DEVELOPING ADVOCACY SKILLS OF YOUNG POSITIVE WOMEN - Young Women's Dialogues

About the YWDs

ICW’s work with HIV-positive young women provides a good example of activist skill-building. Although their needs may be very different from those of older positive or non-positive women, young women, as a group, are rarely given a platform to voice their priorities, and young women living with HIV and AIDS may be even further marginalized. While most efforts in the area of youth development focus on prevention, the reality is that there are millions of young women who are already HIV-positive. Young women are not simply older women packaged in smaller bodies. They are a vital part of the youth movement and play a significant role in African women’s movements, in particular. Despite this, their activism and commitment to the fight against AIDS — in addition to their responsibilities to raise their siblings and children, educate communities about s tigma and discrimination, and build their nations — are seldom recognized.


In 2004, ICW launched the Young Women’s Dialogues (YWDs) to explore and address the specific needs and concerns of young HIV-positive women (aged 18–30) and to develop an appropriate advocacy agenda to promote the rights of young HIV-positive women. The programme was initiated with a workshop involving 14 women from 10 countries in Eastern and Southern Africa. The workshop provided the basic tools for the participants to examine their own experiences through a gender-human rights lens in the context of the global HIV and AIDS pandemic and to draw out the main advocacy themes, develop messages, and outline the necessary steps to take their advocacy agenda forward. This regional meeting is being followed up by national workshops in several of the countries involved. In October 2004, the first of these took place in Swaziland, bringing together 20 young Swazi HIV-positive women to define and develop their advocacy agenda.

YWD Namibia

The latest in ICW's programme for young positive women brought together 30 young HIV positive women from the 13 regions of Namibia, in Windhoek, 21-25th of January 2008. Organised by ICW 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. The young women called 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.

This workshop was followed by other training workshops on issues such as advocacy and monitoring and evaluation. At the MandE workshop the young women developed a Charter which outlines a call for action to donors, the Namibian government and donors. The women also held a discussion about their economic opportunities.

YWD South Africa

This six-day Young Women’s Dialogue (YWD) took place in Durban, South Africa, from 16th – 20th October 2006 to launch a national forum for HIV positive women between the ages of 18 and 30. Organised by ICW in conjunction with Gender AIDS Forum (GAF) and the Youth Against AIDS Network (YAAN), the YWD examined the gender based challenges faced by young HIV positive women living in East and Southern Africa. The workshop provided a safe space for HIV positive young women to analyse their priorities and visions, to promote activism among HIV positive yougn women and to develop a Young Women’s Advocacy Agenda for Southern and East Africa.

The workshop included a one-day session specifically on 3 by 5 and treatment (supported by WHO and UNFPA), to brainstorm young, HIV positive women’s issues around access to care, treatment and support, and to discuss innovative models of increasing access. Using gendered and women focused participatory facilitation methods, its main objectives were to:

  • Introduce the women to gender issues related to access to treatment,
  • Identify treatment access issues that are of concern to young women living with HIV and AIDS,
  • Introduce the participants of the meeting to key commitments and goals related to access to treatment (UNGASS, The GFTBM, and 3x5), ICW/VSO Letter Writing Campaign
  • Draw specific advocacy activities to be included in the WHO 3X5 campaign for it to maximise women's access to treatment,
  • Draw up recommendations for WHO, ICW, GNP+ the Global Women’s Coalition on HIV and AIDS and other organisations that are involved in treatment advocacy and delivery work.
The findings of this day were presented by Promise Mthembu to parliamentarians from East and Southern Africa at the EGI/CSA/AWEPA/ICW meeting held in Pretoria, South Africa on 3-5 May.

 

YWD Swaziland

The Young Women's Dialogue, Swaziland, was held: 24 Oct - 29 October. In the first national forum for HIV positive women in Swaziland, 19 Swazi women between the ages of 18 and 30 came together for a 5 day workshop to develop an advocacy agenda. The key issues raised by the women were sexual and reproductive rights, access to care, treatment and support, and the meaningful involvement of young positive women in decisions that affect their lives. More information.

Workshop report

YWD Southern Africa

Young Women’s Dialogue, Southern Africa, April, 2004. This dialogue brought together young women living with HIV and AIDS from eight countries, namely Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Uganda and Zimbabwe. The dialogue provided a safe space for young women to share experiences about the challenges of HIV and AIDS and to develop advocacy campaigns for highlighting the gender and human rights-based challenges faced by participants in each of their countries. The dialogue was followed by a one-day consultation involving young women’s dialogue participants and other women living with HIV and AIDS from South Africa. The key objective was to share information on the WHO 3 by 5 Initiative, the implications for women, and the role of women in this and other treatment initiatives, and to identify solutions to ensure that women’s access to treatment is guaranteed. Workshop report.