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Young Feminists at the centre of public health

Post By Nyasha Sithole

As a young
advocate transitioning to a young professional in the field of public health to
improve the lives of adolescent girls and women, finding myself in Seattle was
the moment of a lifetime.

Promoting the
rights and wellbeing of adolescent girls and women is work that has been
carried over the years since time immemorial, with the emergence of a focus on
improving service delivery on public health, there is need for feminists’ women
leaders to continue pushing for the conversations to have a gender lens.

The News: 

The HIV and
Women workshop, preceding CROI was a learning platform. In this space had an
insight on different researches being done to advance the lives of women with a
focus on HIV and AIDS. In a panel to link communities with researchers on the
needs of adolescent girls and young women the call was to engage young women in
a mentor-ship activity to support participation and engagement in research.

In July 2019 the
world will be expecting to receive results from the ECHO trial, which in simple
narrative was a research to find out if hormonal contraceptives especially Depo
can increase risk of HIV acquisition among adolescent girls and women. Therefore
as young women leaders we met with key personnel/researchers leading the ECHO
trial at global level to discuss on the role of young women in preparation for
the results and scenarios of the expected results. As a takeaway from these
meetings was the understanding that no matter the outcomes of the research it is
important to keep advocating and standing up for reproductive choices of
adolescent girls and women and not forgetting the reproductive rights of those
living with HIV. This is because girls and women are diverse and need to be catered
for differently hence CHOICE is important.

Political Decisions and CHOICES

A visit to the
Gates Foundation headquarters, included having a dialogue with Gates staff on
#WhatGirlsWant around the integration of HV and Family Planning. Young
feminists present called for a holistic approach towards information dissemination,
service delivery on HIV and FP. Our call was one’s board cannot be separated
into half to represent HIV and the other FP but as the wholesome of one’s body
is the same wholesome one’s access to reproductive and HIV information and
services should. I particularly spoke on unpacking the word CHOICE as an

C- Confidence of
adolescent girls and women to discuss and choose their needs according to their

H- platforms where honest
conversations can be done, conversations on accountability towards health and well-being
of adolescent girls and women

O- Organised advocacy,
investing in resources, technical capacity and capacity strengthening of girls
and women led community groups to engage in reproductive health conversations
and service delivery too

I-   Informed choices still remain the best choices and this should be
the cornerstone for information dissemination and service delivery

C – Community engagement,
participation and inclusion still remains a priority

E - Excellency in service
delivery needs to make sure it recognises autonomy and diverse choices of adolescent
girls and women.

Happy Hour- Making Connections between Global North
and Global South Women leaders

After a particularly
hectic week of engaging in global health discussions,I had the opportunity to
meet powerful  and strategically positioned women leaders in Seattle who are mobilizing and working around public
health. The informal session encouraged a space of sharing experiences on
advocacy in the global north and advocacy in the global south. Possible future
engagements in mentor-ship so that young women leaders from the global south can
improve skills and knowledge in public health advocacy.

My hope is that engagement of AGYW in global spaces
should not only be limited at community level but should also expand into
global spaces including the World Health Assembly. There is need to invest in
mentorship for AGYW and capacity strengthening to engage especially now that
more than ever civil society space to engage keeps shrinking.