Sunday, September 21, 2008

Truth Circle at International AIDS Conference about transnational solidarity

Regional Dialogue for Women of Color in the Global North
Women’s Networking Zone—International AIDS Conference
August 4th, 9:30am-10:30am

(notes courtesy of Jacqui Patterson)

I. Introductions --Name, Country, Work in the Cause, Expectations/Motivations in coming to this session
II. Discussion Questions:
• Is it useful to have this space?
• What is your experience with race/ethnicity/indigeneity in relation to HIV&AIDS? How does race/ethnicity/indigeneity play out in your work? What is the relationship of these issues to advocacy? Does working on these issues present a unique challenge?
• What are the challenges across the groups, within and across diasporas?
• How do we expand transnational solidarity?

• 33 participants at peak.
• Countries represented: Mozambique, Guatemala, Uganda, Canada, South Africa, USA, Mexico, Swaziland.
• All female participants.


Country Specific Commentary
A. Canada: The government has identified key populations and countries where HIV is endemic. What about immigrant populations and populations that have been settled for generations? This is a whole other set of impacts, especially with women in those communities. These groups are always a bit separated, funding wise. African Caribbean Council on Education in Canada has done a documentary. Canada has a National AIDS Strategy. Since it is institutionalized, it will be difficult to change. There were no WLWHIV groups involved in its development.

B. Guatemala: In Guatemala, a sister shared how women, indigenous women, women living with HIV&AIDS, link with national women’s movements and have been working together for 2 years. Women are empowered by turning private/community space into national spaces. Groups have organized and created a women’s secretariat as part of the first ladies’ office. Policy was developed in a participatory way with women from cities. They developed a national plan for women’s opportunities. Laws against femicide and VAW were developed which provided opportunities to make complaints and seek justice. There was the problem of impunity. Women who speak indigenous/languages not same language as the judge. The court has to speak the native language of communities. Women’s groups have been successful in advocacy. They are now reviewing global fund proposals through a women’s rights lens.

C. South Africa: Issues in South Africa include poverty, WR, women’s security, rural areas, land ownership, income, home based care, etc. In South Africa, large HIV orgs and women with HIV orgs don’t do much on violence. Violence groups don’t do much on HIV. Women with HIV are not being heard/recognized. The discourse and decision making on HIV continues to be very male dominated. People Opposing Women’s Abuse has been invited to participate in strategic planning processes on women and HIV. POWA then sought funding to help them to do work with women with HIV. However, they then had to cut back funding on WLWHIV issues. People talk about what women should do and how they should do it, but they don’t provide money to support. In South Africa, one study found that 80% of women living with HIV are positive due to violence.

D. USA: Women in the US are 30% of the epidemic, but are not 30% of those making decisions about policies and funding. Globally our common experience as women of color is being ignored/trampled by imperialists. The network of positive women is seeking to facilitate dialogue and organize leadership and action. Nationally we are moving forward. A lot of women are making decisions. However, we have a long way to go. Having a National AIDS Strategy would create more government accountability that we don’t have currently, yet we demand the same from other countries. People of color are 35% of the US population country, but 50% of the epidemic. 83-85% of the women who are HIV positive are women of color. African Americans are the hardest hit. We as WOC in the US are not as accountable as we should be. We must examine how we can be accountable to our sisters in the rest of the world? How can we work with and support each other? US individualism is a barrier to collaboration. The US has an opportunity, but not everyone sees it as such.

More Unites Us than Divides Us
A. What is common between countries? People think there is too much difference, so lessons and models are not transferrable.

B. One challenge is division within groups, as there is the issue of internalized racism which causes us to hate ourselves and distracts groups from working together. La lucha es la misma.

C. As members of various Diasporas, we move around from different countries and work in different lands. We have a lot to learn from each other.

D. There is a range of structural/institutional issues differentially impacting women of color globally that are not examined by those leading the discourse on HIV&AIDS

E. On a global level, as well as nationally (within countries) women tend to be less empowered and don’t know what’s going on at a broader scale.

Towards a Joint Action Agenda
A. This sort of dialogue doesn’t happen a lot/enough.
B. We have to create a movement to support women which is linked nationally, regionally, and globally.
C. We need to examine how policy issues play out on the ground and how do we integrate gender into policy. We need to change how policy is done. Currently policies are disconnected. Policy must be inclusive of women to make them feel a part of it. We need to help women to engage. We need women to understand policy spaces or politicians won’t know because we won’t be there to tell them. How are we using policy to ensure the claiming of our rights. Are we using the policy spaces enough?
D. We need to figure out jointly how to create public policies for rights defense.
E. Women from the global north should go and see how women from the global south work on their NAS.
F. Immigrants in the US with ties to various countries need to the shift dialogue.
G. We should hold a workshop to unify strategies. We must make efforts to forge relationships and create alliance as sisters working together globally. If we work together we can achieve greater results.
H. We must begin communication and sharing amongst us. Cultures have many similarities and we need exchanges to understand how people function. There is so much in common in India, South Africa, etc. We as women of color look at research differently. We need to document what women are saying.

Next Steps:
• As a concrete next step, a participant issued an invitation to participants in the Latin American region to join the Women Won’t Wait Coalition which is active in Brazil, Guatemala, and Chile in particular.
• Notes from the Regional Dialogue will be shared with all, including a Spanish translation version.
• At the same time as the notes are shared, all will be invited to join the Women of Color United listserv for sharing and joint strategizing for moving forward with a common agenda

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