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Speech at meeting with First Ladies and Women Leaders

Speech given by Her Royal Highness The Crown Princess at meeting with First Ladies and Women Leaders in Managua, Nicaragua, November 2007.

First of all, I would like to congratulate the Coalition of First Ladies and Women Leaders for your efforts and commitment to the HIV response in the region. I note that the Coalition has already had important achievements despite its young age. The cooperation with ICW Latina is a unique example of the kind of partnerships we need in a broad response to fight HIV/ AIDS.

My visit to Nicaragua is coming to an end. Based on what I have learned during these days, I know that the Coalition has important work to do.

One of the main drivers of the epidemic in Central America is lack of equality between men and women. When a girl can’t ask a boy to use a condom – or a wife has no right to ask her husband whether he has unprotected sex with others – the level of vulnerability speaks for itself. Additionally, when women are infected by their husbands, the wives are often the ones left with the blame.

These are stories I have been told first hand here in Nicaragua, but also in other parts of the world. We need female – and male – role models to address the issue of the feminization of HIV/AIDS and its underlying factors. This distinguished audience is in a unique position to mobilize political will in order to strengthen the national and regional response to the epidemic and promote human rights for women.

I would like to thank First Lady Xiomara de Zelaya of Honduras for your strong leadership.

We need more women at the table when decisions are made. HIV positive women are probably the strongest weapons we have in building sustainable prevention programmes for women and girls. Positive women know what made them vulnerable to HIV. They know which structures, traditions and practices that need to change if we want to protect future generations. As ICW Latina expressed it in a declaration in Panama last year: “Nada por Nosotras sin Nosotras” [Nothing FOR Us, WITHOUT Us].

Let us therefore learn to listen carefully and respond accordingly. Let us use our roles and positions to confront the structures and forces that generate vulnerability.


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