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Young women living with HIV on the frontline of advocacy for Gender Equality

Author: Laura Thuo

Growing from a girl into a woman means many things for different people! The myriad of physical, mental and emotional changes it brings, notwithstanding the societal expectations is among the many things we grapple with. The transition also brings with it confusing moments where one gets to experience issues like the imposter syndrome, approval addictions, depression just but to mention a few.

Today’s modern society is evidence of interventions specifically targeting adolescents, young girls, women, and mothers. These opportunities have been instrumental in promoting leadership, empowerment, and inclusion of women in various decision-making spaces. Yet barriers continue to persist for us particularly young women in our access to basic information and services that can support our autonomy and agency to make informed choices in regards to our sexual and reproductive health. We see this in the national and global statistics of new infections and maternal mortality rates that impact negatively on us; we experience this in our day to day lives as we say goodbye to our peers and friends; these statistics becoming a reality too painful for us to be silent about.

As we mark the International Women's day today, I assert the need for all of us to use the opportunities and spaces available to us to press for progress in the inclusion of young women, especially young women living with HIV to better participate in the HIV response. We should all aim at realizing an ideal world where women and girls access equal opportunities, become empowered and remain steadfast in our quest for an enabling environment in which our decisions are not influenced by cultural and structural gaps but guided by correct information and skills that allow us to make informed choices with regards to our sexual and reproductive health, our HIV status, and our general wellbeing.

The need for adolescent girls and young women to spearhead the response to reduce new HIV infections, HIV-related stigma and discrimination and AIDS-related deaths is critical. There is need to empower adolescent girls and young women to access the autonomy and agency to speak for themselves and look among themselves for solutions in regards to issues surrounding them.

I am excited that this month I get to join incredible women of the International Community of Women Living with HIV (ICW) and look forward to collaborating with the incredible ladies of the Chapter of Young Women and Adolescent Girls (CYWAG) to learn, get empowered, find my voice in usual and new spaces and make visible the issues that are our own even as we Press for progress towards gender equality.

This International Women’s day, I would like to salute the women juggling a myriad of roles and issues yet strive through the days making progress, setting precedents, going into uncharted grounds, breaking ceilings real or imaginary… HATS OFF TO YOU SISTERS!

Special mention goes to you, the young woman living with HIV in all our diversity, pushing through the barriers, inspiring others while at the same time finding inspiration within yourself to stand tall and be counted publicly or in silence through your contributions towards making our world and dreams of an HIV free generation real. You Ladies are the ‘SHEROES’ to be celebrated today, and I say Kudos!

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