Girls Dignity - We have a problem to fix !!

Girls Dignity - We have a problem to fix !!

At Piggs Peak Central High School in Swaziland there is a functioning latrine for male students. It is not extravagant by any means; but it has fairly modern facilities, running water and indoor plumbing. Situated nearby, in glaring contrast, is a dilapidated wooden pit toilet with two holes, no running water, no plumbing… and no dignity. This is the female latrine. This is a problem. We are going to fix it!!

Beneath the obvious health issues associated with this problem lies another unfortunate reality. The United Nations Population Fund has stated “Factors such as the risks of travel to and from school, inadequate toilet facilities, overcrowding and sexual harassment deter parents from enrolling their daughters in school”.

But let’s dig a little deeper still. According the AIDS Epidemic Update 2004 (UNAIDS, WHO), “Increasingly, HIV/AIDS is striking women. Today, more than 20 years into the epidemic, women account for nearly half the 33 million people living with HIV worldwide. In sub-Saharan Africa, 76 per cent of the young people (aged 15-24 years) living with HIV are female.

“Despite this alarming trend, women know less than men about how HIV is transmitted and how to prevent infection. What little they do know is often rendered useless by the discrimination and violence they face, and their relative powerlessness to refuse sex or negotiate safe sex, especially in the context of marriage.”

“Reversing the spread of HIV must address the critical role that gender relations plays in sexual and reproductive life, and how it affects HIV prevention. Indeed, the changing face of the epidemic brings into sharp relief the gender and social inequalities that shape people's behaviours and limit their choices.”

It is clear that gender inequities are a root cause of HIV/AIDS. We heard Nontokozo Dlamini speak about this when she visited Hampton from Piggs Peak a couple years ago (the video available is on our website www.hamptonpiggspeak.ca ). In fact, the importance of gender equality is underscored by its inclusion as one of the eight Millennium Development Goals.

On Saturday, November 27 the Hampton-Piggs Peak Partnership will be involved in a women’s dinner (“Women Supporting Women”) to raise funds for a new and modern latrine at Piggs Peak Central High School. The new building will provide the same level of facilities for both male and female students and thereby provide the young women at Piggs Peak Central High School with a healthier, safer, and more dignified environment. But, more than that, in at least a small way it will help close the gender gap that is a leading cause of HIV/AIDS… and perhaps the greatest threat to African women.

More details on the fundraising dinner will be available in my next article. If you are interested in attending, please contact Janice Robinson at the V.A.Snow Center, 832-6210 ext 6103 or Maureen Robichaud at 832-7522. For any questions regarding the Hampton-Piggs Peak Partnership, please contact me, Mark Bettle, at 832-0003.

Girls Dignity - We have a problem to fix !!