On this International Women's Day, our commitment to women and girls is stronger than ever
This year we are celebrating the 100th year of International Women’s Day. In the last century, considerable progress has been made in regards to women’s rights, however significant challenges remain. Around the world, women and girls continue to have unequal access to education, training, science and technology, and decent employment. In 2010 women accounted for half of the 30 million people living with HIV, represented 70% of the world's poor and two-thirds of the currently 130 million children not in school are girls. In sub-Saharan Africa, 60% of people living with HIV are women and in the majority of countries the epidemic shows the most growth among women between the ages of 15 and 24.
Almost two-thirds of women in the developing world are either self-employed or unpaid family workers in the informal economy. In the context of HIV, women carry a significant burden of care – a labor that tends to go both unrecognized and unpaid. In developing countries, women consistently earn less than men for similar work, and have less access to credit and lower inheritance and ownership rights than men do. All these challenges are accentuated in the context of HIV, where women face challenges in accessing services, education and employment, are subjected to violence, stigma and discrimination, as well as legal barriers such as inheritance laws which discriminate against women.
As we commit to working towards the achievement of equal access to education, training, science and technology, a focus on upholding women’s rights in the HIV response is essential. Promoting programmes that challenge structural gender inequalities is crucial in shifting gender relations, and this must include investing in education for women and girls. Access to education, including comprehensive sexuality education, must form a key part of efforts to prevent HIV, as well as empower women and girls, including those living with HIV.
At the same time, training and support for women to access employment is a crucial step in the empowerment of women. In the context of HIV, women who have access to fair employment are often better equipped to leave relationships and settings where they may be discriminated or subjected to violence.
The 2011 High Level Meeting on HIV/AIDS this June provides a historic opportunity to make concrete commitments to women and girls, building on the priorities outlined in the UNGASS Declaration of Commitment on HIV and AIDS and the Political Declaration, the Beijing Platform for Action, the Programme of Action from the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD), the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
100 years since the establishment of International Women’s Day, we must come together to deliver on a world in which women and girls, especially those living with HIV:
On this International Women's Day, our commitment to women and girls is stronger than ever. By building and strengthening partnerships, and jointly advocating for the rights of women and girls in the context of HIV, the Global Coalition on Women and AIDS will strive to make this vision a reality.