On International Women’s Day, ICWAP and UNAIDS Asia and the Pacific launch a social media campaign on the leadership of women and girls living with HIV during COVID-19

Bangkok, Thailand, 8th of March, 2021 – To mark International Women’s Day, the International Community of Women Living with HIV Asia and the Pacific (ICWAP), in collaboration with UNAIDS AP, is launching a social media campaign on the leadership of women and girls living with HIV from Asia and the Pacific during the COVID-19 pandemic. The campaign calls to close in on inequalities that drive vulnerabilities to overcome the COVID-19 health crisis and end the AIDS epidemic.

This year’s theme for International Women’s Day is Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world that celebrates the tremendous efforts by women and girls around the world in shaping a more equal future and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. International Women’s Day is a time to reflect on progress made, to call for change and to celebrate acts of courage and determination by women and girls, who have played an extraordinary role in the history of their countries and communities. “Women leaders have provided a guiding light for the world in responding to the COVID-19 crisis, from heads of government to coordinators of grass-roots social movements,” says Eamonn Murphy, UNAIDS Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific.

But the COVID-19 crisis has seen progress towards equality pushed back. It has widened the gap between women and men in wealth, in income, in access to services, in the burden of unpaid care, in status and in power. Pandemics such as COVID-19 and HIV magnify the fissures in society and exacerbate vulnerabilities. Gender-based and intersecting inequalities and violence hold back the lives of women and girls all over the world.

In Asia and the Pacific, a survey conducted in June 2020 by ICWAP with support from UNAIDS Asia and the Pacific, shows that COVID-19 response of lockdowns, quarantines and other restrictions have created challenges and barriers for women living with HIV to access treatment, sexual and reproductive health services, adequate nutrition and psychosocial support. Almost 30% of the respondents had experienced some forms of gender-based violence, including stigma and discrimination. In addition, more than 80% had reported lack of access to sexual and reproductive health services, including contraception.

Yet, women and girls in all their diversity have stepped up to the challenge and have played significant roles in leading their communities out of this health crisis. Women leaders and women’s organisations have demonstrated their skills, knowledge, and networks to effectively lead in the COVID-19 response and recovery efforts.

In Asia and the Pacific, women living with HIV amplified learnings from the HIV response and applied them to the COVID-19 pandemic using tools and techniques to support their peers and local organisations. Women-led organisations across the region provided mental health counselling to their communities, supported efforts to facilitate access to lifesaving medicine (ARV) and contraceptive commodities preventing the disruption to HIV services and led the collection and mobilisation of nutritional support for women living with HIV and their families.

But, despite these efforts, there have been significant challenges for women-led organizations and regional networks to respond to the urgent needs of women and girls living with HIV, such as limited funding and financial hardship. “Women-led organizations must be supported and resourced equally by governments and stakeholders putting women at the center in the response to COVID-19 and HIV, says Sita Shahi, ICWAP Regional Coordinator.

ICWAP social media campaign that consists of a set of social media postcards with messages and testimonies from women living with HIV from Asia and the Pacific, will bring visibility and recognition to the leadership of women and girls living with HIV during the COVID-19 pandemic and highlight their voices on achieving gender equality. This initiative builds on the #GenderMatters 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence campaign launched by ICWAP and UNAIDS AP in November 2020, that explored how women and girls in all their diversity were experiencing the most significant impact of the pandemic.

“On International Women’s Day, we commend all our sisters across Asia and the Pacific, who are establishing supportive mechanisms for women and girls living with HIV, even in the face of adversities,” comments the ICWAP Regional Coordinator. “This is the right time to celebrate Our contributions and Our lived experiences,” adds the ICWAP Regional Coordinator.

As part of the campaign on International Women’ Day, ICWAP has also organised a virtual panel discussion in collaboration with UNAIDS AP, about the leadership, resilience and empowerment of women and girls living with HIV. The panel will serve as a platform that uplifts women’s voices and recognises their efforts in shaping a more equal and equitable world for all. The webinar will stream LIVE from UNAIDS AP and ICWAP Facebook page on Monday 8 March 18:00 (BKK, GMT+7).

UNAIDS AP will continue to work with ICWAP to advance a region where women and girls in all their diversity will thrive and take their rightful places as equals.

Social media postcards

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