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#WhatWomenWant

Nyasha Sithole, Zimbabwe

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?

Participation of adolescent girls and young women as project deliverers is the gap in the HIV response. There is also a gap in terms of consistency and representation of girls and women who are advocates on HIV. This affects the trends of advocacy and it is hard to track the results of advocacy work done. A barrier to accessing HIV and SRH information is due to lack of girls and women friendly services and lack of adequate information on the availability of 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in your community to prevent and address GBV in all its forms and what laws do you think need to be strengthened or repealed to help prevent and address GBV, protect the rights of women and girls in all of our diversity?

Capacity building women and girls with adequate information, knowledge and skills to be advocates and champions against GBV has worked in my community. In most cases GBV is perpetrated due to lack of understanding and management of unequal power and gender relations between men and women in societies. Empowering women and men in societies to respect and manage power and gender relations is effective in dealing with prevention of GBV. 

3. Why do we need a feminist HIV response? 

HIV has been given  and consequently adopted the face of women and girls, women are seen as vectors of transmission, women carry the burden of care, women lack knowledge on HIV and other aspects of their sexual and reproductive health and rights, and women are more vulnerable to infections because of their biological formation, social and economic status in society. Therefore in the HIV response it is very important to have the voice feminists and apply a feminist angle towards the  HIV response. 

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

One major structural barrier is an issue of economic resources, for young women to engage in processes be it conferences, meetings etc we need resources. Secondly we also need capacity building it’s not enough to be given the space and resources to do something without capacity building for example if i am nominated to represent at a meeting who is there to mentor and support me to ensure that I deliver? 

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?

Resources is a word that is important  in achieving desired outcomes in the HIV response as well as the SDGs. Inadequate funding has hindered women from actively participating in initiatives on HIV . These initiatives vary from Conferences, High Level Meetings, advocacy platforms, and programming. Therefore there is need to mobilize resources to strengthen engagement of women and girls in the HIV response.

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-nyasha-sithole/ | Rural Reporters


Marinella Matejcic, Croatia

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? 

Data for our local level shows that in a ten-year period, there have been around 50 registered cases a year of those infected by HIV and that Croatia is among the countries with the very low prevalence of HIV infection. On the other hand, access to SRHR services for women and girls is a subject of privilege. While in the capital and bigger cities women and girls can access some of the SRHR services, it is a fact that women in rural communities are not always in a position to make informed choices and access their sexual and reproductive health. Women face stigma, the conscientious objection is not regulated and that leaves a lot of space for harmful practices such as, illegal abortions after-hours and altering the data for national statistics. Thus, the national data on the subject is not reliable. 

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? 

CSOs are working hard on prevention of GBV, using innovative media strategies, workshops, and promotion of peer-to-peer education. Croatian Government did not ratify the Istanbul Convention. The Convention would put more emphasis on prevention and fight against the GBV. Croatian legal framework does not recognize all aspects of the problem and in the part where the framework isn’t written poorly, social services and the police are not implementing it well. Even after going to the safe houses, women are faced with a number of problems, including paperwork and everyday life situations that emerge from the fact that in most cases, the despot continue to enjoy their real-estate and belongings, while the woman and the children (if there are any) are the ones who have to seek refuge. The courts, in most cases, are not sensitized about this delicate situation, and that puts women through more suffering. 

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

If you do not know that you have a problem, you will not try to solve it. We need to teach women about their fundamental rights: we need to teach girls that they are not born into patriarchy just to adopt it: they have to fight it! It’s necessary to teach young girls, as soon as possible, what their endless possibilities are: we have to teach them that they have endless possibilities. Not just to finish school, get married and bear children. That should be a choice, not a coercion. Women have to form safe spaces and work intersectionally on mapping the problems and work on solving them from above, by collaborating with the handful of politicians that get the problem, but also from the bottom line; making pressure on the public and the law-maker realize the full potential that is hidden inside the half of the world. 

4. Why do we need a feminist HIV response? 

We need a feminist response to HIV infection because there is no feminism if we do not talk intersectionality; if we do not talk about transgender women; if we leave the lesbian and bisexual community out of it. Fighting HIV is fighting against patriarchy, against the fact that society in which we are living in finds it acceptable to leave girls and women behind because they special needs in terms of SRHR. By teaching women and girls and some marginalized groups about sexual and reproductive health and rights, we are giving them the tools to create their own destiny. There is no progress if women cannot control their bodies. It’s applicable to fighting HIV, STIs and unwanted pregnancies.   

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 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.

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-marinella-matejcic/ | Rural Reporters


Isabella Muthoni, Kenya

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? 

According to UNAIDS 2013 HIV estimates, despite declining HIV infection rates, in 2013 globally, there were approximately 250,000 new HIV infections among adolescent boys and girls, 64% of which are among adolescent girls. In Africa, 74% of new infections among adolescents were among adolescent girls. It is important that we double our efforts in order to reduce that number by 2030. The current gaps and key barriers in Sub-Saharan Africa include; Not knowing their HIV status – according to ‘Adolescents: health risks and solutions. Fact sheet 345. Geneva: World Health Organization; 2014’, only 15% of young women and adolescent girls aged 15–24 years in sub-Saharan Africa know their HIV status. Stigma, discrimination, lack of social protection and punitive laws against girls and young women are some of the gaps that need to be addressed in order close the current gaps in HIV protection. Lack of access to clinics and contraception options especially for young girls Early marriages for adolescent girls and young women  

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?  

