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Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights, HIV and AIDS

HIV is one of the world's leading infectious diseases, claiming more than 25 million lives over the last 30 years. In 2010, there were approximately 34 million people living with HIV. Over 60% of people living with HIV in sub-Saharan Africa are women (WHO, 2011). In regions where the HIV prevalence is high, access to sexual and reproductive health tools like condoms have a dual effect: they enable women to plan their families and also offer protection from HIV and Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs). The female condom offers women an additional choice for contraception and protection.

HIV and AIDS has been the World YWCA’s priority issue for nearly a decade. In 1987 a World Council resolution on AIDS outlined issues around ignorance, awareness and prevention and stigma. The resolution resolved that “the World YWCA Council urges national YWCAs to establish programmes providing preventative health education on the subject of AIDS”. In 2003, the World YWCA Council adopted a resolution on Reproductive Health and Sexuality calling on the YWCA movement to promote and work towards the provision of extensive access to quality education, resources, information, discussion and counseling for women and girls regarding their reproductive rights.

In 2007, the World YWCA further committed to advancing women’s rights by including actions on sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) in the Nairobi 2007 Call to Action on HIV and AIDS, launched at the International Women’s Summit on Women’s Leadership on HIV and AIDS. Again in 2011, at the World YWCA World Council, the YWCA movement reaffirmed this commitment by making SRHR and HIV a priority for the next quadrennium.

On numerous occasions, the World YWCA has called for increased access and distribution of the female condom. But condoms are not the only solution to preventing HIV. With over 70 member associations running programmes on SRHR and HIV, the World YWCA understands that a comprehensive approach is essential to an effective response to HIV. Early in 2009, the World YWCA convened a consultation to strengthen the global strategy on SRHR and HIV including condom programming. The revised strategy offers four goals for the YWCA movement to focus its action:

1.  create a safe and inclusive space for women and girls;

2.  provide comprehensive prevention including comprehensive condom programming (CCP) and integrated information on SRHR, HIV and VAW;

3.  develop leadership and strengthen capacity, especially with young women as champions and leaders on SRHR, HIV and an end to VAW; and

4.  ensure documentation and quality monitoring and evaluation of YWCA programmes.

World YWCA Regional Training Institutes and other SRHR trainings

Since the launch of the strategy in 2009, the World YWCA has mobilised its Member Associations in over 108 countries through Regional Training Institutes in 5 regions namely Asia and the Pacific (2009) Caribbean (2009), Africa (2009) Europe (2010) and the Middle East (2010). During these Regional Training Institutes, the strategy was discussed and Young Women Leadership Dialogues were held to provide a safe space for the young women to discuss their SRHR and develop an advocacy platform for lobbying at regional and national levels in order to promote their right to make informed decisions about their sexual and reproductive health, facilitate access to friendly non judgemental reproductive health services and protect them from sexual violence and abuse. This process culminated in an Asia Pacific Young Women Leadership Strategy launched at the World Council in 2011, which included key components on SRHR and VAW.

In Africa at the end of 2009 and building on the outcomes of the Africa Regional Training Institute, the World YWCA, with funding from the David and Lucille Packard Foundation, initiated a Programme titled “Mobilising and Investing in Young Women’s Leadership around Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights” in eight African countries. This programme has provided training, information and referrals to reproductive services for over 28,000 young women through a network of peer educators and safe space leaders. The World YWCA has also provided opportunities for the young women in the movement to speak out on their SRHR on panels at regional and international policy making spaces, such as the African Union Summits 2011 and 2012, and CSW 55 and 56, UN High Level Panel on HIV and Civil Society Hearing held in June 2011. In all these meetings the World YWCA strongly lobbied for strategies that will promote the SRHR of young women, particularly access to accurate youth friendly and comprehensive sexuality education and services. The programme has also enhanced the capacity for young women to make informed decisions and dialogue in safe spaces about their SRH needs, access to contraceptives, how to protect themselves from HIV infection and provide psychosocial support to their peers who are living with HIV. The World YWCA has also conducted and participated in various SRHR and HIV trainings and conferences including the International Conference on AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Infections in Africa in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (2011) and has held a regional SRHR training session in Arusha, Tanzania and in Nairobi, Kenya in collaboration with DSW Tanzania and Population Council (2012). YWCAs in Benin and Burkina Faso attended a Population Council training in Burkina Faso.

A gap which was noted by these young women was the need for evidence backed advocacy. In order to address this, the World YWCA is collaborating with the Asia Pacific Resource and Research Centre for Women to generate a Global South Report on a Regional and Global SRHR Agenda. This is an opportunity for the young women in the programme to analyse the data, information and trends in the context of their realities to define the new SRHR agenda and also contribute to the new development framework. The report will be used to lobby for the protection of sexual and reproductive rights as human rights and for allocation of budgets at national and regional level for the provision of reproductive health services, comprehensive sexuality education and youth friendly services particularly for young women living with HIV.

World YWCA global strategy on SRHR, HIV and VAW for 2012-2015

The importance of linking sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) and HIV has become widely recognised. [i] International conventions such as CEDAW and global commitments such as the Millennium Development Goals, Beijing Platform for Action and the International Conference on Population and Development Programme of Action cannot be met without ensuring universal access to SRHR and HIV prevention, treatment, care and support.

The World YWCA 2012-2015 strategic framework provides direction on the links between accessing information, resources and services—especially sexual and reproductive health services—with prevention, care and treatment of HIV and AIDS.

The World YWCA strategy affirms that it is essential to:

  1. Deliver and advocate for effective interventions, programmes and services on violence against women and sexual and reproductive health and rights and HIV
  2. Ensure YWCAs are safe, inclusive and empowering spaces for women in all their diversity and particularly women who are survivors of violence and women, young women and girls living with HIV
  3. Advocate for the implementation of key global commitments on women, young women and girls’ rights through CEDAW mechanisms, the Commission on the Status of Women, the Human Rights Council and the International Conference on Population and Development, engaging the movement and partners in these processes
  4. Strengthen analysis on the linkages between women’s rights, violence against women, sexual and reproductive health and HIV for effective interventions, programmes and services

The World YWCA movement is renowned as a safe space for women, including young women, in which they are empowered to take ownership of their lives. YWCAs are therefore ideally positioned to provide safe and inclusive, non-judgmental and confidential spaces for women and girls to discuss and disclose challenges they face in SRHR, HIV and AIDS and VAW. Safe spaces can refer to actual physical space and/or a gathering of women and girls where they feel safe to learn and disclose their sexual and reproductive health challenges.

[i] IPPF, UCSF, UNAIDS, WHO, UNFPA. Sexual & Reproductive Health and HIV Linkages: Evidence Review and Recommendations. 2008.

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