Blantyre — President Dr. Joyce Banda has said there is need for stronger partnerships to champion the cause for greater attention to the vulnerability of women and girls to HIV/AIDS in the SADC region.
Dr. Banda made the remarks on Thursday at Sanjika Palace where she had an audience with delegates from the High Level Task Force for Women, Girls, Gender Equality and HIV for Eastern and Southern Africa saying there is need to keep advancing the struggle for the empowerment of women and girls as a strategy to defeat HIV and AIDS.
The President said as much as Africa is making strides in fighting the HIV/AIDS pandemic, the gender and HIV narrative does not appear to change.
"HIV still bears the face of a woman, with almost 60 percent of people living with HIV being women. Among young girls, the rates of infections are 3 to 6 times higher than in young boys and among young people living with HIV in the Sub Saharan region, a staggering 72 percent of them are young women'" said Banda.
The Malawi leader emphasised that education and economic empowerment is the only way that women and girls will only be able to make the choice to stop the cycle of abuse in their everyday lives acknowledging that there are no enough linkages being made outside of the health and HIV sectors to address the deep rooted vulnerability of women and girls.
"There is a link between incomes, gender based violence and HIV/AIDS so it is time we educate more girls and helped women become financially independent so that they can make informed decisions about their lives," explained Banda.
The President also urged women to take the lead in dealing with issue of HIV/AIDS, Gender Based Violence thereby showing their seriousness in tackling them.
"Experience has taught us that if we as women do not push our agenda, no one else will. Therefore as much as these issues of eliminating HIV and AIDS, eliminating violence against women, eliminating maternal deaths, protection of the girl child, are the responsibility of both men and women.
"I think the burden is still on us as women leaders to demand accountability on these issues," she said President Banda added: "As such Africa needs to continue to open spaces for more progressive women to get into leadership positions. We need morewomen leaders to drive the women's agenda, and work for the betterment of all women."
She cited her appointment of women in the positions of Chief Justice, Chief Secretary to the government, Solicitor General, Director of Law Commission and the appointment of nine women Cabinet Ministers as a stepping stone in promoting women into decision making positions.
The High Level Taskforce for Women, Girls, Gender equality and HIV in Eastern and Southern Africa comprises ministers, National AIDS Council (NAC) directors, four Regional UN Directors, Civil Society and women living with HIV was officially launched in December 2011 at the 16th International Conference on AIDS and STI's in Africa (ICASA).
It aims at engaging in high-level political advocacy in support of accelerated country actions and monitoring the implementation of the draft Windhoek declaration for women, girls, gender equality and HIV
The High Level Task Force for Women, Girls, Gender Equality and HIV for Eastern and Southern Africa delegates are in the country to help review efforts being done by Malawi in confronting the challenges of gender inequality and HIV/AIDS.