Worried by the high level of discrimination and stigmatization faced by women living or affected with HIV/AIDs in the society, International Federation of Women lawyers (FIDA), Lagos Chapter recently organised a forum where legal framework and mechanisms were discussed for the protection of women and children, against all forms of violence.
The event, which was held in collaboration with the United Nations (UN) had in attendance representatives from the Lagos State Ministry of Justice, District Attorney of the Federation, Non- Governmental Organisations (NGOs).
Speaking at the forum, Mrs. Elina Martins of the International Federation of Women Lawyers, Lagos Chapter, said her organisation decided to focus on women living with HIV/AIDs because they want them to have access to justice.
Mrs. Martins further explained that women living with HIV/AIDs in the society face lots of discrimination and stigmatization, adding “ We often organise community outreach programme where we engage women trying to give them comfort and talk to them about their legal rights. We had members of the health sector working with us, they talk to them about development in the area of treatment. We also talk to them about their rights as women. We are there to render support to them in any way we can.
“Also we are looking into violence against these women, physically and emotionally.. The organization was in support of male champions who will stand out and speak against cruelty to women, especially those ones with HIV/AIDs, they need to look at it holistically. A lot of sensitization has been done in this regards.”
She expressed hope that all stakeholders will go back to their various destinations to share the contents they have learnt and be more passionate adding, “ We are trying to improve our ideas on the way forward. It is a challenge for us to go back and take more proactive steps to this.”
Speaking also at the event, representative of the United Nations Women, Mrs. Adekemi Ndieli, explained that the UN works in various massive areas like the area of governance in order to support women.
According to her, another thematic area the UN works is that of the empowerment of women. “Violence against women and children is a massive project being worked on. We are trying to organize a one-stop centre where the woman relates her issues and it is for women living with HIV. They are the greater number because of the vulnerability of their biological make up. The issues remain on how to help these women assert their rights, to get justice. We are so glad that Lagos state has that mechanism to address access to justice.’’ she submitted.
Also, she stressed the need for the government and stakeholders in the health sector to ensure that women living with HIV/AIDs have access to free drugs as majority of them are poor.
“The system should provide for them so they can have access to free drugs. These drugs need to be free. We should ensure that these people do not develop resistance to drugs because that is what happens when you stop taking medications only to pick it up again.
“It is advisable for people to know their HIV status, but to avoid being stigmatized, you don’t have to tell anyone. The only person that needs to know is the spouse.
“We need to have a system that encourages couple counseling.
Women living with HIV should not give up hope as it is not the end of the world. As long as they take their drugs everything is ok. They should look for a means of livelihood so they can have a voice in the society.”
Looking at the mission of the International Federation of Women, Barrister Ngozi Ezeigbo, stated that the association aimed to promote, protect and preserve the wellbeing, right and interest of women and children.
Mrs. Ezeigbo frowned at those who discriminate against women living with HIV /AIDs and added that being infected with such diseases does not make them to be less human beings.
While commending the organizers of the programme, some of the women living with HIV/AIDs who spoke in an interview with our correspondent described the event as an eye opener.