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in your community to prevent and address GBV in all its forms, and what laws do you think need to be strengthened or repealed to help prevent and address GBV, and to protect the rights of women and girls in all of our diversity?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