“We are putting women on a platform to talk for themselves,” was the proclamation made by Mrs Isatu Wurie, the head of SWAASL, on the launching of “Voice of Women” last Friday at the British Council hall in Freetown.
The new organization is a network initiated by SWAASL which is to literally give voice to women. According to Mrs Wurie, “the network is not a support group but should stand on its own and take action”.
She said they enabled these women on the backdrop that the world over and Sierra Leone in particular had given the AIDS virus a woman’s face, and that there was this fact that women were three times more likely to be affected.
“So if women are to clear themselves of this stigma and vulnerability they need to get organized and stand up to the challenges,” she implored.
Mrs Wurie assured that SWAASL would continue to help the organization make all the noise, but that they should completely take their own responsibility and provide capacity for other women.
Actionaid, which has also been supporting this new network, accepted that women had been greatly affected and that a wide range of women’s human rights was being violated.
Ms Alice Kamara, who represented actionaid, pointed out that women had been the most vulnerable when it came to the spread of HIV and AIDS.
She pointed to the war, prostitution, marital rape, polygamy and unfavorable laws as factors responsible for the vulnerability of women getting the disease.
Miss Kamara pledged that, “actionaid is committed to the cause of women and would support the VOW to advocate and fight for women”.
The UNAIDS representative said they were happy to see the wave of response against the epidemic.
He pointed out that, “UNAIDS is committed to any fight against AIDS,” noting that they had been giving technical and financial aid to the fight against the scourging epidemic.
Abubakarr Koroma, who represented the National AIDS Secretariat, said the launching of VOW symbolically meant that women had taken a vow to stand up to the challenges of the fight against HIV and AIDS.
He said together with other institutions they were fighting to see that a new bill on AIDS was passed, whilst revealing also that there were strong indications that the bill would be passed.
Giving the keynote address Ms. Amie Kandeh, who represented International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), highlighted that the epidemic would be curtailed only if there was a political commitment, a dedicated and more inclusive action.
She also stressed that, “we must break the silence on sexuality” and also used the resources for AIDS on the approaches that worked.
Ms. Amie Kandeh urged that the resources on HIV and AIDS should be used to meet the needs of people living with the virus.