Africa: Eliminating violence [read *male*] against women the key to slowing HIV/AIDS pandemic Print E-mail

Saturday March 8 2008

Inside ActionAid, IWD 2008 Scroll down for related media on ActionAid's IWD release

70% of those living in poverty are women
45 million girls are currently denied an education
Women in poor countries grow more than 60% of the food but own less than 1% of the land
Every minute a woman dies as a result of pregnancy complications

As violence against women continues to skyrocket around the globe ActionAid is marking International Women's Day 2008, by calling for more effective responses to the links between violence against women and the spread of HIV.  

Research shows that violence and the threat of violence increases women’s risk to HIV and that women make up 61% of those living with HIV in sub Saharan Africa while young women make up 70% of those affected.

In South Africa, Girls’ Net, supported by ActionAid, is helping young women try to cope with the experience of rape.  

Nina Dhlomo,* now 18, was a 14-year-old girl raped by a gang of five men, masquerading as police, who forced their way into her home.

Her participation in Girls’ Net has helped her come to terms with what happened to her.

“Girls have something to say about their own lives and communities, and what they have to say shapes how we seek solutions and create laws,” said Lerato Legoabe, the Girls’ Net Project Manager. The project uses blogs, websites and radio to help women do that.

“To the girls who have experienced similar situations, we say, ‘Understand that it happened but that it shouldn’t stop you from getting an education and living your life to the fullest.’”

For Sonya Sharma*, a 17-year-old high school student, her involvement in the project landed her an invitation to Parliament to speak about forced marriage and influence legislation on a child rights bill.

“I was so scared but I knew I had to find the courage because the girls who are forced into marriage are my sisters – it happens around my area and I’ve seen it,” she said.
“Unless the global AIDS response acts now to address gender inequality and violence against women - the pandemic will continue,” said Neelanjana Mukhia, ActionAid’s Women’s Rights Policy and Campaign Coordinator.

© Girlsnet/ActionAid


The Age ~~ Melbourne ~~ Sunday March 9, 2008

Women left behind in battle against poverty

Larry Elliott, London

Pakistani women take part in a torch-lit rally on the eve of International Women's Day in Karachi (Reuters)

SYSTEMATIC discrimination against girls and women in the world's poorest countries will prevent the United Nations meeting its goals to reduce poverty, according to a report by the international charity network ActionAid.

The report, released to coincide with International Women's Day, says gender inequality must be put at the heart of the development agenda if those aims are to be met.

ActionAid said girls and women were more likely to be poor, hungry, illiterate or sick than boys and men, and called on international governments to tackle the disparities. Amid growing concern that the millennium development goals set by the UN for 2015 will not be met, the charity said a focus on women was vital to put the international community back on track.

The report found that women and girls formed the majority of the poor and hungry and, in south Asia, women were getting a shrinking share of income as the economy continued to grow. Ten million more girls than boys missed out on primary school, while African women accounted for 75% of all young people living with HIV/AIDS.

ActionAid said the aim of universal primary education was being hampered in Africa by the 40 billion hours spent by women and children collecting water each year ­ equivalent to a year's labour for the entire workforce of France.

A special session of the UN will be held in September to discuss ways of making speedier progress, with discussions centred on four areas: health and education; climate change and the environment; the role of business; and trade and growth.

ActionAid said discussions at the UN and at this year's meeting of the G8 industrial nations in Japan would succeed only if they started with the recognition that the "development emergency is first and foremost an emergency for women and girls".

The report added: "The disproportionate impact of poverty on girls is not an accident, but the result of systematic discrimination." On current trends, the goal of halving hunger would not be met until 2035, 40 countries would not have equal enrolments for boys and girls until after 2025 and current progress in cutting maternal mortality rates was less than one-fifth what was needed to meet the goal.

The total number of HIV/AIDS infections in 2007 was 33 million ­ the highest ever.

"Getting the goals back on track is about more than governments saving face," said Laura Turquet, women's rights policy officer of ActionAid. "Fundamentally it is about women realising their basic human rights. As the lack of progress on maternal health shows, people's lives are at stake."


Fight for rights
International Women's Day marks a worldwide battle to ensure equal rights for women on issues such as work, voting and abortion.

Conceived in 1910 and recognised in 1977 by the UN as the Day for Women's Rights and International Peace.

In the US, the long-defunct Socialist Party of America celebrated a National Women's Day on February 28, 1909. But it was a year later, at an International Socialist Women's conference in Copenhagen, that the notion was born of an international day.

On March 19, 1911, the day was first commemorated in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland, with more than a million people on the streets.

A massive women's protest in St Petersburg, Russia, on March 8, 1917, to demonstrate against the price of bread and welcome soldiers home from World War I helped spark the Russian Revolution and cement the day in history.