Human trafficking and forced sex work. Gender inequality. Child marriage. Lack of education. Poverty. These are just some of the reasons women and girls around the world struggle against rising HIV rates.
As the largest AIDS organization in the world, AHF wanted to take on challenges women and girls face worldwide. TO this end, AHF’s newly created Women Of Action (WOA) initiative, launched the “She’s Her Ally” campaign for 2015’s International Day of the Girl Child—a UN-created holiday celebrating young girls around the globe and highlighting aspects of their lives that necessitate improvement.
WOA created a day of activities for young girls (ages 5 – 13) that sought to facilitate the communication of their hopes, fears, and dreams; build relationships in their community; and allow the girls a venue to have fun—in the hopes of working toward primary prevention among HIV-negative girls, and adherence among HIV-positive girls.
Throughout September, “She’s Her Ally” events took place in: China, Russia, India, Mexico, Jamaica, Kenya, Nigeria, Uganda, and the United States. The girls were then featured in a gallery event in Downtown Los Angeles on October 11.
Enormous—often unimaginable—strength, was a persistent theme for each event. Here, we highlight two:
At first, the 20 girls (ages 9 to 12) from the Mazahua community—a two-hour drive from Mexico City—were reserved around outsiders, but eventually with the help from AHF staff members they warmed up to the activities, creating a poster with their dreams and hopes written on it.
The girls found themselves creating paper dolls and painted flags to express their dreams. The words written by these girls in full color, express their aspirations: to study, have a successful career, be better, become a mother, be like a footballer—strong.
Those dreams are quite fragile. Many of them are at risk of getting married and pregnant in their teens, and some might abandon school, according to Rocio Sandoval, program manager for Fundación Origen, an organization that works against gender violence and women’s empowerment and a “She’s Her Ally” partner.
The day ended with a game of tug-o-war, just like all “She’s Her Ally” events did around the world. The girls, several of whom are members of the local soccer team, nearly pulled the AHF staff to the floor.
On September 19th, 10 HIV-negative girls and 10 HIV-positive girls (ages 5 – 12) from the Linfen Red Ribbon School in the Shanxi Province met with AHF China staff members and learned about International Day of the Girl Child.
In addition to a game of tug-o-war and art activities, this day was filled with dreaming: girls wrote down their aspirations on posters, which sparked conversations between attendees and a present counselor. They then drew them on a large flag (which was displayed in Los Angeles on October 11) and on smaller individual flags.
One HIV-positive girl used her individual flag to create a picture of a big house, inside: she and her mom. The girl confirmed this was a house she’d like to live in with her mother.
Later, one of the teachers told AHF staff that this girl’s mother had died from HIV-related complications several years prior to the event.
When sharing this story AHF China’s Senior Program Officer Xiu Xiangfei, noted, “I was so sad. They were so adorable and sensible. I felt so blessed about our lives, and really think we should do more for them.” It was a sentiment shared, repeatedly, by all staff members involved in this initiative.
Click through to watch our International Day of the Girl Child video, and visit WOA.LA to learn more about their stories.