Second Closed Door Dialogue on Theology, HIV and Human Rights.

By Yadanar Aung, YWCA of Myanmar. 

On 22-23 November 2013 in Bangkok, Thailand, Chantanee molee, General Secretary of the YWCA of Thailand, Lynette, YWCA of Philippines, Sujana Lama, YWCA of Nepal, Cz Ralte, YWCA of India and myself Yadanar, YWCA of Myanmar attended the second closed door dialogue on theology, HIV and Human Rights.

The objective of the second closed door dialogue was to bring together experts in the fields of Christian Theology, ethics, human rights, and HIV, including people living with HIV – in order to further explore, in a safe and private space, the intersections between theology and human rights in the context of the global response to the ongoing HIV pandemic.

(YWCA Delegates and Peter Grove and Ruth Foley from EAA)

(YWCA Delegates and Peter Grove and Ruth Foley from EAA)

Sujana Lama is the young women board member of the YWCA of Nepal. After actively participated at the second closed door dialogue she said,” Yes although we have lots of issues and challenges related to SRHR we still can do lots more without compromising our faith. Jesus the Lord, as our role model who never had discriminatory mindset following on his footstep we should dedicate ourselves to fight against ignorance, denial and hate. The core of our faith is totally based on love and respect for human kind without judging their sin. So all religious leaders need to create safe space in SRHR and HIV AIDS for young women to overcome stigma and discriminations, promote prevention and protect human right.”

Cz Ralt is a project coordinator at Aizawl, YWCA of India and she said, “We need to work together to get zero HIV status even church leaders have to create HIV and SRHR awareness amongst his church members. Young women do not have many platforms to proceed HIV and SRHR campaign, that is why I wish that our church leaders help us create more awareness. Together we are greater than AIDS.”

Yadanar is a young women’s coordinator at the YWCA of Myanmar. She mentioned that,” Churches and church-related organizations play an important role in HIV prevention, treatment and human rights issues since religious leaders have a unique authority and people often listen to their words and follow their guidance. Engagement of religious leaders and faith communities in an open and constructive manner is important. Awareness raising of SRHR, HIV, Human Rights through religious leaders and faith communities to reduce stigma and discrimination has to be increased. As Jesus shows many examples against discrimination, reducing stigma and showing love, we also need to follow His examples and finally we can reach zero new infections, zero AIDS-related deaths and zero discrimination.”

We really thank World YWCA and Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance for giving us this wonderful opportunity to participate in this second closed door dialogue on theology, HIV and human rights and we really learnt a lot by this dialogue and we will also take part in advocating more participation of religious leaders and faith communities in HIV, human rights and SRHR issues and also share what we have learned to other young women.

Young Women in the YWCA of South Sudan

Looking to the Future

I was born August 25th, 1988 in Yambio, South Sudan. I am a South Sudanese. I completed my O’Level exams (High School) in 2011 and I am currently serving as Treasurer in my local YWCA on a voluntary basis. My vision is to study and complete my further education and become a full staff of YWCA in the nearest future. Also, I want to become a full participant in all the activities of the YWCA.

Singba Stella Simon

Singba Stella Simon

My future plan towards YWCA

I need the YWCA to concentrate on: Love, Peace, Honest, Unity, Liberty and Prosperity. Furthermore, what we really need is the empowerment of young women, sustainability and development in terms of education.

Currently, we are running the following programmes:

  • Create Awareness based on HIV/Aids.
  • To Stop Gender Based Violence (GBV)
  • To stop early pregnancy

As a young South Sudanese woman I’m facing a few challenges.  I’m from an economically poor family and my father is living with disabilities and we are about seven children in the family. I work in casual service to support my school fees and I pray that God may help me to achieve my goals. I thank the YWCA for all their support and help.

Written by Singba Stella Simon.

Education Changing and Advancing Lives

My parents and I took refuge in RCA when the war reached West Equatorial State in 1990. My parents died when we were still in the Republic of Central Africa (RCA). Their death had a great impact on my future plans and life. One such impact was that I had to drop out of school in Senior 2. I had no means and somebody to help me go further in Education. I first heard of YWCA in 2002 while I was in Tambura. This was from some members who had come from Yambio to introduce and open a branch in Tambura. I became interested in the association and joined it sometime later. I was one of the three members who were selected to come from Tambura and participated in the board elections. Furthermore, I was elected as one of the YWCA Board Members since then. I had to relocate to Yambio. The women and the girls including myself have benefitted greatly from the association. This has been through Capacity Building of members through Education, English courses, HIV/Aids Awareness, Ending Child, Early and Forced Marriages, and Gender Based Violence programmes among others.

