It was back in 2002 when Kofi Annan identified women as the backbone of Africa, and sounded the dire alarm that the combination of famine and AIDS was disproporationately impacting African women "who keep African societies going and whose work makes up the economic foundation of rural communities." "For decades, we have known that the best way for Africa to thrive is to ensure that its women have the freedom, power and knowledge to make decisions affecting their own lives and those of their families and communities," Annan wrote in a New York Times article IN AFRICA, AIDS HAS A WOMAN'S FACE."At the United Nations, we have always understood that our work for development depends on building a successful partnership with the African farmer and her husband." Study after study has shown that there is no effective development strategy in which women do not play a central role. When women are fully involved, the benefits can be seen immediately: families are healthier; they are better fed; their income, savings and reinvestment go up. And what is true of families is true of communities and, eventually, of whole countries. But today, millions of African women are threatened by two simultaneous catastrophes: famine and AIDS. More than 30 million people are now at risk of starvation in southern Africa and the Horn of Africa. All of these predominantly agricultural societies are also battling serious AIDS epidemics. This is no coincidence: AIDS and famine are directly linked.
© Photo by Tyler Hicks, The New York Times, AIDS In Uganda
Women,HIV/AIDS & H2O Facts
*Households in rural Africa spend an average of 26% of their time fetching water, and it is generally women who are burdened with the task. (UK DFID) *The weight of water that women in Africa and Asia carry on their heads is commonly 20kg, the same as the average UK airport luggage allowance. (HDR) Link In 2007, the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS reported that *33.2 million people throughout the world are living with HIV. *Two-thirds of these people reside in the sub-Saharan region of Africa. *Among those living with HIV in this region, 62 percent, or 14 million people, are women and adolescent girls. *Among people living with HIV/AIDS worldwide, 70 percent are women of African descent. African women, HIV/AIDS and the water crisis
In a Spring 2009 article An Issue of Environmental Justice: Understanding the Relationship among HIV/AIDS Infection in Women, Water Distribution, and Global Investment in Rural Sub-Saharan Africa, Tulane University's Nghana Lewis makes a powerful case for reframing HIV/AIDS as an issue of environmental justice by connecting the epidemic with the continent's water crisis and the disproportionate impact this co-existance has on the region's black women. In the context of rural sub-Saharan Africa, understanding the HIV/AIDS crisis as an issue of environmental justice warrants consideration of policies that result in the inequitable distribution of clean water in this region, precisely because these policies place indigenous women at disproportionate risk of HIV/AIDS infection. "From New York to Nairobi," explains Dr. Zeda Rosenberg, CEO of the International Partnership for Micro-bicides, an anti-HIV vaginal gel currently in large-scale testing, women "bear the brunt of this epidemic, and they are most at risk for biological reasons, and they are at risk because of their lack of social and economic power" (The End of AIDS). Discussing "the politics of scarcity", Lewis suggests that institutionalized public policy restricts women's access to the infrastructure which would connect them to vital resources necessary for health and survival. In Kenya, for example, where, because of HIV/AIDS, the current...