The Pan-African Positive Women`s Coalition (PAPWC) was founded on Africa Day at the inaugural summit of the GlobalPOWER Women Network Africa held in Harare Zimbabwe.
Westerhof, the Zimbabwean convener of the new movement, told Radio VOP that considering the feminisation of the epidemic on the continent, and disproportionate number of women and girls who are HIV infected and at risk of infection, PAPWC intends to champion the cause of positive women and girls on the continent with respect to their human rights, prevention, care, treatment, education and economic empowerment.
Westerhof, who has been living with the diseases for the 10 years, said in addition, the sexual and reproductive health needs of the affected women, will be promoted as an integral part of the HIV response.
“It is disheartening that 30 years into the HIV and AIDS epidemic, positive women and girls are yet to take their rightful place on the continent by way of providing leadership, identifying the issues, proffering solutions and spearheading appropriate responses with respect to their priority needs and challenges,“ she said.
Ugandan Lydia Mungherera, one the founding member of the coalition echoed the same sentiments: “This gap is exceedingly evident at regional and continental levels, where the voices and faces of positive women and girls are glaringly missing.”
“PAPWC commits to changing this situation through learning from the lessons of years of organising and networking by positive women at community, national and regional levels; but also by bringing a fresh sense of commitment, passion and urgency that are needed to complement the increasing momentum in coordinated responses, sense of ownership and leadership that Africa’s leaders and regional organisations are so evidently committed to.”
Prudence Mabele, a South Africa who sits on the PAPWC Technical Committee, said: “PAPWC will align with and promote existing policies and programmes of key institutions and organisations such as GlobalPOWER Women Africa Network, African Union, African Parliament, United Nations and other global, continental and regional bodies.”
Kenyan Dorothy Onyango, a member of the PAPWC Regional Steering Committee said so far 15 countries had joined to be members.
Women were being encouraged to join PAPWC and form country chapters.