June 7, 2010
Namibia Women Health Network Profile deals with both HIV positive and negative women in the country.
NWHN was founded in 2008 as a community-based organization to empower Namibian women infected and affected by HIV/AIDS. NWHN was created by 14 women living with HIV (WLHIV) who participated in Parliamentarians for Women’s Health, a project in five countries supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation from 2005 to 2008. The seeds for NWHN were born out of ICW Namibia, the Namibia branch of the International Community of Women Living with HIV/AIDS. The important work that came out of ICW Global and ICW Namibia caused us to realize the importance of having a Namibia-based organization that could work with the national and local government and civil society organizations to address the most pressing issues for HIV positive women in Namibia.A Growing Network
NWHN currently connects 1400 network members representing the 13 regions of Namibia and a steering committee of 26 young women, with two women representing each region.
700 older positive women between the ages 30 - 58
500 young positive between the ages 16 to 30
66 older women not infected but affected by HIV/AIDS
134 young women not infected or not knowing their status
All of our program areas are built around a strategy to provide participants with:
Accurate information on sexual reproductive health, prevention of mother to child transmission, cancer of the cervix etc.
Information on where to access services in connection with gender based violence.
Education for English literacy, a skill necessary for communicating with health workers.
Skills to sensitize community members, policy makers, and traditional leaders on issues affecting women living with HIV.
Skills for income generating activities for self sustenance and building confidence to negotiate on safe sex avoiding re/infection of STI’s, particularly HIV.
Human Rights of Women Living with HIV. NWHN advocates for the human rights of WLHIV. Since 2008, NWHN has documented the stories of WLHIV who were sterilized against their will in Namibia’s public hospitals, and over the past two years has created partnerships with local and regional NGOs (including LAC and ARASA) to assist in litigation of the forced/coerced sterilization violations. In 2008 NWHN presented its findings on this issue at the Mexico 2008 AIDS Conference, and NWHN’s Director is presenting the most updated findings at the Vienna 2010 AIDS Conference. NWHN also established two health ethics committees to monitor the care in two clinics in Katutura, and continues to educate women about their human rights and documents other violations that occur within this population.
Partnership with Parliament. As a result of the Parliamentarians for Women’s Health project, NWHN has developed strong relationships with members of Parliament and has been assigned to work together with the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Human Resources and Community Development. These partnerships enable grassroots women leaders who participate in a variety of our programs to meet with Parliamentarians on a monthly basis, giving policymakers the opportunity to become more sensitive to the realities and needs of WLHIV.
Youth Empowerment. NWHN has four youth programs that work with young people in each of the 13 districts in Namibia.
Young Women’s Dialogue (YWD): The YWD provides an opportunity for 30 young women to come together, share experiences and issues and start building a cadre of activists prepared to act to improve the lives of young women living with HIV. To date, over 50% of the participants have been under the age of 24. Very few of the women have had formal employment and for a number of them it was the first time they had ever attended a workshop.
Youth Economic Empowerment Program (YEEP): Awards grants to unemployed young men and women (many of whom are school drop-outs, young sex workers living with HIV) which support their participation in vocational programs, enabling them to secure the skills needed to start small enterprises.
Youth Empowerment Program (YEP): Mobilizes young people, including adolescence born with / living with HIV to teach them about their rights. NWHN provides advocacy training and information on HIV/AIDS, Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights and Gender Based Violence and teaches participants how to share this information with their peers.
Youth Against Crime (YAC): Founded in 2008 to address the challenges of the young people of Dordabis (a rural community in central Namibia) who are impacted by poverty, unemployment (currently 51% in Namibia), and illiteracy. These conditions have lead to increased rape and sexual violence, resulting in more young women turning to sex work and an increasing HIV prevalence. YAC provides courses in English, computer skills, drama, and training in income generating activities.