Women Now! 2016 is the Pan African Women’s Summit on the framework of the International AIDS Conference 2016, which after sixteen years is back to Durban, South Africa. The primary goal of Women NOW! Was to bring together a broad diversity of leaders and emerging leaders who are concerned and working on women’s sexual health and development to influence the agenda at the International AIDS Conference (AIDS2016), and to impact institutional and community responses to HIV among Black Women around the world. An opportunity to assess the content and execution of the IAC for its meaningful inclusion of women’s and girls’ sexual & reproductive health and justice, especially women and girls of African descent, who bear the brunt of the HIV pandemic among women worldwide, was addressed during this three days of work and sisterhood. This summit addressed critical areas of concern for women’s human rights, through an intersectional lens, including key issues of race, economic status, gender equality, women’s empowerment, gender-based trauma and violence, and sexual and reproductive health, rights and justice.
A very good number of Sub-Saharan countries were represented, including leaders from USA, and strong young women from the Caribbean. This was one of the few spaces that I have ever been, where intersectionality between race, gender and HIV was addressed as the main issue, what allowed me to have a different perspective on HIV, and even though for many people this could be an excluding space because of race and/or gender, this was and still a pending conversation.
There’s no denying that a big number, more than the 50% to be super conservative, of women living with HIV are black. Either you’re African, African- American, Afro-Caribbean, or any other identity in the Pan-African or African descendant spectrum and context, many of us, all around the world, look kind of the same. We know that the Sub-Saharan African countries have the highest number of infections, followed by the Caribbean. If we look at the USA statistic, black women represent more than the 65% of the total number of new HIV diagnosis among heterosexual women. This is why we need to be able to study more the race issue as a health determinant. We live our blackness in different ways according to our context, but this space allowed me to see how those differences came together as one, to deliver a response that understand all our complexity and diversity.
During this Pre Conference, we were able to meet Dr. Olive Shisana, AIDS 2016 Local Co-Chair, Princess Mukelile of Zulu the Nation, Musa Njoko an HIV positive musician and a big group of women leaders living with HIV. This event was well balanced between academic and performative sessions, with a good intergenerational conversations. We have the opportunity to learn how disconnected the agendas can be from the grassroots and how to implement powerful but simple initiatives that can change the life of young women, adolescents, girls and boys sexual education. I may say, this has been one of the best places during my journey at Durban, to feel the sisterhood, embrace our diversity and connect all together to move forward as one. We always have something new to learn from one to another.