Victoria Albert Mokisi

Victoria Albert Mokisi

I became interested in politics when NCP Party came to our area with their programmes that attracted me to join politics. NCP promised to sponsor the youth that would join it. I thought and saw that my childhood dreams of completing my education would be achieved through joining politics. I joined and contested in the 2010 Elections as one of the MPs. Unfortunately the party didn’t do well in the election and I was never elected. However, I still hope to complete my education and I am committed to the YWCA!

Written by Victoria Albert Mokisi.


By Robinah Kyambadde, YWCA of Rwanda. Robinah is attending the International Conference on AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Infections in Africa (ICASA), as part of the World YWCA Delegation. 

My name is Robinah Kyambadde and I am the Youth Project Manager for the YWCA of Rwanda. For the last few days I have been in Cape Town, South Africa as part of a World YWCA delegation at the 17th ICASA conference. Since I arrived on December 2nd I have been very busy participating in various activities which have included a World YWCA Pre-Training and the ICASA Youth Pre-Conference. It has been an incredible learning experience and I especially enjoyed meeting and connecting with my YWCA sisters from Angola, Kenya, Malawi, Tanzania, Zambia, Namibia, South Africa, Switzerland, Zimbabwe, and Ethiopia.panel

What interested me most was the intergenerational dialogue organised by SafAIDS and World YWCA. I was one of the young women selected to participate in the conversation. It was very exciting because people were also contributing their thoughts on twitter and it seemed like everyone was talking about issues that mattered to youth! From these discussions I learnt how best we can bridge the gap in the involvement of youth in designing, implementing and evaluation of youth programmes. The debate we had between the youth and the policy makers and different donors was a great opportunity for me to raise the burning issues for youth in Rwanda. In Rwanda young people cannot access adequate information on SRHR and those that can offer them information lack training. We need more mentors in Rwanda and we also need to talk to parents to change their mindset towards SRHR.

I will leave this conference feeling more empowered and more comfortable to speak out. Throughout my time here I have had many opportunities to express myself and to therefore learn how to better vocalize issues on SRHR. This will be a very useful tool to me as I return back to Kigali to share what I have learnt. I have much better knowledge about SRHR and HIV/AIDS and the concerns of youth in Africa .With this conference, I have become more responsible than ever to fight against injustices that affect girls and young women, especially SRHR and Gender Based Violence. I have also come to understand that young people are not the leaders or tomorrow, rather we are the leaders of today, of now and we must continue to advocate for our human rights!

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the World YWCA and our movement. Since I joined the YWCA of Rwanda in August 2013, I have been empowered and my work with girls and young women has inspired and shaped me tremendously. I really found in the YWCA a safe space for myself, and for the girls and young women. I am grateful to the YWCA of Rwanda and the World YWCA for making me a confident and empowered young woman.

My First Time

Young women

Hyline Simba

My name is Hyline Simba and I am 23 years old. I come from Kisii, which is a county approximately 500km from Nairobi. I am currently studying at the University and I plan to get a Masters degree in Business Administration and Finance by next December.  In my spare time I work for the YWCA of Kenya as a youth coordinator.

I am very excited to write these words because as I type I find myself in Cape Town, South Africa. I am one of the young women selected to participate in ICASA 2013 and am part of a larger World YWCA Delegation comprising of women and young women from Angola, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Namibia, South Africa, Rwanda, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe, all of whom have been doing work on SRHR and on changing religious and cultural attitudes on sexuality and access to services.

Before this trip, I had never left my country. Before this trip I had never been on a plane.I was very nervous and worried about travelling. As I was boarding the plane and saw the pilots, I thought they were policemen coming to get someone on the plane. Thank God Hendrica Okondo was travelling with me, as she assured me that those were the pilots and not policemen. I was also quite terrified when the plane took off and flew high into the sky and above the clouds, and my country was further and further away! Being as this was my first time travelling I was also unsure of what to pack and I even forgot to take my laptop!