One effective strategy that has worked in my community is having the gender-based violence desk at the police stations. This has ensured that victims of sexual crimes and domestic violence have been handled in a better manner and that evidence is better collected to be able to prosecute the perpetrators. It is pertinent to note that not each and every police station has this desk and many of them are underfunded, which still leaves many of the victims unable to access justice at all after experiencing violence. Another strategy that has worked is encouraging the victims of gender-based violence to report the assault at the nearest police station. While reporting the matter is the first step when it comes to addressing GBV, it is not a guarantee that the matter will be followed up and that the victims will be able to obtain justice. As a practicing lawyer though, I have always encouraged my clients to report the matter and get the O.B number as it is proof that the victim was assaulted on a particular date and time and that she reported the matter to the police in case there is ever any future occurrence of the same. 

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

 It all starts with quality education for young girls and women. Studies have demonstrated that educating women and girls is the single most effective strategy to ensure the well-being and health of children, and the long-term success of developing economies. In Sub-Saharan Africa and everywhere around the globe, girls and women continue to suffer from a lack of economic opportunity, inadequate health care and education, early marriage, sexual violence, and discrimination. If young women are given the opportunity to go to school and obtain quality education, they will be able to break structural barriers that hinder their progress towards gender equality. There are countless barriers that hinder achievement of gender equality all embedded in patriarchal and misogynistic cultural practices. If we are able to deal with these deep-rooted cultural practices and norms that advocate for Female Genital Mutilation/cutting and non-education for young women, we will make great strides towards achievement of gender equality. 

4. Why do we need a feminist HIV Response?  

We need a feminist approach to HIV response because young girls and women are affected by the epidemic in a different way. According to the UNAIDS & The AFRICAN UNION | REFERENCE | 2015 Report “Empower Young Women and Adolescent Girls: Fast-tracking the end of the AIDS epidemic in Africa”, many young women who marry or enter into partnerships early do not have the knowledge or the personal agency that enables them to protect themselves from HIV – for example, they cannot negotiate when to have sex or to use condoms. Women and girls also continue to experience unique risks and vulnerabilities to HIV during conflicts, emergencies and post-conflict periods. In conflict situations, rape can be used as a weapon of war, increasing the risk of HIV transmission because rates of HIV among military personnel typically exceed those of the general population.In order to overturn these statistics, I believe that we need a feminist HIV Response, one that calls for increase in the provision and access to comprehensive sexuality education, one that advocates to keeping girls in school, one that calls an end to harmful cultural practices like FGM which may spread HIV and a response that calls on Governments to implement social protection programs in order to reduce HIV Infections among adolescent girls and young 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 adoption of SDGs?  

I would like to see strong commitments come out of the meeting from the all member states, especially from Kenya, on provision of access to comprehensive sexuality education and access to contraception for women. I would like to see efforts to reduce infections of HIV among adolescent girls and young women fast-tracked and that governments will make financial commitment towards it as part of efforts to achieve the global goals by 2030.

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-isabella-muthoni/ | Rural Reporters


Ana Aguilera, Mexico

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? 

The biggest gap I see in the HIV response for women and girls is the isolated approach we often take when addressing HIV. We fail to see the linkages between education about sexual and reproductive health and how that often leads to a lack of access to contraception, exposure to HIV and perhaps an unintended pregnancy. We often treat HIV as a separate issue from other SRHR issues such as comprehensive sexuality education, access to contraception and access to safe and legal abortion. As a result, we implement programs to address each of these issues separately and lose out on the opportunity to provide more holistic and comprehensive programs that see a girl or woman as needing information about and access to a comprehensive package of SRH services. In my experience, the biggest barrier to accessing SRH services can also be the biggest enabler. I believe it is ultimately empowerment that makes the difference. An empowered girl or woman that values herself and that feels supported by her family and community will find ways to access SRHR information and services. 

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? 

Addressing gender-based violence requires a comprehensive approach that employs a human rights centered approach. We know that girls and women all around the world experience gender-based violence, most often from those closest to them. We also know that women and girls abused by a male partner are three times more likely to continue a pregnancy they want to terminate. When faced with an unwanted pregnancy resulting from rape, they are more than twice as likely to choose to terminate that pregnancy, even if safe and legal abortion options are unavailable. We must ensure that girls and women have access to a comprehensive package of reproductive health services, including access to contraception and safe abortion. We must continue to educate all girls and boys around the world and slowly reconstruct the gender norms that are in place that reinforce the differences between girls and boys. Along with education, we must also ensure that communities support the reconstruction of gender norms. 

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

Young women like me need to be supported to overcome the barriers that get in the way of our participation and our leadership. To support us, First, we need to acknowledge the gender imbalances that exist in positions of decision-making and power across the various spheres that we operate in. Without specifically calling out the imbalances and the reasons for why they exist, we cannot address these imbalances. Second, we need to create spaces for us to build our capacity as leaders and exercise our leadership abilities in the spheres that we don’t normally operate in. Third, we need to recognize that for young women to step into leadership roles, others need to step back and share the power they hold. This is often the hardest part because it requires assessing and shifting the power dynamics. 

4. Why do we need a feminist HIV response? 

We need a feminist HIV response because HIV disproportionately affects young women and those women are often in relationships where they hold less power than their male partners. By employing a feminist response to the HIV epidemic, we are not only treating HIV and AIDS as a health issue but also a gender equality issue that requires attention to existing gender and power dynamics. We cannot continue to only treat the symptoms of problems whose root causes stem from gender inequality and the notion that women are inferior to men. 

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) 

One thing I would like to see come out of this meeting is an action plan for how high level players and future commitments will engage young women as leaders, as shakers and movers for their communities. It is time that we hold civil society and our governments accountable to ensuring that young women lead the AIDS movement now and in the future. . 

Thanks to our partner Catherine Nyambura for her support on this project. See more at: http://ruralreporters.com/young-feminists-blog-series-on-whatwomenwant-3/ | Rural Reporters