SheTalks at the Africa Conference on Sexual Health and Rights

The Sex Rights Africa Network under the AIDS Foundation of South Africa sponsored facilitators to run a SheTalks session as a concurrent session in the Community Village of the ACSHR on the first day of the main conference. The SheTalks dialogue platform is a model for facilitating critical conversations on issues that matter to women and girls, and within the ACSHR space was convened in a ‘circle of power’ which creates a ‘safe space’ for young women from informal settlements to share their stories and lived experiences.

The key points made in the session were that it is important to center the lived experiences of young women in slums, to ensure that conferences are covering new topics and not simply rehashing old news for the sake of it, and that it is extremely important to ensure that the voices of young women are heard and that there is safe space for them to speak out within these formal avenues. Importance was placed on access to services and the affordability of unmet SRHR needs for women and people with disabilities, with particular attention paid to mental health, GBV and femicide, referrals and referral systems, eliminating stigma.

Participants recommended that local people need to be capacitated or trained to work with people with mental illness for better coping skills, creating safe spaces, educating people on mental illness and especially ‘invisible’ mental illnesses – awareness should be created in all corners of the community, and resources should be allocated for this purpose by governments.

Participants stated the importance of government prioritisation of SRHR in terms of budgets, but especially for youth empowerment with regard to SRHR.