Promoting Women’s Leadership

1. Investment in women’s groups, especially positive women’s networks, can result in policy engagement and change to better meet women’s health and human rights needs.

An intervention for adolescent girls in Nepal in 2004-2007 based on the premise that adolescent girls in the country could develop leadership skills and raise awareness among their peers successfully trained 504 adolescent peer educators whose leadership self-efficacy and collective efficacy scores increased through the intervention. The study used pre- and post-intervention surveys of the peer educators (administered to 472 peer educators post-intervention). Both leadership self-efficacy and collective efficacy, or the “shared belief among members of a group that their can work effectively together to accomplish a goal” (Posner et al., 2009: 287), increased significantly from the pre- to post-intervention surveys. Knowledge of HIV, including the risk that young Nepalese women face related to trafficking, increased 15%, also a significant increase. Knowledge of HIV increased the most for peer educators from lower caste and other marginalized groups, who are most at risk of HIV. Leadership self-efficacy was significantly associated with increased knowledge of HIV.

There is an emerging collective empowerment based on knowledge and understanding of rights. Examples include the alliance of the Zimbabwean Network of Positive Women allied with women lawyers to introduce marital rape as a criminal offense in Zimbabwe law and the Treatment Action Campaign in South Africa, where an alliance of women and lawyers resulted in a ruling that pregnant women have the right to ARVs in pregnancy to reduce the risk of MTCT (Manchester, 2004). This study was based on oral sources, workshops and presentations, and memories of conversations with HIV-positive African women since 1992, as well as qualitative research through interviews conducted in 2000, with 10 HIV-positive African men and women.

A project that provided training and networking by HIV-positive women with Parliamentarians from their own country – Botswana, Kenya, Namibia and Tanzania- along with NGOs, provided opportunities for HIV-positive women to comment on upcoming legislation that impacted them.

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2. Training on human rights for people living with HIV can increase protection of their rights.

Training by ICW and IPAS for women in Namibia led to access to post-exposure prophylaxis, emergency contraception, and legal abortion in cases of rape at a clinic that previously had none of these services. Training was conducted for two weeks based on a curriculum developed by Ipas, Gender or Sex: Who Cares? The training resulted in advocacy with Ministry of Health, which in turn led to the availability of these services.

The AIDS Rights Alliance for Southern Africa (ARASA) trained 684 participants representing AIDS service organizations, women’s groups and others on human rights and HIV/AIDS, resulting in increased protection of rights. Participants came from Angola, Botswana, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Swaziland, Tanzania and Zambia. Results included a Charter of Rights for People Living with HIV in the Democratic Republic of Congo, removing the clause on criminalization of transmission in Mauritius and inclusion of harm reduction in legislation in Mauritius.

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