We feature Ana Aguilera- Youth Strategist at Ipas and young feminist from Mexico on the Young Feminist Bog series

YOUNG FEMINISTS BLOG SERIES ON #WhatWomenWant Featuring Ana Aguilera

Insights by Ana Aguilera- Mexico

#WhatWomenWant campaign is a collaborative effort launched by the ATHENA network. The Campaign aims to engage activists and advocates in women’s civil society & feminist organizations to contribute towards renewed leadership and drive momentum toward realizing the vision, priorities and rights of women and girls in all of their diversity and to end HIV as a public health emergency. The objective of #WhatWomenWant is to utilize the political moment at hand presented by the newly adopted SDGs and the upcoming High Level Meeting on AIDS to ensure that women’s priorities for HIV prevention; freedom from violence, an end to GBV and sexual and reproductive health and rights are amplified and reflected in the Political Declaration to be produced at the High Level Meeting. ATHENA and partners aims for this global virtual conversation to place women and girls squarely at the center of all agendas, to provide a platform for operationalizing gender equality in the HIV movement and outside of it, and to catalyze cross-movement dialogue and action toward what truly works for women and girls in their diversity.

  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.

  1. 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 .

  1. 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.

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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