Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Angola: Angolan women say ‘no’ to discrimination and ‘yes’ to gender equality

Source: UNAIDS

High-level women decision makers recently came together in the National Assembly of Angola to endorse the “Harare Call to Action” and discuss how the country will address HIV and gender-based violence. They engaged on issues related to domestic and sexual violence and the inclusion of women in decisions concerning their families, economic development, and sexual and reproductive health and rights.

Adopted in Zimbabwe in May 2012, the “Harare Call to Action,” is a unified action plan for women’s health in Africa and has a specific focus on sexual and reproductive health and rights in the context of HIV. It acknowledges that Africa’s development continues to be impaired by challenges in access to sexual and reproductive health as well as HIV services, and recognizes that gender inequality makes women and girls particularly vulnerable.

African women and girls bear a large portion of the burden of the epidemic. More than 60% of adults living with HIV across Africa are women, and 76% of women living with HIV worldwide are in Africa. In sub-Saharan Africa, young women aged 15–24 years are as much as eight times more likely than men to be living with HIV.

Biological factors that render women and girls more vulnerable to HIV infection are aggravated by gender-based violence, harmful socio-cultural and legal practices, sex with multiple partners, age-disparate relationships, economic disparity, inadequate education and lack of access to quality sexual and reproductive health services.

The Angolan Ministry of Family and Promotion of Women organized the national consultation in Angola with the support of UNAIDS. The meeting brought together women government ministers, vice ministers, governors, vice governors, and 56 parliamentarians from both the ruling and opposition parties, as well as members of the national Network of Women Living with HIV (known locally as Rede Mwenho) and more than 100 other participants from the public and private sectors.

In her speech, the Minister of Family and Promotion of Women, Genoveva da Conceição Lino, emphasized the role of women in families and communities and the importance of strengthening their position in society. She called on everyone present at the meeting to take the commitment as seriously as possible to ensure positive results.

“Gender equality and the empowerment of women are fundamental elements in the reduction of vulnerability of women and girls in issues relating to reproductive and sexual health, including HIV/AIDS,” said Ms da Conceição Lino.

The United Nations Resident Coordinator for Angola, Maria do Valle Ribeiro, highlighted the importance of gender equality in reducing maternal mortality, eliminating new HIV infections in children, and reducing sexual transmission of HIV.

“The road to the complete emancipation of women is long and UNAIDS will continue to work with African countries to eliminate gender inequalities and all forms of social and economic injustices confronting African women and girls. I am inviting all of us to join forces to resolve all the issues that contribute to the vulnerability of women and girls to HIV infection,” said Dr Ribeiro.

At the end of the consultation, participants endorsed the Harare Call to Action and committed to implementing its recommendations. They pledged to work together to ensure that all women, and specifically women living with HIV, enjoy a dignified life with their families, in the workplace, and at all levels of society.