Women living with HIV know what’s best for them.

Mirriam Nkosi reflects on her experience at the Women’s Networking zone, at the AIDS 2020 virtual conference.

The answers to our problems are not outside of us.

Our experiences and realities are our own. If we are to provide workable solutions for our problems we need to be in the forefront of shaping them to fit our current realities. It was beautiful to see so many women passionate about learning and taking action on adolescent girls and young women (AGYW) living with HIV at the AIDS 2020 conference. It definitely sparked my spirit to work with and for women more. It really highlighted the need to have women in the frontline of women’s issues. 

Without Women’s Full inclusion at the decision making table, we cannot have any healthy decision making that is good for women and men alike.”

Zainab Salbi

Donors and potential funders must see women as consultants, owners and creators of knowledge and allow them to inform projects and interventions. Meeting them at their point of need and not creating new agendas for them to fulfil.

Our problems require a feminist approach. 

The view of feminism as a radical movement that hates men is a shallow ploy used to silence women using their voices against oppression. Feminism is a challenge to the status quo, a challenge to the belief that there is more power in one gender than the other. The insistence that women should have an equal stake and voice in the social, economic and political spheres of life.

Feminism is about  letting women know that they are of intrinsic worth and dignity, that their bodies are their own and not vessels for men’s pleasure. For adolescent girls and young women living with HIV & AIDS  feminism is essential. They must be able to take ownership of their bodies and their stories. Women have the right to control what does and does not happen to their bodies, and when they grasp this they are empowered to make decisions about their health and their future.

Now, for those that would argue that we need only teach human rights and not necessarily feminism, I simply say that you are choosing to ignore or deny a basic truth that women have been oppressed and marginalised for centuries because of their gender. We must then direct our efforts towards uplifting women. This doesn’t disparage or lessen others causes and experiences it simply recognises that addressing our oppression must address the root causes of it. 

There can be no solutions without us. 

We’re finally living up to our potential, and that should encourage you. If the word feminism irks you, fine. All we’re asking is for women to be considered in all aspects when it comes to issues concerning them and that they are empowered to know that and be in these spaces.

I believe that if we are to achieve anything concerning AGYW, this needs to be at the core of our projects and interventions.Women are experts. Experts of our own lives, voices, and experiences.

If we want to make life better for girls and women. We must all be feminists.

Mirriam Nkosi

Mirriam Nkosi

Mirriam is a social worker, singer/songwriter and youth advocate from Malawi. She is passionate about women and young people, and directs most of her work towards assisting them. She is currently a program and administration officer at a local NGO that focuses on women's empowerment.

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Women living with HIV know what’s best for them.

by Mirriam Nkosi Reading time: 2 min
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