Setting the agenda

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Post by Katherine Leane16 Oct 2013

If we are to truly change the course of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, investing in women’s empowerment is essential.

 – Michelle Bachelet, UN Women Executive Director

Advocacy and the way forward

Presenting the 2012–13 report for Femfatales, the National Network of Women Living with HIV, provides an opportunity to reflect on many challenges and achievements. We have 13 dynamic and diverse women from all walks of life who are activists, advocates, educators, mentors and parents. Network women generously share their unique experiences and voices, ensuring that there is meaningful involvement by women who live with, or are affected by, HIV at the national level.

Over the past eight years, and with the support of NAPWHA, Femfatales has built a robust network with a strong knowledge base. We advocate, inform policy and respond to the challenges facing PLHIV, with a focus on women. Femfatales continues to highlight issues and concerns raised by women in our five key focus areas: sexual and reproductive health (SRH) and wellbeing; gender equity, discrimination and human rights; disclosure protocols; peer support; and capacity building.

This year, we partnered with three like-minded organisations interested in SRH and wellbeing: the YWCA, Sexual Health and Family Planning Australia, and the Australian Women’s Health Network. This working group is committed to progressing a national SRH agenda, focusing on wellbeing rather than ill health. With a shared goal of promoting greater awareness of and access to the FC2 female condom in Australia, we increased our network’s capacity and reach. Late in 2012, we successfully submitted an abstract to the First Sexual and Reproductive Health Conference for a poster entitled ‘Barriers to a barrier method: The female condom and sexual and reproductive health and rights in Australia’. We made three strong recommendations for the Melbourne Declaration, with the priority that "the Australian governments and state and territory governments incorporate the female condom into their sexual and reproductive health strategies".

The next stage of our FC2 work involved designing a postcard. This project built on an earlier call-to-action campaign titled ‘Give Your Vagina a Choice’, highlighting issues surrounding the female condom in Australia. The campaign sends a clear message to the Minister for Health about gender equity, stressing that woman want to have a choice.

Another success focused on a wider distribution of our revamped introduction letter, which appeared in several national, state and territory magazines and newsletters. This resulted in an invitation to speak at the QPP Women’s Conference, ‘The Gender Agenda: Gaining Momentum’. It was a dynamic weekend with the opportunity to meet 40 women and girls and introduce them to the advocacy and policy work of Femfatales, Treataware and the Positive Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Network. There was much interest in the new national treatment campaign, ‘Start the Conversation Today’, along with concern about the financial burden of HIV medications.

The diverse range of skills and expertise across the Femfatales network continues to grow. Members attended and sometimes presented at a range of national and international conferences and meetings. These included events involving the Australian Women’s Health Network, the Women’s Networking Zone and APN+, as well as a roundtable on SRH and meetings with state and territory leaders.

In November 2012, Jane Costello was elected to the NAPWHA Board. Femfatales membership grew during the year, and our regular teleconferences and F2F meetings were well attended. We have undertaken extensive planning and preparation for AIDS 2014.

We thank all the woman who contributed to Femfatales for their generous commitment, time and passion, enabling us to continue our valuable work at a local, state and national level.

When we empower women, we empower communities, nations and the entire human family.

– Ban Ki-Moon, UN Secretary-General

 Katherine Leane