CYWAG is short for the Chapter for Young Women, Adolescents and Girls. We are part of the ICW family (that is the International Community of Women Living with HIV). Although ICW has been good at creating space for young women through many projects such as the Young Women’s Dialogue and different individual mentorship opportunities, there had never been a space that is just for Young Women and never a space for Adolescents and Girls.
In 2010, the CYWAG seeds were founded and coordinated by Jessica Whitbread (Canada) who called together some other young women such as Leticia Hoareau (Mauritius), Monisola Elizabeth Ajiboye (Nigeria), Mariana Inocono (Argentina) and Marissa Smith (USA). Patricia Perez (Argentina) a founding member of ICW was a mentor to the young women who were trying to organize for themselves. It was not easy. Similar to the founding of ICW, CYWAG began due to frustration that there was a lack of spaces in the HIV movement for women were younger in age but not always life experience.
In 2012, CYWAG carved out a meeting place using Facebook. Which became a private knowledge sharing and networking hub for young women living with HIV.
In 2013, the ICW International Steering Committee made a historic vote to have a seat for a CYWAG member. In 2014, L’Orangelis Thomas was elected as the first CYWAG representative.
In 2014, CYWAG formed a partnership with the HIV Young Leaders Fund and Grissel Granados and Annah Assago were elected to jointly represent the Chapter on their Steering Committee.
In 2014, CYWAG had a Young Women’s Media Team for the AIDS 2014 Conference. CYWAG also had two three young members speaking at the opening, closing and plenary sessions.
In 2014, CYWAG got its first small grant after partnering with the Women’s Global Network of Reproductive Rights. With this money ICW started the CYWAG Internships Program supported by its global office, with the first Junior Communications and Advocacy Interns being Consolata Opiyo (Kenya), Nacia Davis (Jamaica) and Gloria who worked with the team at ICW West Africa (Nigeria). The outcome of this was a joint partnership in the Do You See HIV global campaign.
Starting from a tiny, unfunded but very much loved seed, CYWAG has grown slowly and steadily with lots of perseverance. CYWAG is the only global chapter that is led by and for all self identifying young women, adolescents and girls living with HIV in all of our beautiful diversity. We celebrate our roots and acknowledge our HERstory!
Why CYWAG Is Important
The empowerment and involvement of young women in leadership continues to be the core priority for CYWAG. While ICW along with partnering networks will continually advocate for the health and rights of women, it is crucial that the young women themselves are involved and plays a central role in the sustainable development of CYWAG through decision making opportunities.
Despite the fact that more young women are becoming involved within the SRHR and HIV response, barriers and challenges still persist as they face human rights violations including harmful traditional practices that increases their risk of domestic violence and contracting HIV. It is critical that the needs of young women be identified and addressed by involving the young women themselves within the planning, implementation and monitoring and evaluation process of programmes and policies that influences their lives.
As the first international Chapter for Young Women, Adolescents and Girls, CYWAG provides the opportunity for young women to be decision makers at all levels, advocates, activists and leaders and not just seen as victims or service recipients. It also allows for young women to talk to each other, make connections and share our unique experiences.
Young women are among the most vulnerable to SRHR violations and HIV transmission; also they face barriers to treatment, empowerment, and decision making to govern their own bodies.
What Do We Do
CYWAG enables young women to be able to address the challenges they will face throughout their advocating journey through leadership opportunity trainings as well as workshops and sensitization sessions on human rights, women’s health and rights and feminism.
Supports and empowers young women to become active within the HIV, SRHR and feminist movements to eliminate all forms of gender oppression so that young women can realize and claim their full rights inclusive of sexual, reproductive, legal, social, economic and health rights.
Ensures the involvement of young women at various levels of decision making around politics and policies to ensure their rights are recognized and awarded. This involves at the country’s governing level for all young women to have quality access to care and treatment services for HIV and sexual and reproductive health.
Mobilize young women globally to become involved in advocacy and activism within the HIV/SRHR responses through appropriate training. Training should be replicated to encourage newly recruited young women in an effort to expand the reach and promote the involvement of same within the respective responses.
Joining CYWAG is easy.
To be a member you need to answer these two questions:
Do you identify as a woman under 30?
Are you living with HIV?
If you answered YES to both these questions then click this link to the membership form. Once you fill it out and submit it, you will have the opportunity to be added to the CYWAG private Facebook Group, ICW Members Yahoo Group and get up to date information through the ICW communications. Being part of CYWAG will link you to other women like yourself from all around the world that want to be agents of change and make the world the one that they want to live in.
If you want to participate in different volunteer opportunities such as policy review, conferences, organizing CYWAG workshops in your city, online consultations, or being part of our social media team – there are plenty of options.
CYWAG Statements and Projects
CYWAG members have been involved in a various consultations and advisory groups, inclusive of All In, Y+, HIV Young Leader’s Fund, CSW, as well high level AIDS Conference Speaking Engagements to name but a few. Below are some of our own activites: