Southern Africa
ICW Southern Africa
Gcebile Ndlovu started work in April 2004 as Southern African Regional Coordinator based in Swaziland. Gcebile and International Steering Committee member Lynde Francis hosted a three-day regional meeting in Johannesburg in August 2007 to explore issues affecting women living with HIV in the region, to explore models of organising and operationalising ICW Southern Africa at the national and regional level, and to develop a regional advocacy agenda and strategic plan. The meeting brought together ICW representatives from nine countries in the region marks a significant milestone in the move towards regional autonomy in Southern Africa, which the regional office has been working towards since its establishment and development, in line with ICW's current International Strategic Plan. The meeting elected a new young woman ISC member from Southern Africa (Gledcia from Mozambique); established an interim regional steering committee; and drafted a strategic plan for the region.

After hearing reports from our members of coerced sterilisations and other reproductive rights violations of HIV positive women in Southern Africa ICW trained women from Swaziland, South Africa and Namibia on how to document such abuses with the aim of changing the legal and political environment to better support their rights. The Namibia forced sterilization project was initiated when 3 of the 30 participants of an ICW advocacy training project with young HIV positive women, stated that they had been sterilized with out their informed consent. This alarming fact initiated a series of focus groups and interviews that did in fact suggest that HIV positive women were being coerced or forced into sterilization by hospital staff in Namibia. ICW realized that the forced sterilization was part of a broader range of discriminations faced by HIV positive women in reproductive health services and particularly against positive women who are pregnant or desire children. Of the research and education programs regarding sterilization that ICW has engaged in thus far 40 out of the 230 HIV positive women participating have indicated they were subjected to forced or coerced sterilisation. Thirteen of the 40 cases have been taken up for possible litigation by the Legal Aid Centre (LAC) in Namibia and all 40 cases have been presented to the Deputy Minister of Health and Social Services, Petrina Haingura, by the ICW, LAC and the Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC). We have not heard anything back from the Deputy Minister so far but are awaiting the promised response. To read more click here.

ICW is training HIV positive women to use our monitoring tool in Uganda, Lesotho and South Africa. The project, funded by Comic Relief and the Bethany Trust in Uganda and South Africa, offers a further opportunity to bring diverse groups together - HIV positive women, health providers and government officials - and to aid the latter two groups to think critically about the impact of their actions on HIV positive women. It also provides a valuable opportunity to reduce the isolation faced by the women living with HIV and AIDS, as well as being a chance to highlight issues that often get sidelined in work on HIV. Already the tool has been adapted for a number of research and monitoring programmes, for example:

-Sexual and reproductive rights in South Africa, Namibia and Botswana;
-Access to care, treatment and support in Namibia, Tanzania and Kenya;
-Training on monitoring and advocacy with HIV positive Swazi women.
Please get in touch with ICW if you would like copies of reports from these programmes.

The monitoring tool was first developed in 2005 when Action Aid and ICW worked together on a project that aimed to contribute to strengthening the national response to HIV/AIDS in Swaziland and Lesotho. This was achieved through expanding the involvement of women living with HIV/AIDS, including monitoring political commitment and promotion of gender mainstreaming. Workshops to prepare the monitoring tool were held in the two counties in February 2005.

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.

Other YWD programmes

-YWD in South Africa
A Young Women's Dialogue was held in South Africa from 16th - 20th October 2006 to launch a national forum for HIV positive women between the ages of 18 and 30. The programme aims to promote advocacy and activism among young women living with HIV, to identify priority issues and develop an advocacy agenda.

-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.

-Young Women's Dialogue, South 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.

In 2005 Ipas invited and supported a limited number of organisations to trial the tool locally in the countries in which they worked. ICW was able to take part in this project by combining the trial of the monitoring tool with a project to monitor the political commitments of governments of Lesotho and Swaziland in relation to factors affecting the lives of women living with HIV and AIDS. In 2006 we combined forces again and ICW documented women's experiences in Botswana and Namibia. More information about the project.

The Parliamentarians for Women's Health (PWH) project activities ended in December 2007. A final workshop bringing together project participants from all four countries was held in Nairobi in September 2007. Parliamentarians, CSO representatives and women living with HIV from Namibia, Botswana, Tanzania and Kenya as well as project staff and management from ICRW, ICW, CSA and RR:EGI attended the workshop. Workshop participants all took part in presentations or interactive sessions to examine, reflect on and take forward the experiences of this ground breaking project. The project brought MPs closer to the reality of women's health issues on the ground and connected them with positive women's networks and other civil society actors in the arena of HIV and AIDS, as well as their grassroots constituents through a series of workshops, networking efforts and community assessments, among other activities. These interactions have brought about greater understanding about the barriers, stigma, and violence affecting women's ability to access health, and heightened the MPs ability to represent women's health issues in policy- and programme-making environments. One MP from Botswana said "it's that kind of direct exposure to reality that I will never forget"?. More information about this project.

in 2005 ICW joined forces with the POLICY project and 40 HIV positive women from Swaziland and South Africa to develop an advocacy agenda on sexual and reproductive health rights, and access to care, treatment and support for women living with HIV/AIDS. The process began with an assessment of the concerns and experiences of HIV positive women and the policy and institutional environment in both countries. Staff from ICW and POLICY and the 40 women from Swaziland and South Africa then met in Durban in June of this year to identify priority issues for our advocacy training and strategy. The training and advocacy planning took place in August 2005, with the same 40 women. We explored the steps involved in advocacy, examples from the participants of how they have made change as well as advocacy opportunities in the two countries. The final day consisted of defining goals, objectives and strategies.

WHO supported ICW to map positive women's experiences of access to care and treatment in three countries (Namibia, Kenya, Tanzania). We hope that the findings will contribute to advocacy for increased political support and resources for CSOs providing access to care, treatment and support. The project complements a mapping and database of CSOs providing treatment being produced by SIDACTION. Reports available.


-Positive Women: Voices & Choices Zimbabwe and Voices and Choices Thailand
A project led by positive women to explore the impact of HIV on their sexual behaviour, well being and reproductive rights, and to promote improvements in policy and practise. The Voices and Choices project is a participatory research and advocacy project of the International Community of Women Living With HIV/AIDS in conjunction with country partners, The Women and Support Network (WASN) in Zimbabwe, and The Power-of-Life and the Mahidol University Institute for Population Research in Thailand. The objective of the project is to document positive women's distinctive experiences of sexual and reproductive health: sexual relationships, contraceptives, pregnancy, childbirth and abortion and use the findings for advocating to improve the situation of HIV positive women in these areas. More information. Reports from both projects are available on the publications page.

-Positive Women: Voices and Choices Francophone Africa: Workshop On Sexual And Reproductive Rights And Experiences Of Women Living With HIV/AIDS, Bobo Dioulasso, Burkina Faso, September 1 to 7, 2003
ICW and the Responsibility, Hope, Life Association (REVS+), based in Bobo Dioulasso, organised this workshop that brought together HIV positive women from Francophone African countries: Burkina Faso, Benin, Burundi, Cameroun, Ivory Coast, Gabon, Guinea Conakry, Mali, Senegal, Chad, Togo. The workshop enabled us to gather together different specific, real, lived experiences, and make recommendations for advocacy on sexual and reproductive rights. Workshop reports written by Helene Essome Sengue, Beatrice Humarau and Sheena Crawford available from ICW.

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