HIV/AIDS, a great risk for women in conflict areas

The theme for this year's 53rd Session of the Commission of the Status of Women (CSW) was: The equal sharing of responsibilities between women and men, including caregiving in the context of HIV7AIDS. To this end, FAS took the opportunity to invite guests from Sudan and the Sudanese Diaspora to highlight the impact of HIV/AIDS on women and children in conflict areas.

A panel discussion titled: HIV/AIDS, women and war, special vulnerability for Darfuri women, what role can men play? was held on March 4 at the Church Centre in New York.

 Ms Mona Elshareif Tazourah (West Darfur), Mrs Samira Hassan Mahdi (Khartoum) and Ms Niemat Ahmadi (USA), all members of the Sudanese Women's Forum on Darfur (SWOFOD) gave insight into the situation of women and mothers in Sudan.

The women talked of a very high mortality rate as a consequence of the uncontrolled spreading of HIV/AIDS, gender-based and sexual violence. Moreover, the lack of medical infrastructures made infectious diseases very common and extremely dangerous and had a strong impact on maternal and child mortality. The panellists described a very critical and unpredictable situation, intensified by the denial of the government to face the health issue.

Secondly, the Sudanese women delegation described the importance of human rights advocacy to face the gaps of laws protecting women and to ask for reforms.

Then, they discussed the role of civil society to achieve peace. However, many women were traumatized by the context of insecurity and the lack of social support. Indeed, mental health services were crucial to help women to overcome abuses and violence. Unfortunately this was not a priority for humanitarians who instead focused on providing priority needs.

The panel was an interactive discussion. The audience questioned the initiative of the Sudanese Women's Forum on Darfur. The delegation introduced the Forum as an initiative of Femmes Africa Solidarité to provide assistance to Sudanese women to work on the peace process. They presented some results achieved through the first consultation in January 2008 in Addis Ababa, like the Declaration on Peace and recommendations, the creation of the Steering Committee, the National Action Plan to disseminate information and support women to take part in the peace process, etc. The second consultation in January 2009 was organized in an inclusive way to unite Darfuri women. Women mainly worked on building solidarity within and outside Darfur, promoting a state consultation in each state and prioritizing trainings. However, it was essential to be united and speak with one voice to represent all the women.

Aside from this panel, the Sudanese delegation held several advocacy meetings with different partners to update them on the outcomes of the 2nd SWOFOD Forum and create and strength partnerships. Meetings were held with the office of the Special Adviser of the Secretary General on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women (OSAGI), the Department of Public Affairs (DPA)-Southern and Eastern Africa Division, the Mission of France, the United Kingdom and UNIFEM.

Also, other panel discussions were either held or attended by the Sudanese Delegation.

Finally, CSW allowed women to share experiences and raise solidarity between women, men, NGOs, the international community and the African civil society. The Sudanese women delegation reiterated the need to advocate for a gender adviser in the UN negotiation teams.

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