YOUNG FEMINISTS BLOG SERIES ON #WHATWOMENWANT Featuring Chelsie France
Responses By Chelsie France from Guyana
#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.
- What do you see as the current gaps in the HIV response for women and girls and what are key barriers to accessing HIV/SRHR services?
A major current gap in the HIV response for women would be the lack of psycho social support. It is of the view that it is vital that women have access to proper psychosocial support since often times they end up being single mothers who, sometimes would’ve been vulnerable to the mother to child transmission of HIV. In addition, stigma and discrimination continues to create a gap for women and girls to access HIV services. In Guyana, patriarchy (male domination), and lack of skilled human resources become major barriers for women and girls to access HIV/SRHR services.
- 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in your community to prevent and address GBV in all its forms and what laws do you think need to be strengthened or repealed to help prevent and address GBV, protect the rights of women and girls in all of our diversity.
To combat the issue of Gender Based Violence, strategies such as sensitization through panel discussions, community outreaches and GBV screening when offering counseling services have been deemed effective. Also, through the Guyana Responsible Parenthood Association’s youth program, young people particularly young girls become aware and are better able to protect themselves. Laws that seek to protect women and girls have to be enforced and implemented.
- How can young women be supported to break structural barriers that hinder the progress towards gender equality?
Young women should first be supported by their families particularly their male counterparts, through such they’ll be able to make independent decisions with freedom knowing that they’re supported by their male figures. In addition, young women can be supported by all communities NGOs, FBOs by providing the resources necessary to push the gender equality agenda. Moreover, Governments should be open enough to be a part of the conversation.
- Why do we need an HIV feminist response?
In order to experience the much needed change, a radical response is needed. It is important that women’s SRH issues be addressed since women are the ones who’re more vulnerable. HIV can be contracted more easily by the woman than the man. Often times women’s views and needs of sexual and reproductive health turn on deaf ears. Therefore, a strong holistic approach is necessary.
- The world will meet in June at the High Level Meeting on AIDS 2016, what is one of the things you would like to see come out of this meeting. Especially, that it happens after adoption of SDGs?
Just recently, in Guyana, the Minister of Public Health disclosed that there are approximately 8000 people infected with HIV and that there are 500 new cases. It is with hope that there will be a more robust approach to eliminate HIV/AIDS all together and for much emphasis to be placed on the role of young people in combating HIV and protecting themselves. Also, what approach and how the issue of gender equality and equal access to SRH services will be addressed/ executed.