Meet young feminist, Lucia Berro from Uruguay

1. What are key barriers and enablers to accessing HIV/SRHR services?

Gaps in the HIV response stem from the lack of engagement with the multiple underlying determinants for women’s, children and adolescents health. We cannot shy away from addressing poverty, structural gender inequality and distribution of power if we want to tackle the gaps. We need to acknowledge the fact that improving health requires actions well outside the health sector, through a multi-sectoral approach. Health programs that perpetuate these gaps and fail to incorporate an intersectional analysis that considers the diversity of experiences women face are not likely to achieve the desired results. This is an important and much needed advance in ensuring that we recognize and measure the correlation between health and the experiences of people in different areas of their lives. These correlations are complex, intersecting and vast, but absolutely essential to bridge the gaps.

2. What effective strategies have worked in your community to prevent and address GBV in all its forms & what laws do you think need to be strengthened or repealed to help prevent and address GBV; and to protect the rights of women and girls in all of our diversity?

While it is true that the public health crises triggered by the Zika virus or the refugee crisis—among others—pose new challenges to the enjoyment of Human Rights and demand rapid responses, it is also giving us the opportunity to re-imagine new ways to uphold these human rights and redesign our plans to meet their specific needs. We need to make sure that our responses to these challenges are not just emergency responses, but are also radical—tackling the root causes of these issues and addressing them in an integral manner. I believe there is no better way to do this than working on strategies that are grounded on human rights and have women, girls and adolescents at its center; strategies that take into account more than the cost-benefit of the policies or that have women as vehicles for economic growth.

3. How can young women be supported to break structural barriers that hinder the progress towards gender equality?

Young women need to remind themselves that we are absolutely powerful. We are much more than a “vulnerable group” but to be effective we need to access information and education. I believe that young women need to advocate for an HIV response that guarantees the effective enjoyment of sexual and reproductive health and rights. For that we need education, including comprehensive sexuality education. Educating young women benefits us all: it is a goal in itself and contributes substantially to the achievement of the development agenda. Moreover, quality education means much more than just reading and writing. A critical aspect of supporting young women to break barriers is to educate making sure that we are aware of our rights and are able to make our own decisions about our bodies, our health, and our relationships.

4. Why do we need a feminist HIV Response?

We need a feminist response because feminism challenges the things we take for granted. Feminism not only looks for answers for the questions, but it’s redefining the way we ask those questions. This response will incorporate the unavoidable gender-specifics concerns: from our ability to negotiate sex—and even more safe sex—to the enabling social, political and economic environments that disproportionately affect women and girls.

5. The world will meet in June at the High Level Meeting on AIDS 2016, what is one of things you would like to see come out of this meeting, especially that it happens after adoption of SDG's?

We need the international community and the national governments to ensure meaningful participation. We need to have women; children and adolescents directly involved in the decision-making process and ensure that the process is transparent. I want to see strategies that address structural inequalities, from the global arena to our private lives. I would like to see a strategy that reflects and amplifies people voices, choices and control over their own bodies.