Sunday, November 22, 2015

Women’s agency, participation and leadership

Women’s collective agency is transformative for society. It shapes the institutions, markets and norms of a society. Empowering women as political and social actors can change policy choices and make institutions more representative of a range of voices . There has been progress in political participation. In Rwanda women make up 63% of all members of parliament, and in 11 other countries in the region women make up over 30% of lower house members .
The meaningful engagement and leadership of women living with and affected by HIV, in the HIV response, are critical elements to ensuring a response, which is effective and sustainable. Young women living with and affected by HIV must be involved and represented at all levels of policy and decision-making, including as members of parliament, as representatives in advisory groups for policy development, and in the implementation, monitoring and evaluation of HIV policies. Young women should be recognized and included as decision-makers and not considered only as victims or recipients of assistance. It is only through significant improvements in the representation and meaningful participation of young women in these processes that HIV policies and programmes will be truly human rights-based.

All over the continent, women’s groups have mobilized in the AIDS response. In the Middle East and North Africa, MENA-Rosa, launched in 2010, is the first regional group dedicated to women living with HIV. Members of MENA-Rosa were among the first women living with HIV in the region to speak out openly about their lived experiences. The organization provides women living with HIV with the opportunity and platform to mobilize and advocate around key issues related to sexual and reproductive health and rights, HIV and empowerment.
 In 2011, MENA-Rosa solicited the views of 200 women living with HIV in 10 countries across the Middle East and North Africa, with their stories and voices being narrated in the UNAIDS report, Standing up, speaking out: women and HIV in the Middle East and North Africa.

Women’s participation in humanitarian situations is also important and feasible. Even though women are critical to reconciliation and reconstruction efforts, they have been underrepresented in peace processes and poorly involved in the establishment of post-conflict frameworks. Yet when women have been included in peace-building, such as in Sudan and Burundi, the specific needs and rights of women, including support for victims of sexual violence, services for widows, and education and health, were reflected in frameworks .

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