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#WhatWomenWant

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/