Gender Wednesdays: a regular time to build our connections

by Fiona Hale

As a small intergenerational international collective, the strength of Making Waves is in the connections we build between us.

We are called ‘Making Waves’ because the group came out of the making of The Whave podcast – Women living with HIV, Advocates, Voices, Empowered. This Salamander Trust series took the form of 13 episodes featuring interviews with women around the world in French, Spanish and English, about the things that were priorities for them. Among other things, it covered HIV, treatment issues, U=U, cervical cancer screening and treatment, leadership and involvement of women living with HIV, sexual and reproductive health and rights, gender-based violence, peer support, and funding of networks and organisations of women living with HIV. Women involved in the podcast were the founding members of Making Waves, and the idea was to build on these existing collaborations and feminist friendships.

So our collective was born out of the joy of talking to each other, and now three years later, talking to each other is what we do. MariJo Vázquez had been suggesting for a while that we needed a space within Making Waves to develop our collective narrative. Then Luisa Orza joined the group, and brought with her the idea of Gender Wednesdays, a regular informal meeting with no agenda, where people could drop in and talk about any gender-related concerns that were on their mind. The intention was that it would bring together the personal and the professional, and be a space where we can share what is going on, and what is going on for us.

Every month we have two Gender Wednesday calls, one for members of our collective only, and another which is open to anyone with an interest in the intersections between gender, HIV, sexual and reproductive rights and violence against women and girls. Luisa holds the space for us, and people join in when they want to and can. For many of us, it has become a high point of the month.

We have covered a lot of ground in these fluid conversations. We have shared advocacy strategies, frustrations, ruminations, updates on changes to laws and policies, national elections, feelings about the ongoing challenges to gender equality and gender justice. We have discussed international conferences and workshops, the funding landscape for women’s rights work and HIV peer support, the global rise of the anti-gender, anti-rights movement. The calls have provided us with an hour to pause, reflect and share. They enable us to feel solidarity and support from others as we each live out their commitment to gender equality and the rights of women, girls and gender-diverse people in the places we live. One member has talked about the ongoing support she is giving to a woman with a violent partner, and the failure of policy and policing to ensure her safety. Another has brought news of the school she is building for the children of other women living with HIV in the rural area close to her home. We have shared publications and resources we’ve come across or developed. In our last Gender Wednesday, Lucy Wanjiku Njenga talked about her newly-published memoir, Hope Made a Way.

It’s wonderful to have these Gender Wednesday calls as a point of stillness in the week, and a place for linking, learning, sisterhood and solidarity. Making Waves’ online presence is not as active as it has been, but our connections are ever deeper – and this nourishes and fuels us in ways that are hard to describe.

Peer reviewed by Lucy Wanjiku Njenga, Janet Tatenda Bhila, Anne Mugo, Emma Bell, Luisa Orza.

Lucy’s memoir, Hope Made a Way, is available for purchase as an e-book. In Kenya, you can find it at Nuria bookstore. More details on Lucy’s post here.

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