Malawi News Agency (Lilongwe)

6 June 2014

Malawi: COWLHA Malawi Shifting Perceptions of Masculinity, Feminity in Dowa

The coalition of Women Living with HIV and AIDS (COWLHA) Malawi has said gender based violence makes women more vulnerable to HIV and AIDS which is fuelled by negative societal perceptions.

COWLHA Malawi Executive Director, Anne Banda said this on Thursday at Dowa Boma as she presented a project progress report on shifting perceptions of masculinity and feminity that increase women's with vulnerability to HIV and AIDS.

Banda said the project's specific objective was to contribute to the elimination of gender inequitable norms and some traditional and cultural practices that increase the vulnerability of women to HIV.

"In our areas of impact we are influencing men and women to adopt more equitable views on gender and sexual health within their relationships as well as stigma and discrimination using an approach called Star circles," she said.

The STAR circles approach which means Society Tackling AIDS Through Rights is a participatory approach which facilitates and supports the mobilization of people and communities affected by HIV and AIDS through mutual reflection, planning and personal and collective actions to end the pandemic.

Banda also added that unequal relationship between men and women and society norms of feminity and masculinity has significant influence on the HIV epidemic and COWLHA is improving on that by initiating community dialogue.

"Together with the community members, we facilitate community dialogue sessions where by community members sit together and discuss issues affecting their lives in relation to gender based violence, HIV and Human rights among others," Banda added.

The project in Dowa was introduced in 2011 and has been in operation ever since in the areas of Traditional Authority Msakambewa and Kayembe with an aim of creating a platform for united voice of women living with HIV in addressing the challenges that affect them with women's rights as a major focus.

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