On 4 September, on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum for Africa, WACI Health, GFAN Africa, the Global Fund and partners in South Africa hosted young women from South Africa and had conversations with experts on empowering young women. This is because young women must overcome barriers that hold them back and increase their vulnerability to HIV, tuberculosis and malaria. Only when they are empowered can they #stepupthefight.
In the format of panel discussions and a world café, discussants beamed the spotlight on the status of young women and HIV in Africa, stepping up opportunities for young women at the work place and increasing young women’s access to business, work, and education opportunities.
There were discussions on the vulnerabilities of young women towards HIV; the grim situation in the years when there was no treatment, and the progress made so far, especially with support from the Global Fund. Investments by the Global Fund have saved 27 million lives since 2002. HIV treatment is available for free, and there are innovative collaborations with the private sector to ensure access to treatment. Linda Mafu the Head of Civil Society and Political Advocacy at the Global Fund noted “days are gone when meetings started with candle lit moments of silence because a person we knew had died of AIDS”. Representatives of SANAC and UNAIDS participating in the meeting were urged to ensure that young women are always at the table where decisions on HIV touching on them are made.
Economic empowerment of young women – For young women who need to find their way to into the work place, there were discussions on how to stand out as employees “you must have very strong work ethics, have realistic expectations, ensure social media decorum and prove your competence daily” advised Ncumisa Khoali, Human Resources and Administration Manager at TrakerSA
Young women interested in being entrepreneurs were advised that they must be seek financial and non-financial support – mental and spiritual support, physical support and to avoid short cuts. At the forum, the young women got opportunities for psycho social support, business support, employment and training on personal development.