Investing in women’s leadership is vital to turn the tide on AIDS

Date: Friday, July 27, 2012

As more than 22,000 people gathered at the XIX International AIDS Conference (IAC) this week in Washington D.C., UN Women convened a dialogue “Women Leading, Organizing and Inspiring Change in the AIDS Response, among eight transformative leaders. Representing government, national AIDS coordinating authorities, women living with HIV, and caregiver alliances, panelists shared experiences from Africa, Asia, and the Caribbean on how to ensure meaningful participation of women at all levels of the AIDS response.

Thokozani Khupe, Zimbabwe's Deputy Prime Minister delivered a speech outlining women's extraordinary ability to lead, organize, manage, and advise, setting the stage for an animated dialogue between the panelists and the audience.

Over the course of two hours, speakers highlighted examples of women's leadership in shaping legislation and policies to advance women's rights; contributions towards creating constituencies of women living with HIV and networks of caregivers; opportunities for enabling women's leadership through engendering national systems, processes and civic spaces and advocating for greater accountability to support women's meaningful participation in the AIDS response. Panelists spoke of strategic entry points for women's engagement as well as the barriers they encounter such as stigma, discrimination and violence.

Violet Shivutse, leader and founder of Shibuye Community Health Workers in Kenya summed up the value of such dialogues, remarking: “In recent years, I felt that we were constantly speaking to ourselves. But today, with this dialogue bridging us to world leaders, we can engage and challenge government officials and influence decision-making.

Watch full interview below:

To turn the tide together on AIDS, speakers articulated a set of priority demands:
  • Recognize importance of organizing and mobilizing women to articulate priorities and create a demand for change;
  • Translate commitments into actions by leveraging existing legal and policy frameworks on women's rights and hold governments accountable for delivering on their commitments;
  • Invest in the capacity of women's leadership to enable them to participate in policymaking, planning, budgeting and monitoring of expenditures and results;
  • Allocate resources for women's organizing, mobilizing and leadership.
  • Address the social, economic and political barriers that deepen gender inequalities and limit women's voices and participation in agenda setting and decision-making;

UN Women organized this panel session in collaboration with UNAIDS, the ATHENA Network, the Huairou Commission and the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA).