by Sarah Markus, Diocese of Northern California
Today was a day learning about action. So much of what we are hearing about are heartbreaking stories of inequality and all forms of violence (including but not limited to physical, sexual, emotional, financial, and apathetical). Hearing these stories are moving and thought provoking, but I have been hard pressed to find where the action is taking place. I was wondering if perhaps talks of action would be more prevalent next week, and if this first week of session was going to be mostly identifying the issues. I am happy to say that today I was able to hear about some of the actions that are taking place. Today I was able to hear analysis of various groups that were supposedly doing work to decrease violence against women with HIV, both good and bad. I was also able to hear from high-ranking women judges from Zambia, Bosnia, and the Philipines about what laws and programs were being instituted in their countries to deal with offenders of sextortion. It was incredible to hear the people who have done the research in these areas and who have helped to put into action these laws and see concrete effects.
During the first parallel event I attended today, a young woman in the audience raised the concern that none of the women presenting on violence against women (specifically young women) with HIV were under the age of 25 or openly HIV positive. As a young woman who was HIV positive, this concerned her, as she felt that these other women were attempting to speak for her. I think this was a really valid concern. I have heard on multiple occasions over this week the phrase “we are the voice for the voiceless”. I think we need to restructure our ways of thinking- no one is voiceless. Yes, there are people who may not realize they have a voice, or who’s voice we may not have yet heard, but I don’t think any of us should ever presume to be able to speak for someone else. No two stories are the same, and even something as simple as inflection or choice of words used by each person effects the ways in which stories are told as well as the ways we receive them. I am grateful that this young woman stood up and reminded us of this.
For the rest of the week, I look forward to hearing more stories, learning more about changes, and enjoying many more conversations with my fellow delegates as we all continue on this wonderful journey.