Love Positive Women: From Montreal to Namibia / by Alexander McClelland

For the annual International Community of Women Living with HIV solidarity event LOVE POSITIVE WOMEN: The Romance Starts at Home students in my women's studies class 'Sex, Drugs & AIDS in the Era of Global Austerity: Feminist Perspectives' at Concordia University's Simone de Beauvoir Institute made solidarity valentines cards for the powerful women of the Namibian Women's Health Network. The class is examining a range of sociolegal issues facing women living with HIV around the world, including cases of forced sterilization. Forced sterilization of women living with HIV is an occurring practice, where stigmatizing health professionals will often sterilize women without their consent post-pregnancy to prevent future births. The practice presents a massive violation of medical ethics, human rights and interferes with the sexual autonomy of people living with HIV. 

In July 2012, the Namibian Women's Health Network won a landmark case in the Namibian High Court, which found that three women had been sterilized without their informed consent in violation of Namibian law. This case has set in motion similar legal challenges, including in Kenya.

When writing to Jennifer Gatsi-Mallet, founder and director of the Namibian Women's Health Network about our class project, she responded with a special message to the students in the class, which is as follows:

First and foremost, I am a woman besides my HIV status
I am a lioness
I am wild
I am fierce
I am beautiful and have beauty stirring within me
I am stunning
I was born for this moment
I am not afraid of my strength
I am able to question and I have insights
I am Awake
I am Rising Up and
I dare to realise who I am.

— Jennifer Gatsi-Mallet

The  valentines sent from our class included a range of messages of support, love, and solidarity and will be distributed to women who are connected to the Namibian Women's Health Network.