HIV positive young women from across Namibia come together for the first time and demand their rights

The Young Women’s Dialogue brought together 30 young HIV positive women from the 13 regions of Namibia, in Windhoek, 21-25th of January 2008. Organised by ICW, the only international network of HIV positive women, the workshop aimed to develop young HIV positive women’s awareness of their rights and their skills to realise those same rights through advocacy. The women were provided a space to exchange their personal experiences as young, HIV positive women living in Namibia today. On the final day of the workshop, once the women had improved their advocacy skills, they were given a unique opportunity to speak directly to policymakers and ask them what they and the government were doing to address their rights.

“Together we identified the following key issues that face us:

 

  • A lack of support, solidarity and mobilisation of young women living with HIV
  • A lack of appropriate information and services on our health and rights;
  • A lack of representation, meaningful involvement and strategic participation of young women living with HIV in all decision-making structures;
  • A lack of access to employment and secure livelihoods.

 

The problems we identified above impact on our health and happiness, on our personal and professional development as we are prevented from realising our potential to challenge the discrimination and other abuses we face.

Globally HIV infections are rising fastest among young women and Namibia is no exception. It is time to take HIV positive young women seriously and listen to us!

We call for the following:

  • Research by and for HIV positive young women on our experiences of accessing rights and health, what service are available for us and what policies exist that address our concerns;
  • More information on the specific health issues and rights of young HIV positive women and raise awareness of our rights across Namibia;
  • Increase and improve services and policies for HIV positive young women;
  • Increase our involvement in decision-making processes. This will involve building our skills and our solidarity as young HIV positive women;
  • Ensure that enough resources are allocated to realise our goals.”

 

In response to the young women’s questions about improving their political involvement, financial security and universal access to treatment, among other areas, the MPs present (Honourable Elma Jane Dienda - MP, Hon Christian – MP and the Deputy Minister of Health Hon. Petrina Haingura) assured the young women that the Namibian policy on HIV stated that no-one would be turned away from a health centre because of a lack of finances and that patients should be treated with respect. They also encouraged the young women to develop a joint platform and attend regional public hearings to air their concerns. The Deputy Health Minister told all present that her door was always open if the young women wished to see her.

Finally violations of young HIV positive women’s reproductive rights were brought to the attention of the MPs present. They were shocked to learn that young HIV positive women were being forcibly sterilised at certain Namibian health centres and promised to investigate any centre that was reportedly involved.

“We are your servants not your bosses” (Hon Petrina Haingura)

“We, the young HIV positive women of Namibia, have a lot of work to do and we call on all to support us in our work, to help build our advocacy skills and to hear our voices.”

For more information contact Jennifer Gatsi Mallet – namibia@icw.org.


International Community of Women Living with HIV/AIDS (ICW)
International Support Office, Unit 6, Building 1, Canonbury Yard, 190a New North Road, London N1 7BJ, United Kingdom
Tel: +44 20 7704 0606 Fax: +44 20 7704 8070 www.icw.org