PHOTO CREDIT; Center For Health and Gender Equity ( CHANGE) Washington

TIME TO HAVE THE DISCUSSION: A TRULY FEMINIST PREVENTION AGENDA, WHO TAKES IT UP????

Human beings live multi-faceted and intersecting lives. Women’s health especially is one area where these convergences keep emerging and the need to ever be vigilant and adopt comprehensive and all-encompassing strategies when seeking solutions and interventions is even more pressing.

HIV/AIDS has in the recent past adopted a feminized face which pretty much dooms the epidemic into a women and girls problem. The biomedical and social science interventions put forward have been struggling to integrate the feminization aspect needed to truly address the problem in light of  the great extent it has affected lives of women and girls across the world. This has compelled scientists, activists and governments alike to revisit the drawing board to restrategize on how to better take care of the lived sexual and reproductive health realities of women and girls in a highly patriarchal world that has yet to fully pay attention to these constituencies. The need to restrategize however has to involve all stakeholders – from policy advocates to grassroots community mobilizers, biomedical researchers to policy implementation players amongst other many industry players.

It was against the above backdrop that the prevention agenda meeting was convened in Nairobi by CHANGE (Center for Health and Gender Equity) & AVAC to bring stakeholders to the table in an effort to discuss and envision what a truly comprehensive prevention agenda for women and girls looks like.  The meeting was intended to identify barriers and challenges to implementing a well-integrated prevention agenda that addresses the real needs of women and girls, identify advocacy opportunities to expand a fuller range of family planning and HIV prevention methods and programs for women and girls, and also innovate strategies with specific action steps for country level advocates to impact the implementation process.

Now having been a participant at the meeting, I will admit that the agenda sounded very daunting but the fluid nature of the discussions- thanks to the organizers and facilitators was well aligned with the participant’s expectations. There was need to determine amongst ourselves what various concepts, values and principles meant to us, including candid discussions of how far we felt we should go with the discussion at hand.

The discussions incorporated grassroots, national, regional, and international discourses; trying to map out and spend time on all opportunities that the group could leverage. Advancing the agenda called for a deep analysis of where we are at now with what few resources we have at our disposal. This led to the discussion on available ground-breaking research, integration options and advocacy and programming areas that we could delve into. Such discussions included the Evidence for Contraception and HIV Outcomes (ECHO) Trial, which is a randomized trial that seeks to answer the question of whether or not certain types of hormonal contraception may increase a woman or girl’s vulnerability to HIV. Microbicides present a real opportunity to truly place women and girls at the heart of prevention while at the same time address the power dynamics that normally prevail in women’s sexuality. A few participants present had experience designing and implementing adolescent- and youth-friendly integrated HIV sexual and reproductive health and rights projects.

It’s amazing how much can be achieved in 1 and half days! To wrap up the discussions the meeting had provided a platform to confront various realities and ensure conversations took into account expansive and broad views in which integration interfaces HIV and sexual and reproductive health and rights. These realities at least span from adolescents, young women and older women’s health needs, making it an all-inclusive discussion, and which was set as a core value for the group from the onset.

Movement building was at the core of the agenda even though not prominently laid out. Leaving the meeting with concrete action plans and new formations that would take the prevention/integration agenda to the next level was a key win. The clear understanding for the need and urgency for integration for enhanced women and girl’s health was another plus.

This to me was an awesome experience and a journey I look forward to travelling. I call it a journey because I anticipate the travel to be a beautiful experience and a series of different adventures that will present learning and enriching experience. This can be highlighted with the side support for the #EndChildMarriageNOW picture campaign in which a beautiful collage representative of how women’s rights movement views against child marriage span across regions right from Africa, to the USA, to Europe, speaking of the solidarity around issues and the cohesive nature in which activists articulate their sentiments against girls rights violations.

There is only one way to move and that is forward with a truly integrated prevention agenda. This is especially needed if we are to leave no one behind to momentarily borrow the slogan of the post development agenda that will guide development efforts including on health and gender equality for the next 15years after the expiration of the Millenium Development Goals.

Au revoirre.

Catherine 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 Deputy Director at Dandelion Kenya, and sits on the SDGs Kenya Forum coordination committee. Catherine has engaged with various global and regional policy processes such as ICPD Beyond 2014 review, Beijing +20 and the post 2015 development agenda. She co-authored the article ‘Leave No One Behind; Will African Women be left behind in the post 2015 development agenda ,an article published on the East African Business Monthly in February 2015. Catherine launched the #SRHRDialogues, an online advocacy and awareness raising platform on SRHR and #YAFDialogues, an online platform anticipated to be a permanent mobilizing platforms borne out of an African feminist dialogue 2015 in Accra. Follow her on Twitter: @catherinenyamb1

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