Today, 8th March, marks International Women’s Day, with the theme Be Bold For Change. For us today means not only a celebration of the achievements of women around the world, but also a moment to reflect upon the disproportionate impact of HIV and Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) issues on women and why our work is still needed. We thank all our partners across Africa working to improve the lives of young women and join with them today to promote the rights and successes of women everywhere! Find out more about the day here: https://www.internationalwomensday.com/
Some of the issues affecting women with relation to HIV and SRHR are well documented and inform our work. Women are physiologically more susceptible to the virus, more likely to be the primary caregiver for children orphaned by HIV and AIDS, more likely to engage in non-consensual sex for cultural or transactional reasons, and less likely to be able to negotiate safer sexual practices. However, this past year, we have seen a number of reports highlighting another huge factor for women: how economic inequality between the sexes leaves women more vulnerable to HIV and other SRHR issues. One such report comes from the STOPAIDS coalition, written in partnership with, and including case studies from, internationally renowned organisations Oxfam, The International HIV/AIDS Alliance, NIKAT, Athena Network, Salamander Trust and HEARD, Act 4 Africa , and mothers2mothers. The factsheet can be downloaded here STOPAIDS Factsheet and highlights the importance of meaningfully involving women, addressing structural barriers, transforming gender norms, closely involving the wider community and funding existing community groups to ensure sustainability. “Meaningfully involving women” for us means involving women at every level: training female coaches, running mixed as well as women-only football sessions, having female facilitators running our courses, having women sit on our Board and in management positions, and working with women-led organisations.
We have also taken on board findings from the International Planned Parenthood Federation, which shows the relationship between HIV/SRHR and women’s economic empowerment works both ways. Those women with economic empowerment can make better choices in their sexual lives, but equally importantly, those women with good sexual and reproductive health and rights are in a better position to empower themselves economically, are more likely to participate in education, and participate in wider activities free from gender-based violence. Women who can choose how many and when they have children have wider choices in relation to work, which ultimately puts them in a stronger position when it comes to their sexual and reproductive health.
Happy International Women’s Day to all across the globe! #BeBoldForChange