Alice Welbourn on the humanity and courage of HIV-positive women
I am a woman, I am a mother and I have been HIV-positive for many years. In July 2007 I received the great honour of an award from the World YWCA for “innovative leadership in the response to HIV” at the International Women’s Summit in Nairobi, Kenya. This award granted me the opportunity to develop a project of my choice regarding women and HIV. During the Positive Women’s Forum which preceded this Summit in Nairobi, we held an all-too-short workshop on HIV and motherhood, attended by women living with HIV from around the world.
Even in that short workshop many deep and powerful stories began to emerge of women’s joys, grief, pain and resilience in relation to their own experiences of HIV and motherhood. From this workshop grew the germ of an idea to explore motherhood more deeply. I chose therefore with this grant to focus on HIV, women and motherhood, an issue which lies profoundly within my own heart and within the hearts of millions of women living with HIV worldwide.
Many of us had already experienced the joys and pains of motherhood before we received our HIV diagnosis. Many of us were becoming mothers for the first time when we were diagnosed. Many of us have become mothers since we were diagnosed. Many of us want to become mothers in future. For many more it is too late and our dreams have not been fulfilled. This project is dedicated to the millions of women living with HIV worldwide who either are or have ever wanted to become mothers, either biologically or through adoption or fostering – and to all the further millions of children in their loving care.
During and since the International AIDS Conference in Mexico in August 2008, I have had the great good fortune to record interviews with fourteen of these extraordinary women. They were kind enough to share with me their most painful times, but also to share their resilience, their yearnings and their passions for change.
Each audio interview highlights personally and collectively the humanity and courage of millions of HIV-positive women from around the world. Each woman describes how she has overcome her past traumas and continues to deal with ongoing issues, to make the world a better place for all around her.
I have also interviewed two other extraordinary women – also mothers – who are passionate advocates for all of us: Dr Musimbi Kanyoro, former General Secretary of the World YWCA and now Director of the Population Programme of the David and Lucile Packard Foundation; and the Hon. Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland, former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, now Director of Realizing Rights: the Ethical Globalization Initiative and Patron of ICW.
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