International Women's Day 2007
March 8th 2007
"It is fear, stigma and discrimination that is fueling gender based violence and fueling the AIDS pandemic and it is indeed those of us living with HIV that have accepted our disease that will lead the way out of the greater suffering from violence, stigma and discrimination that comes as a part of the package beyond this disease alone."
Beri Hull, Global Advocacy Officer for ICW, in a speech given on World AIDS day 2006 outside of the White House.
International Women's Day, which has been observed since the early 1900s, has grown to become a global day of recognition and celebration across both developed and developing countries. Women's organisations and governments around the world have observed IWD annually on 8 March by holding large-scale events that honour women's advancement while diligently reminding of the continued vigilance and action required to ensure that women's equality is gained and maintained in all aspects of life.
Violence against women remains a devastating reality in many parts of the world; a morally and legally unacceptable reality, whether in the public or private sphere, perpetrated by individuals, states, or organizations. It is a painful manifestation of the wider inequities which persist, and which make women more vulnerable to poverty and disease.
Violence, particularly sexual violence, can directly increase women's vulnerability to illnesses such as HIV/AIDS. In addition, women often experience violence after their HIV diagnosis, such that gender violence and inequalities increase the levels of poverty, stigma, discrimination, oppression and isolation experienced by HIV positive women. Violence against women is just part of a web of discrimination which heightens women's health risks and reduces their access to health services. The root causes of these inequities will only be solved through a concerted campaign to change cultures - politically and socially.
As part of the Parliamentarian's for Women's Health Project, Realizing Rights is working in partnership with the International Center for Research on Women, the Center for the Study of AIDS at the University of Pretoria, and the International Community of Women Living with HIV/AIDS (ICW) and a select group of parliamentarians in Botswana, Kenya, Namibia and Tanzania to address the effects of gender inequity, including violence against women, to bolster women's and girls' access to health services. The PWH project works with Parliamentarians in four African countries to promote gender-sensitive health policies, working on the premise that political will and leadership are fundamental to improving women's access to health services.
One of the PWH partners, International Community of Women Living with HIV/AIDS (ICW) is the only international network run for and by HIV positive women which promotes their voices and advocates for change that will improve their lives. By advocating for a world in which HIV positive women have respected and meaningful involvement at all political levels, ICW is actively working to break the vicious cycle of discrimination and violence in which the HIV crisis in many countries is embroiled.
To mark International Women's Day 2007, Mary Robinson was the lead speaker on violence against women and HIV at the main launch event of a new international campaign, called Women Won't Wait: End HIV and Violence Against Women Now, on March 6th in New York. She noted how the twin epidemics of HIV and AIDS and violence against women cannot be disentangled.
"It is vital that the policies, programs and funding streams of national governments and international agencies transparently address the intersection of HIV and AIDS and violence against women," Robinson said. "At the same time, civil society must hold both governments and agencies accountable to promoting human rights and the self-determination of women, as this coalition seeks to do."
As part of the launch, an in-depth report Show Us The Money [81 pages, 2.61MB] has been published which examines the current policies and efforts of donor organization such as UNAIDS, the Global Fund, PEPFAR and DFID to promote human rights and the self-determination of women.
The ongoing work of the campaign will focus on creating detailed specific asks of key actors and monitoring closely their progress in addressing violence and HIV in specific and concrete ways, and also to support the efforts of colleague organizations in countries throughout the world in monitoring and pressing for changes in national laws, policies, funding streams and programs affecting these issues on the ground.
This International Women's Day, go to www.icw.org to find out about what HIV positive women are doing to raise awareness of the links between gender discrimination, violence and the AIDS pandemic.
For more information on the PWH project, please see www.womens-healthcare.org.
Globe and Mail: Prescribing women's health rights - Opinion Piece by Mary Robinson and Graca Machel (March 8, 2007)
Reuters: Groups link fight against AIDS to rape prevention (March 7, 2007)
Women and Children are dying in Darfur (December 10, 2006)
AIDS: The Pandemic is worse than ever. What should be done? (December 1, 2006)
PEPFAR Watch - Promoting Accountability of US Global HIV/AIDS Programs through information and advocacy