I have been here 7 days and have learnt so much!! In the past I could not even think that I could stand, share and tell people anything about sexuality. Today that has changed! I feel strong and empowered, I have a voice and I can say what I know to be the truth – a truth that will offer youth the tools and the knowledge to make safe choices for themselves and for their families. I can’t wait to go back home and share what I have learnt!

I have also learnt about social media and this blog is a further example of what we are doing here. As we learn and share about the different work that people are doing here at ICASA, we are also being equipped with new ways to communicate. This is my first blog and I hope to write many more!
Thank you to the World YWCA and the YWCA of Kenya for their continued support in empowering young women. Thank you for giving me a chance to travel and to learn. I pray this is just the beginning.

Let’s talk about sex!

By Ramya Kudekallu, World YWCA Programme Associate.


Ramya Jawahar Kudekallu at the African Union

When you are the daughter of a gynaecologist and the citizen of a country that was one of the first to have a national policy on family planning, you are no stranger to the issue. However, during my recent attendance of the International Conference on Family Planning (ICFP) in Addis Ababa, even a self-proclaimed ‘aware’ individual such as me got a serious education.
The concept of ‘Family Planning’ covers a broad spectrum of activities associated with sexual and reproductive health. It includes birth control methods, contraceptives or sexual commodities, sexuality education or awareness, fertility and the prevention and management of sexually transmitted infections.  But truth be told, the issue weaves far further than the above mentioned parameters. The language has now found its way into the Constitution of nations, policy of economies and the business plans of private sectors.
A series of statistics were apparent throughout the event, showing that approximately 287,000 women die every year from problems caused by childbirth. According to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (one of the co-sponsors) access to contraception can save women from this fatality.
But for me, the real conversation was around how we were going to include 4 very important terms in every discussion

  •  Sex
  • Youth
  • Culture
  • Scaling

Family planning in my home country of India began 48 years ago. What started as progressive policy making for the government is now the tipping point for our great 1.2 billion population, and although our uptake of contraceptives is on a steady increase, we still cannot seem to find a sense of ‘control’. We add up to 1,000,000 people to our population every 15 days!
So where are we faltering, if I believe we are at all faltering?

We do not talk about sex. No! I implore you not to cringe, cough or sigh while I say this because we both know it is true. We do not talk about sex. It is not just in India, but many parts of the world, conversations around reproductive health and awareness, be it biological or emotional, simply do not take place.

I am not speaking of the mechanics of it. To tell me about the birds and the bees is not enough. As a young person I want to know and understand what the act entails.
I require an environment that is open, free, safe and non-judgmental. I want an atmosphere that allows dialogue around acceptance of female sexuality, the possibility of choice and the idea of rights. I seek a corner in society where I can whisper of how I was assaulted, violated and left pregnant, where I can admit that I cannot give the child within me a life of love, opportunities or care. Grant me a health care system that looks beyond my marital status, my HIV status or class and let me tell you why I cannot swallow those pills you give me or how worried I am that this intrauterine device might make me believe  I can never have children. Accept me deeper still when I tell you I sell my body for money, the blistering wounds on my skin are excruciating and although my circumstances are illegal or unacceptable, I still want to be healthy.

Every tradition and culture replaced one before it, and I have no doubt in my mind that the  dynamics of our ever changing society will allow norms to change once again. My concern, however, is, what notion of change are we slowly going towards. I am not asking for a universal opinion but I am calling for a universal access to information so that we may have the facts to make that opinion for ourselves.

It is not as bleak as it seems. Community workers, health care providers, counsellors, youth and governments across the world have begun to pave the way for access to these rights. It is important that our solutions are appropriate and that we can scale up our practices. Scaling is crucial to sustainability.

The ICFP pulled me to the heart of the issue. I met a world of people in the great walls of the African Union who truly believed bringing the life of another into this planet was an event so precious, it had to be met with the possibility of care, good health, economic resources and security. I was struck by the dedication of young people, not just representing themselves, but a host of marginalised sects in society. Lastly I fell in love with an Ethiopia that opened its city to us and its people. 3.5 million Ethiopian women and men have felt the life-changing benefits of family planning – setting an example that truly ‘full access full choice’ is possible.

It is not about the population or numbers any more, China will agree with me, since they recently surprised the world with the change in their ‘one child policy’.  It touches on a much more concrete and serious affair of value to human life and how each of us, individually or collectively, deserves to be of that profound value.