member of Youth RISE International working group. Catherine is a passionate young African feminist activist with over 7 years of experience in advancing gender equality, youth development and sexual and reproductive health and rights in the context of sustainable development through movement building, digital and social media, policy advocacy and capacity building for young women and adolescents girls. Catherine is currently working with FEMNET as an Advocacy Programme Associate. Follow her on Twitter: @catherinenyamb1


Nsovo Xiluva, 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? 

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. 

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

I wear multiple hats as a healthcare worker and an activist. As a healthcare provider HIV/AIDS to me means a chronic condition that is well manageable with good nutrition and adherence to treatment. As an activist HIV/AIDS to me is a disease that is more stigmatized than others and is often associated with promiscuity, and not many people want to talk about it. I am working to change that belief.Women can be drivers of change as they fall in the groups of people most affected by HIV/AIDS. Women’s movement would help to support women living with HIV to fight the stigma surrounding living with HIV and taking on HIV activism. The social exclusion and lack of consideration for women living with HIV is unacceptable and cannot be tolerated. Women should demand for the criminalization of active prejudice and dehumanization of people living with HIV at country level. Further, women should hold their governments accountable to providing for the healthcare needs of HIV/AIDS therapy regardless of their social status or affordability to such therapy.  

3. Why do we need a feminist HIV response? 

A feminist response will address the needs of women, who happen to have a higher infection rate. 

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

 We have to eradicate the stigma associated with HIV through education and community mobilization. People infected with HIV should have that space that allows them to openly discuss their status without having the fear of discrimination. We need to move beyond having only activists disclosing their status to ensuring all people are able to get access to testing and treatment . The infection rate among to adolescent girls and young women needs to be reduced. It is unacceptable that in my country, South Africa, statistics show that nearly 2000 young women are infected with HIV every week. The new infections are mostly associated with transactional sexual activity, hence the inability for the young women to insist on using protection. This statistic is shocking and only points out how weak we are at economically empowering women.My primary focus is to change if not transform the economic prospects of women and young girls.

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? 

An active citizenry need to be the order of the day. We need to have civil society that will hold governments accountable to making action-oriented policies, and actually involving civil society in the drafting. Implementation will need to be through consultation. In addition, religious and cultural influences on policies need to done away with. We need to prioritize human rights over the rights and access obtained from privilege.

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-nsovo-xiluva/


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/